It takes only a week in the Galapagos to make a year’s worth of astounding dive memories!
Being voted one of the top diving spots year after year isn’t a surprise. There are few places left in the world where an entire archipalego is virtually free of commercial fishing, leaving the waters left to those who want to swim and watch the action unfold in the deep, clean waters of the Pacific. The combination of ocean fishes, birds, mammals and reptiles sets Galapagos diving apart from other marine environments. Divers share the water with penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas, sea turtles, angel fish, large schools of amberjacks and many other species of fish including hammerhead sharks.
One should preferably be an experienced diver to dive in Galapagos. Currents, sea swells, surges, cool waters, upwellings, large animals – lots of large animals – and water entries make for greater difficulty.
The range of surface temperature of the sea is from 18ºC to 30ºC. September to November are the coldest months, and February to April the warmest. Thermoclines are present, between 10 to 30 meters depth ( 30 to 100 feet) and the temperature can drop from one to five degrees Celsius. A 6mm wetsuite is recommended, as well as a hood and gloves in the cold season.
You will probably dive in the Galapagos in medium to strong currents. Medium currents are considered to be between one and three knots (between 1 and 4 miles/hour or between 2 and 6 Km./hour), and strong currents are more than three knots (more than 4 miles/hour or 6 Km./hour). In the garua season (from July to December) the Humboldt current coming from the southeast is present; in the warm season ( from January to June) the Panamá current from the northeast presents itself.
Well, viz can’t get much better than in the Galapagos although conditions at the moment of immersion are always susceptible to change and are different at every dive site.. 100 feet or 30 meters is common, and you can expect a visibility from 40 to 60 feet or 12 to 18 meters in most of the places.
There is one chamber in Galapago, located in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. The hyperbaric chamber is operated by Protesub Diving, part of the SSS Recompression Chamber Network and a referral center of the Divers Alert Network (DAN). For more information on the chamber and SSS Recompression Chamber Network, click here.
Many experienced divers consider Galapagos the ultimate dive liveaboard trip. This is particularly true in order to access the northernmost islands of Darwin and Wolf, with their world renown reputation for aggregations of giant hammerhead, Galapagos and whale sharks.
But the liveaboard experience is certainly not for everyone, and at a minimum, you miss out on the incredible wildlife diversity offered ashore and unique cultural vibe that Galapaguenos share with their visiting guests. On Isabela alone, trekking Volcan Sierra Negra and visiting Los Tuneles are considered magical experiences by most. Other considerations that weight in favor of shore based diving include:
- Emergency Care
Accidents happen, underwater and topside. You know it. Medical assistance is far faster to arrive while ashore with a landing strip nearby, a dive chamber 50 miles away in Santa Cruz and a major hospital and medivac helicopter in San Cristobal, 100 miles away.
- Communication Access
You’ll be off the grid, for better or worse, on a liveaboard. No cell phone, no internet. At the Iguana Crossing, no such luck!
- Dining Options
Admit it, dive liveaboards are a dice roll with regards to dining. If the foods not to your liking, there are no other restaurants aboard or down the street. Isablela has some great restaurants and bars, and an ever changing array of guests.
It’s a ship, where space is at a premium. You travelled a long way in a airplane seat just a bit smaller than your cabin. At the Iguana Crossing, you’ll enjoy some of the most luxurious accommodations in the Galapagos.
The Parks department regulates the daily itinerary of each cruise ship in the Galapagos, dictating when and which dive site you’ll visit while on a liveaboard trip. Regardless of weather or dive conditions at the time of your scheduled dive site visit, you’re there to stay. With shore based diving, you get the flexibility to plan your diving around conditions and enjoy the impromptu snorkel if you pass dolphins or mantas, etc. Swimming with he penguins of Isabela are alone worthy of a trip to the Galapagos, and you won’t find them offshore.
After all, the Galapagos is about space. Just 20,000 or so people spread out over 17,000 sq. miles of water. The Galapagos is all about the fact that “there are no people”! Why would you want to spend your one and only week in the Galapagos on a ship so small and cramped that you have to go ashore to change your mind!
Dive services at the Iguana Crossing Hotel are provided by Scuba Galapagos, a PADI certified dive shop located on island. The company is one of the oldest established custom tour operators in Ecuador and the Galapagos.
The company specializes in customizing dive trips to suit customer preferences. In addition to its Isablela operation, the company also operates two ships out of their office on Santa Cruz: the M/S Encantada offering naturalist cruises, and the M/Y Eclipse, a 15 meter express yacht offering custom excursions for up to twelve divers.
Isabela offers a wide range of diving and snorkeling opportunities, for all skill levels. We’ve organized the popular sites according to skill levels, noting that advanced divers should have fifty plus dives and comfort with conditions of strong and unpredictable currents, and intermediate divers should have open water certification, be actively diving and in good health
The main dive sites off Isabela are Isla Tortuga and Islas Los Quatro Hermanos (Four Brothers, in English). As seen on the map below, Tortuga is approximately 5 miles southeast of Puerto Villamil; the Four Brothers are located approximately 15 miles northeast. Common animals to see while diving include white tip reef sharks, Manta rays, sea lions, marine turtles, schools of different tropical fishes, scorpion fishes, puffer fishes, eels and morays.
Los Quatros Hermanos (a.k.a. the Crossman Islets) are the result of successive eruptions in the same period producing cones of volcanic tuff that have been highly eroded. Here are diving sites that are ideal for beginners to advanced divers. The first dive is a wall dive on the slopes of an old eroded crater that goes deep up to 25 meter where currents have been carving the rocks allowing corals, anemones and urchins to develop in a unique ecosystem. The second dive is a drift dive starting inside a cave and then going deeper outside up to a sandy bottom at about 18 meters.
Isla Tortuga (aka Brattle Islet) is the result of a huge volcanic eruption where the contact of hot lava pulverized the rock producing a round symmetrical crater of volcanic tuff that has been totally eroded in southeast side. The name Tortuga comes after the marine turtle shape looking toward the islet from Puerto Villamil. Underwater it is a conical projection that goes deeper in an irregular topography from 3 to 60 meters. On the slopes you can see lots of marine turtles in cleaning stations resting in fields of different coral species. Sea lions, hammerhead sharks and giant mantas are also the most spotted animals.
For further information on these sites, click here.