Scuba Diving in the Galapagos Islands
Perhaps it’s no accident that the natural rock formation known as Darwin’s Arch raises from the ocean at the eastern approach to Darwin Island in the Galapagos archipelago. Many experienced divers will tell you that the arch marks the crown jewel of all dive sites on the planet. It’s considered the best place in the world to swim with large animals like the leviathan whale shark reaching forty feet in length. Simply stated the Galapagos Islands offer one of the most spectacular places to dive in the world, which keeps experienced divers coming back time and time again.
Some 600 miles off the South American coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands hold a strategic position so far as marine life is concerned. Three key oceanic currents converge here including the warm Panama Current, the Cromwell Current and the cold Humboldt Current, which runs from Antarctica, up the west coast of South America, bringing an upwelling of nutrient rich waters to the Galapagos. The currents also serve to draw in species from places as diverse as the coast of Peru and Chile, Panama, Baja and the Indo-Pacific. They create a wide range of water temperatures in the Galapagos and an extraordinary setting where large tropical and cold-water fish are found swimming together. The volcanic structure of the islands sets the foundation for this great pyramid of underwater life. The waters around the Galapagos were proclaimed a marine reserve in 1986 and prior to that the islands were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978, helping ensure that this marine habitat remains among the healthiest in the world.
In addition to being the whale shark capital of the world, large schools of hammerhead sharks, barracuda and pods of dolphin await you. The Galapagos Islands offer numerous opportunities to swim with young sea lions that will come within inches as they gaze into your mask before darting off. Sea turtles, large manta ray, eagle rays, stingrays and even zebra rays are found here. Some of the more unusual species you might see underwater include Galapagos penguins, marine iguana and flightless cormorants. A 1997 study placed the number of Galapagos fish species at 460 with 41 being endemic. There are 28 species of sharks, 5 species of rays, 18 types of morays, 16 species of whales and 7 kinds of dolphin. Young Charles Darwin, fresh from university, visited here in 1835 during the voyage of the HMS Beagle. Darwin maintained that the Galapagos was the source of his field research for The Origin of Species. Many of the discoveries he came upon are still in evidence.
Topside, you’ll also have the chance to see an array of exotic and colorful creatures, many of which have never learned to fear humans. You can track giant tortoise or trade stares with unconcerned iguanas. Bird life is abundant, varied and fearless. You may have to give way as a blue footed booby crosses your path, or have the opportunity to observe a Galapagos hawk perched just a few steps away, as an albatross launches itself off a cliff on a journey that will encompass thousands of miles.
While Galapagos diving and current conditions call for experienced divers only, so far as yachting is concerned seas tend to be calm, making travel by live aboard yacht the ideal and often only way to see the most the islands have to offer. This is just one reason why the live aboard dive cruises have remained among the most sought after trips in the islands for nearly 20 years. The yachts are recognized worldwide for their seaworthiness, comfort and luxury. Each is tailored for a one of a kind, uncrowded and flexible experience. All of the yachts have private bathrooms, hot showers and air conditioning. They offer both hearty and gourmet meals. There is plenty of space to stretch out either in the sun or under shade to relax in the comfortable marine atmosphere.
The philosophy and approach has resulted in attracting a team of the very best dive masters the Galapagos National Park has to offer. Each has spent years studying biological and earth sciences at university, combined with years of experience leading dive trips in the Galapagos Islands. They are highly skilled, personable, interesting and entertaining individuals who are intent on conveying their deep understanding and love of their treasured island archipelago. They will leave you in admiration of the natural wonders of the Galapagos and the planet we call home.