See also:     About Our Diving

The simple fact that virtually all of the world's top photographers and documentary film producers have trained their lenses on these islands, repeatedly, should indicate how special they are. The Galapagos, a territory of Ecuador and a World Heritage Site, is wildlife viewing, in your face, on land and in the ocean. We have never come away from a trip with so many great images as on our '96 Galapagos trip. (Well, Cocos '99 may be an exception.) It is true that our '98 trip was significantly affected the '97-'98 El Nino southern oscillation event. Although the land visits were excellent and the diving was good, we did not see the numbers of hammerheads what had hoped due to the abnormally warm water. Nevertheless, our desire to visit and dive Galapagos again is undiminished.

We have established a long-term association with the boat's owners, crew and naturalist-guides. We communicate with them often to ensure that our particular trip itinerary is given National Park Service approval, and to plan time between dives and locations to maximize our opportunities of finding exotic pelagics, typically offshore. These efforts have paid off in the past, giving us freediving encounters with bottlenose dolphin, penguins, silky sharks at sunset, a large raft of Galapagos fur seals, and offshore schools of hammerheads.

The Itinerary. Because of the many options for diving and land visits that are available, and the fact that "open boat" two week trips are rare, the trip itinerary is very important. We try to spend a large portion of the trip in the northern islands of Wolf and Darwin Islands since this is where we are most likely to encounter warm, clear water and big animals hammerhead and Galapagos sharks, whale sharks and mantas. (In 2002 we are also considering a visit to Tower Island, simply because it is an island rarely dived and we are curious to see it. It has some of the best frigate and red-footed booby viewing in the islands.) The northern part of the itinerary is, for experienced divers, perhaps the most significant aspect of the trip. In the southern and central islands one can expect two or three dives and one or two land visits each day, while northern islands are for diving only, with three (possibly four) each day. We dive every day of the trip except the departure day, but with days 1 and 14 having one dive only.

A typical itinerary might look like this:
  • Day 1: Baltra island: arrive, check out dive, Mosquera land visit
  • Day 2: Champion dive, Enderby dive, Devil's Crown dive, Floreana land visit, possible night dive
  • Day 3: Hood island land visit at Punta Suarez (2 hrs, great!), Gardener Bay dive, and McGowan Reef dive (open ocean seamount)
  • Day 4: Plazas island land visit, Gordon Rocks dive, N. Seymour dive
  • Day 5: Roca Redonda diving or Tower land visit and diving
  • Days 6-11: Wolf / Darwin diving
  • Day 12: Wolf diving OR Roca Redonda diving OR Fernandina land visit, diving/land visit at Tagus Cove, Punta Vicente Roca dive
  • Day 13: Cousins diving (2), Bartolome visit OR Cabo Marshall dive, James sunset visit, Albany dive
  • Day 14: Pinzon dive, Santa Cruz / Darwin Station, highlands dinner (great restaurant)
  • Day 15: North Seymour land visit, Baltra island depart

The northern Galapagos islands, which are only reached on trips longer than a week, generally have fantastic diving. One spot, the Arch at Darwin island, is usually so phenomenal that it is often the only spot that anyone dives at Darwin, all day, every day. It is perhaps the finest dive spot in the world. On a single safety stop at the Arch we have seen bottlenose dolphin, a huge whale shark, manta rays, schooling jacks, acres of creole fish, sea turtles, barracuda, wahoo and scalloped hammerheads by the dozens. In '96 whale sharks were encountered, up close, on all but one dive at Darwin. The other northern island, Wolf, has given us hammers by the hundreds passing by in waves, along with large numbers of Galapagos sharks. Endemic Galapagos fur seals and sea lions (a subspecies of the California sea lion) abound throughout the islands as do turtles and a large variety of fish, often in enormous schools. Diving is in tropical 1/8" suits here, and visibility is often 100'.

The southern and central Galapagos islands are both the source of great diving and are where we go ashore between dives for spectacular land visits. A typical day in the central islands has land visits early and/or late in the day mixed with two or three dives and perhaps a night dive. If you choose to make all the dives and visits, these days are exhausting. The water conditions in the southern islands can vary widely (like California), and a 1/4" suit is needed. It is these robust water conditions that make the southern islands attractive, with rich invertebrate life, large aggregations of feeding birds, fish and sharks, schools of grunts, jacks and tuna, and sea lions EVERYWHERE. The land visits are magic, walking among wild boobies, albatross, frigate birds, land and marine iguana, sea lions and fur seals that are unafraid of man. The opportunities for beautiful land photos are many. Although our particular itinerary places heavy emphasis on diving in the north, it will also include the most special of southern island land visits: Hood (Espagnola), Floreana, South Plaza, North Seymour, Bartolome and Sullivan Bay, and perhaps the distant site of Punta Espinosa on Fernandina.

March through May is the best time of year to dive the Galapagos, with warm water (78 to 84F) and rich amounts of life. Night diving is great. June is a prime time for whale sharks in Galapagos, especially in the northern islands. Snorkeling between dives and land visits can bring encounters with dolphins, silky sharks, fur seals and sea lions, boobies, turtles, rays and perhaps penguins and marine iguanas. Dive sites are generally large and can easily accommodate 16 divers with lots of space between each. You must be comfortable diving in open ocean settings with currents, surge and depth -- many spots require a moderately advanced level of watermanship, diving skill and fitness. However, most diving is relatively shallow (<100') and most dives can be finished near a wall or a reef. All diving is done from large zodiacs which remain on site or down current during the dive.