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Diving Galapagos

  

 

 

 

 
 

The Galapagos Islands are located approximately 600 miles off the Pacific coast of Ecuador and make up an archipelago of 13 main islands, 17 islets and 47 reefs. These islands are the tips of huge submerged volcanoes that emerged off the ocean floor several million years ago and together comprise an underwater platform. Due to the fusion of at least 7 currents including the cold Humboldt current from Antarctica and the warm El Nino current from Panama, it is not unusual to see fur seals and penguins swimming alongside reef fish  and marine iguanas - indeed, a quarter of marine life found here exists nowhere else in the world., making it a unique Dive Site. Made famous by Charles Darwin's voyage of the Beagle in 1835 and his subsequent publication on the Origin of Species in 1859, the islands remain a living laboratory of evolution, where many rare species can be seen.  In an effort to protect and preserve them, the Galapagos were declared a National Park in 1959 and subsequently a Marine Reserve in 1985. More recently in 2016 the Ecuadorian government created a marine sanctuary of 15,000 square miles around the islands of Wolf and Darwin to conserve the ecosystem and all the marine life that depend on it, such as the many sharks that congregate there.  This means that up to 32% of  seas around Galapagos will now be protected from fishing. 

The biodiversity of the Galapagos is spectacular and the main attractions are the likelihood of seeing large pelagics and hundreds of schooling hammerheads that block out the sun due to their vast numbers which can be seen all year round.  On a single dive you are likely to see more than one species of shark including white tips, Galapagos and silky sharks not to mention the spectacular whale shark. The profusion of marine life includes mantas, turtles, penguins,  many species of rays, dolphins, morays, marine iguanas and the ever inquisitive sea lions that swim up to your mask to check you out on almost every dive.  Macro lovers will also not be disappointed with possible viewings of blennies, sea horses and the ever curious red-lipped bat fish.

Diving is good all year round and can be divided roughly into two seasons: 

The warmest months  from December to May  when waters are between 21-26  degrees C and the colder months from June to November when waters are  between 17-24 degrees C when the seas can be choppier although this is when whale sharks tend to appear.  As Galapagos lies on the equator,  air temperatures hover between 20-31 degrees C (68 degrees - 88 degrees F) with a constant slight breeze. The islands are spread out over a vast area and each island has its own micro climate with sea temperatures generally being warmest in the north around Wolf and Darwin and coldest in the west around Isabela.    A  5-7 mm wetsuit or semi dry suit with hooded vest and gloves is recommended consisting of layers to cater for changes in temperature.

Diving in Galapagos can be divided into 3 zones: the central islands  where the waters are warmer and calmer  as the area is protected from the harsher currents by Isabela Island. The western islands which are open to the Pacific and influenced more by the equatorial currents and therefore contain very diversified marine life.  The northern and most remote islands of Wolf and Darwin which often have strong currents and surges but can provide some of the most spectacular diving  with many whale sharks and schooling hammerheads. 

 

There are 3 diving options available depending on your skill and level of experience.

Option 1   Liveaboard cruises for experienced dive enthusiasts lasting from 7-10 days which is the only way to dive the iconic islands of Wolf and Darwin where you can see schooling hammerheads, whale sharks (May-November), manta rays, sea lions and a variety of rays. A minimum of 50-100 dives is recommended with experience in cold waters. Please see below for various liveaboards available.

Option 2. Occasional diving is offered on some of the naturalist cruise boats at an additional charge. This may be up to 2-6 dives in one week depending on weather conditions.  Some dives may be instead of shore visits and divers require at least 20 dives experience. This is more convenient if a diver is with a non diver and has less experience and does not have time to stay on the islands for shore based diving, although most naturalist cruises will offer plenty of snorkelling where you can see almost as much as diving on the islands although no naturalist cruises go to Wolf and Darwin as there are no landing sites there only diving sites. 

Option 3 Shore based diving can be provided from 1-7 days  as a package at one of the Dive PADI centres on the islands where there is a good choice of accommodation catering for everyone's needs.  Shore based diving  can be done on its own or as an addition to your naturalist cruise.  There are 3 islands that have PADI centres  and there are various levels of dive sites to choose from depending on your level of experience, although none of the dives will cover the islands of Wolf and Darwin due to their remote location and the distances involved.


 

For option 1, the various Galapagos Liveaboards available are:

  1. M/V Galapagos Sky is a luxury  100 ft motor boat with capacity for 16 passengers in 8 air conditioned cabins with bath robes and a main saloon with audio/video entertainment.  Ecuadorian and international cuisine is offered including  free beer and wine with evening meals.  There are ample diving platforms with fresh water showers and hot towels provided after each dive.  On an 7 night cruise you will have 5.5 days diving with up to 4 dives daily including 3 days diving in Wolf and Darwin with a naturalist dive instructor and dive master on hand.  Nitrox is provided free of charge and additional gear and camera rental is available on board.  Cruises run all year round from Sunday to Sunday and start from San Cristobal island. For flight and transfer details see below. For further information on the itinerary please click here. Prices start from US$ 5,595 per person sharing a deluxe cabin and there is a 65% single supplement (if not wanting to share).  Special offers are subject to availability so please contact us for the latest deals.

  2. M/V Humboldt Explorer is a luxury  100 ft boat with capacity for 16 passengers in 8 twin cabins which can also be converted to double bed cabins all with en suite facilities and hot shower, and picture windows to make the most of the Pacific ocean views.  There is an ample sunning area with jacuzzi where divers can relax and hot towels are provided.  Rental gear and nitrox is extra.  The 7 night itinerary runs Monday to Monday from San Cristobal and includes 4 days diving in Wolf and Darwin. For further information on the itinerary please click here. Prices start from US$4995 per person + US$150 for fuel surcharge and US$150 for nitrox.  There is a 80% single supplement if not wanting to share.  Please contact us for the latest availabilities and offers.  

  3. M/V Galapagos Master is a luxury 105 ft. livaboard with capacity for 16 passengers in 8 twin cabins of which 6 can be converted to doubles. All cabins have air conditioning with en suite facilities and  bathrobes are provided. The lounge is spacious with generous tv and there are ample shaded and open sun decks with comfortable cushioned loungers.  There are numerous camera set up stations with various charging points and 2 outdoor showers conveniently situated on the lower level. The Galapagos Master offers mainly 7 night cruises and occasional 10 and 14 night cruises.  The 7 nights ones run from Monday to Monday from San Cristobal and offer 3 days diving in Wolf and Darwin and offering up to 20 dives in one week. The 10 and 14 night trips also depart from San Cristobal although the days of departure vary and up to 30 dives may be expected with 4 days diving in Wolf and Darwin on the 10 night cruise and up to 40 dives on the 14 night cruise. For further information on the itinerary please click here. Prices start from US$5,295 per person and nitrox is US$100 extra for 7 night cruise.  For the latest  availability and special offers,  please contact us for more information. 

  4. M/V Galapagos Aggressor III is a luxury 100 ft. boat with capacity for 16 passengers with deluxe and master twin rooms some of which can be converted to doubles.  All cabins have individual  climate control, TV monitors with media players and are equipped with hair dryers. The sun deck is large and partially covered with comfortable deck chairs, a jacuzzi and bar service.  The menu is a mixture of local and american cuisine and soft drinks, beer and wine are complimentary.  The 7 night itineraries start and finish on Thursdays from Baltra and 3 days are spent in Wolf and Darwin although the itinerary may vary slightly according to season. For more information on the itineraries, please click here. Prices start from US$5,995 per person and nitrox is US$100 extra.  There are good discounts for group booking and selected departures, so please contact us for the latest updates.

  5. M/V Majestic Explorer is a top first class motor boat that will offer diving from July 2018 although the first few departures are already full! The Majestic is a spacious and comfortable 118 ft. motor boat with capacity for 16 passengers in 8 air conditioned  twin cabins which can be converted into doubles.  The main deck cabins have extensive picture windows making the most of the ocean views.  The boat is very tastefully decorated with ample seating areas both in the lounge and also on the partially covered sun deck which also boasts a jacuzzi. The dive deck is equipped with recharging stations, camera tables and rinse tanks. The 7 night itinerary starts and finishes on Saturdays from Baltra and offers 3 days diving in Wolf and Darwin. For a sample itinerary please click here. Prices start from US$5,795 and nitrox is US$150 extra and there is a fuel surcharge of US$150 to pay.  For the latest availability and offers please contact us. 

  6. M/Y Nortada is a first class boat which is 85 ft. long and has capacity for 8 passengers providing a much more intimate experience for individuals but is also very handy for small group charters. Accommodation is in 4 lower deck air conditioned cabins with 2 lower berths and one upper berth in each cabin with en suite facilities. There is an open seating area and sun deck available and the dive platform has ample benches, camera tables and outside showers. The 7 night itinerary is from Friday to Friday and starts and finishes in Baltra. It includes 3 days in Wolf and Darwin - for further details on the itinerary please click here.  Specials start from US$4,190 per person  not including nitrox which is extra. Please contact us for our latest availability. 

  7. M/Y Danubio Azul is a tourist class boat which is 71 ft. long and has capacity for 10 passengers. There is 1 double cabin on the upper deck, 1 twin cabin on the main deck and 3 bunk bed cabins on the lower deck.  All cabins have en suite facilities. Itineraries are 7 nights from Tuesday to Tuesday from Baltra.  There are 4 days diving in Wolf and Darwin and for more information on the itinerary, please click here. Prices start from US$3,500 per person and nitrox is $120 extra.  Please check with us for the latest offers and availabilities.

  8. M/V Astrea is an 88 ft. tourist class boat with capacity for 16 passengers in 8 double air conditioned cabins. All cabins have bunk beds with en suite facilities. There are 4 cabins with picture windows on the upper deck. 1 cabin with a picture window on the main deck and 3 cabins with portholes on the lower deck. Cruises are 7 nights from Tuesday to Tuesday and start from Baltra and include 3 days diving at Wolf and Darwin. For further information on the itinerary please click here. Prices start from US$4,309 per person for 7 nights and do not include nitrox which is US$130 extra. Please contact us directly for any special offers and the latest availability.

 

For a sample itinerary click on the boat name  For a sample itinerary click on the boat name For a sample itinerary click on the boat name For a sample itinerary click on the boat name

Galapagos Sky

Humboldt Explorer

Galapagos Master

Galaoagos Aggressor III

For a sample itinerary click on the boat name

For a sample itinerary click on the boat name

For a sample itinerary click on the boat name

For a sample itinerary click on the boat name

Majestic Explorer

Nortada

Danubio Azul M/V Astrea
       

The above prices are in US dollars and are per person based on 2 sharing a cabin. Single supplement is charged for a guaranteed single cabin if not wanting to share and this varies from boat to boat.

The above prices are   for the boats only and include full board and all dives accompanied by a dive master. Weights, weight belt and tanks are included although some boats charge extra for nitrox. Some boats also include free beer and alcoholic drinks.  Local transfers in Galapagos from the airport to the boat are included. To give you an idea of the cost in sterling, please use the  approximate exchange rate  of 1.3 although this may fluctuate at the time of booking depending on the prevailing exchange rate.

Not included in the price:

bullet International and Galapagos flights 
bullet Add ons in mainland Ecuador including hotels, tours and transfers
bullet National Park Entrance fee of US$100 per person
bullet Hyberbaric chamber fee of US$35 per person
bulletIngala tax fee of US$20 per person
bullet Nitrox where not included
bullet Rental of full gear
bullet Alcoholic drinks and beverages where not included
bullet Tips and additional items of a personal nature.

Diving is challenging but very rewarding.  Due to strong cold currents and surges, for the liveaboards we recommend at least intermediate or advance open water certification with 50-100 logged dives with preferably some experience in cold waters. All divers will be  asked to fill out dive forms with their logged diving experience, a dive waiver form and they will be assessed accordingly. All divers will be advised to take out appropriate health and dive insurance accordingly.

Galapagos diving is incredibly  varied and never dull.  In the colder months, apart from numerous whale sharks,  it is possible to also see hump back whales,  pilot whales and melon headed whales and in warmer months  a large variety of rays can be seen  including the marble ray, the cow ray, the eagle ray and the mobula ray  not to mention the graceful  manta ray slowing gliding by. Add to this,  schools of colourful fish,  darting flightless cormorants, prehistoric marine iguanas,  playful penguins and the occasional mola mola and you have an underwater display  of dazzling theatrics. 

All liveaboard itineraries also include a few shore visits and each island is unique with its own evolved species. Galapagos is famous for its topside wonders and includes a large number of seabirds such as waved albatross, frigates, 3 types of boobies, petrels and pelicans not to mention  mockingbirds, herons and Darwin finches. The landscape is dramatic and often lunar in appearance with sweeping fields of solidified ropey lava and mysterious lava tunnels where marine iguanas are often found sunning themselves on nearby rocks with brightly coloured Sally light foot crabs edging slowly by.  You may also encounter giant tortoises, lava lizards and  brightly coloured land iguanas and your trip would not be complete without a visit to the Charles Darwin Centre or the Interpretation Centre which gives you an in depth historical background to the islands and is included in most itineraries. 

Getting to Galapagos

There are no direct flights to the Galapagos and to get there you have to go via Ecuador.  Currently there are no direct flights to Ecuador from the UK. Routes most commonly used are:

bullet London (or regional airport) to Quito or Guayaquil via Amsterdam with KLM 
bullet London (or regional airport) to Quito or Guayaquil via Madrid with Iberia
bullet London to Quito or Guayaquil via Miami with American Airlines* 
bullet London to Quito or Guayaquil via Houston with Continental airlines*

An ESTA form is required to enter the USA, even if in transit. These are not expensive and can be obtained online and last for 5 years

We recommend a 2 night stay in Quito or Guayaquil before the cruise in case your flight or luggage is delayed and you will have a 1 night stay after your cruise due to flight time connections.  If you do not intend to do any land visits in Ecuador then we would recommend flying in and out of Guayaquil which is at sea level and less tiring and also more direct for flying to Galapagos as most  flights from Quito  to Galapagos touch down at Guayaquil. Flight time from Quito to Guayaquil is 40 minutes and from Guayaquil to the Galapagos islands 90 minutes. Ecuadorian time is -5 hours GMT and Galapagos time  is -6 hours GMT.  There are 2 airports on the Galapagos islands   -  Baltra and  San Cristobal - and the livaboard you have chosen will be waiting at one of those airports to pick you up. We can book the international flight for you or are happy for you to book it independently but for the Galapagos flights we usually liaise  with the boat operator who books them on your behalf. On arrival in Galapagos you will be met by the boat guide and transferred to the boat which varies from 10-20 minutes. You can also stay on the islands after your cruise and there are plenty of activities to choose from - whether it's hiking, kayaking or simply relaxing on one of the pristine beaches -  there are 4 islands to choose from with a variety of small but charming hotels to stay at. Additionally, if you decide to do some land tours on mainland Ecuador, it would be advisable to fly to Quito where most of the tours start from. You can also fly into Quito and fly out of Guayaquil or vice versa giving you maximum flexibility. Ecuador is a small country by Latin American standards but boasts some of the most diverse scenery, flora and fauna and we offer 3-5 day Amazon trips, 4 day Andean steam railway trips,  1-3  day trips to nearby cloud forests, thermal springs and indigenous markets and also why not take half a day to explore colonial Quito, a UNESCO heritage site full of traditional churches, palaces, cobbled streets or sample the delicious local cuisine.  We can organise everything for you and even combine Galapagos with Machu Picchu or Lake Titicaca if you want to include them on the same trip.  Nothing is too much as we aim to provide you with a trip of a lifetime and a truly memorable and unforgettable experience. 

No vaccinations are required for Galapagos but some vaccines and anti malarials are recommended for the Amazon and some areas of mainland Ecuador. For the latest advice please visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk. 

UK nationals receive a 90 day tourist visa automatically on entering Ecuador and all nationals require at least 6 months validity  from the return date of travel on their passport.

Baggage allowance for international carriers will vary according to each carrier but for the Galapagos it is 23 kilos and 10 kilos hand luggage.

Early booking is essential in order to avoid disappointment as departures get very booked up, especially during the whale shark season from May to November.  We can hold cabins without a deposit giving you time to think about it and then once you have decided to confirm we will only take a small deposit with final payment being due 60-90 days prior to departure (depending on the boat),  giving you plenty of time to think about any additional tours you may want to add on. 

 

 

This site is Sample Tours and Boats, more information being added all the time so if you can't find the tour you want then contact Ania Mudrewicz   by E-mail:- info@galapagoscruises.co.uk at Galapagos Classic Cruises. The Web Site is in the process of being updated and reconstructed.  Other destinations apart from Galapagos are:  Amazon, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, South Africa, Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Turkey, Arctic and Antarctica.