The Galapagos Islands is a place filled with mystery and magic, with an abundance of wildlife just like no other. It is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Famous not only for its many land creatures but also for its incredible bio-diverse marine life, attracting divers and marine biologists from across the globe.
Located off the Western coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos features on many a keen divers bucket list, as the ultimate diving destination.
However, a quick search on Google for ‘diving in the Galapagos’ can leave many enthusiastic divers disheartened, when the search returns an extensive list of results for diving cruises costing well into the thousands!
This can often lead to many believing that exploring the Galapagos is nothing but a short-lived dream, only realized through sneaking your way onto a David Attenborough expedition or winning the lottery to get a spot on one of the prestigious diving boats.
This however, is not the case and it is entirely possible to experience the diverse underwater world of the Galapagos on a shoestring…and here’s how!
How to get there
There are two airports on the island which you can you fly to from mainland Ecuador, Seymour Airport on Baltra Island and San Cristobal airport. Seymour airport is the main airport and is a short bus and ferry journey to Santa Cruz Island. Most diving trips and cruises depart from Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz’s main town), so the best deals can be found here.
In Puerto Ayora, you can find the major recommended dive shops, and it is a good base to stay for your Galapagos diving trip. Accommodation costs from a minimum $20-$30 a night at one of the many guest houses near the port. Cruises and other trips can also be booked there and you will find it is much cheaper than booking back home or in Quito, as cruise ships want to fill their spaces before setting sail (prices start from $600 for a 4 days/3night luxury cruise).
With this option you may need to be a little flexible with your dates and itinerary. Alternatively, if you don’t want to go on a cruise you can experience a completely DIY Galapagos adventure, by exploring the Galapagos by land or by combining the two options of land and sea!
Related article: Scuba Diving the Bonaire Marine Reserve
Booking Dives / Cost
In the town of Santa Cruz there is a number of dive shops and you may want to visit a few to get an idea of prices and to figure out which dive shop offers you the packages, dive sites and experience you are after.
Most dive shops will offer both morning and afternoon dives. They work on a rotation basis, offering different dive sites each day. This is to ensure the dive sites are not over populated, protecting the wildlife and causing minimal disturbance to them. Have this is mind when booking if you have certain dive sites in mind but only have a set number of days available.
Most of the popular and reputable dive shops offer two dives for approximately $150. The price is not usually open to negotiation, unless you are booking multiple dives at once. Be wary of companies that offer a lot less than this price.
Open water PADI courses, Dive Master courses and all other specialised diving certifications are available to complete here. Although these will be more expensive to complete in the Galapagos compared to other locations, you will be gaining your certification in one of the greatest diving destinations in the world!
If you are a beginner and have only completed a few dives as an open water certified diver then make this clear when booking your dives. They will ensure the dives and dive sites you have chosen will match your diving level and ability. Typically, diving in the Galapagos is suited to more advanced divers, as the conditions in the water can be quite unpredictable and challenging at times.
The currents can vary and strong currents can appear very suddenly, pulling you into a path of a hammerhead shark (this happened to me!) and clinging onto rocks to avoid being swept away is very common. However, there are certain dive sites which are more beginner/intermediate friendly, which still give you the opportunity to see and swim with the many wonderful creatures of the Galapagos.
The dive sites listed below are some of the most popular dive sites that can be reached by a 1-2-hour boat ride from Santa Cruz, Isabella and San Cristobal Islands. These are three islands on which you can stay on and therefore a live on-board cruise is not required for these sites.
- Floreana Island
- Gordon Rocks
- Caamaño Islet
- North Seymour Island Ocean Side
- Bartholomew Island
- Kicker Rock
Also check out: Top 10 Dive Destinations in Asia
If you are not a diver or don’t feel confident taking on some of the advanced diving sites you can grab your snorkel and fins and go snorkelling! Snorkelling in the Galapagos is an incredible experience and you can see most of the wildlife you can when diving. On Santa Cruz, Isabella Island and San Cristobal, snorkels can be rented for as little as $5 and you can explore the islands looking for the best places to jump in the water and discover the Galapagos from below.
However, if you want to experience some of the best ocean life, one of the most popular snorkelling trips is to Los Tuneles which can be found a short boat ride away from Isabella Island. This trip costs approximately $80 and you will be greeted with giant tortoises, caves full of black tip, white tip and reef sharks, sea horses and an abundance of fish. It is definitely worth it!
Many cruise ships will also offer the chance to go snorkelling at various sites around the islands on your sailing route. As the boats are able to get to more remote spots the chance of seeing mantra rays and even hammerhead sharks increase. An afternoon can even be spent swimming and playing with sea lions, although be careful as some do like to come up close, especially the pups and the adult sea lions can get a little aggressive if they feel their little ones are under threat!
Marine Wildlife You Can See
- Hammerhead sharks
- Black tip/White tip/Galapagos Shark
- Whale Sharks
- Manta Ray
- Eagle Ray
- Sting Ray
- Galapagos Penguins
- Marine Iguanas
- Sea Lions
- Many species of fish
- …and many many more!
As you can see the Galapagos Islands, really are for everyone to experience. Regardless of your budget and diving ability, there really is a chance for all to respectfully admire this wonderous islands and its inhabitants.
Whether you want to cash in your millions from your recent lottery win and splash out on a luxury diving cruise or take some time to discover the best deals on the island, you won’t be disappointed!
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About the author:
Orla & Serena are from Global Gorgers, which is a fun travel blog that aims to bring informative and funny stories from their numerous adventures around the globe and to inspire everyone to pack that bag and get travelling. From backpackers to flashpackers…they have it covered. Follow their adventures on Instagram and facebook.