Scuba Diving in the Galapagos Islands

Scuba Diving in the Galapagos is known as some of the best diving in world, but it isn’t easy diving, nor is it easy to access. Diving is not allowed from a naturalist yacht trip, and the very best diving is only accessible from a week-long live aboard dive boat (our top recommendation for this is the M/V Galapagos Sky).

Diving in the Galapagos is not easy. There are strong currents, undertows, and the water is quite cold. There are sites for beginners and sites for advanced divers. You must be PADI certified to dive in the Galapagos, and for many dive sites, you will need to have a certain number of logged open water dives to go there.

If you want to dive for a day or two, it’s really easy to add this onto a naturalist cruise or land-based multisport trip.  We recommend diving before the rest of your trip, rather than after. The reason for this is that you shouldn’t fly on an airplane until more than 24 hours after your last immersion.

Occasionally it is possible to replace a day on a cruise with a day of diving. It depends entirely on the itinerary of the cruise. If the boat is in port for the day, you can swap out the scheduled site visits on the cruise for a day of diving with a local shop.

Santa Cruz Island is located near the Baltra Airport, which is the starting and ending point of many Galapagos cruises and land-based trips. Because of it’s central location, Santa Cruz has easy access to many different dive sites to nearby islands. The vast majority of travelers will do diving trips from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island for these reasons.

Sample Itinerary
DAY 1: Arrive in Galapagos (Baltra Airport). Transfer to Puerto Ayora. Overnight at a hotel
DAY 2: Full Day of Scuba Diving. Overnight at a hotel
DAY 3: Full Day of Scuba Diving. Overnight at a hotel
DAY 4: Meet up with your trip in the morning

If there are people in your group who are not interested in Scuba diving, it’s possible for them to do a day-long excursion into the National Park while the others are diving. The excursions are to uninhabited islands, with a bilingual naturalist guide, and they will be doing naturalist walks and snorkeling.

DIVE SITE DESCRIPTIONS

Each dive outfitter has certain days of the week when they go to each of these sites. So your options for a dive site will depend on what day of the week you can go.

North Seymour: North Seymour is a small island located north of Baltra Island. Travel time to North Seymour is about 30 minutes by boat from Santa Cruz’s northern dock at the Itabaca Channel.

This dive has depths from 5 to 27 meters 30 to 90 ft with 40 to 50 ft visibility. There are moderate to strong currents with some surge. There are many different dive sites for all levels of diving experience.

Common Sightings: Eagle Rays, Manta Rays, Hammerheads, White-Tipped Reef Sharks, Galapagos Shark, Stingrays, Marbled Rays, Tiger Snake Eels, Moray Eels, Garden Eels, Sea Stars, Sea Turtles, Jacks, Blue and Gold Snappers, Flag Cabrilla, Creolefish, King Angelfish, Barracuda, Heiroglyphic Hawkfish, Frogfish, Yellowtail Surgeonfish, Spotfin Burrfish, Scorpionfish, Cardinalfish, Nudibranch and more.

Dive Levels: Beginner / Intermediate / Professional

Daphne Minor:  Located directly north of Santa Cruz and directly west of Baltra. Volcanic in origin, Daphne Minor is fairly eroded. Travel time to Daphne Minor is about 40 minutes by boat from Santa Cruz’s northern dock at the Itabaca Channel.

Daphne Minor is most famous for cave and wall diving. The wall dive contains many beautiful and colorful surprises for divers as you explore around this rock in the middle of the sea. The maximum dive depth is 25m (~82ft), though the ground can be as deep as 60m (~197ft). Currents are typically mild but can be strong depending on the time of year.

Common Sightings: Sea Turtles, Hammerheads, White-Tipped Reef Sharks, Galapagos Sharks, Silky Sharks, Golden Cowrays, Eagle Rays, Galapagos Grunts, Yellowtail Grunts, Creolefish, King Angelfish, Galapagos Ringtail Damselfish, Chamelion Wrasse, Rainbow Wrasse, Barracuda, Streamer Hogfish, Tuna, Parrotfish, Wrasse, Razor Surgeonfish, Panamic Graysby Cabrilla, Cardinalfish, Yellowtail Snapper, Nudibranch, Octopus, Slipper Lobster and Black Coral.

Dive Levels: Beginner / Intermediate / Professional

Mosquera Islet: Mosquera is a large sand bank located north to south on a shallow area between Baltra and Seymour. Travel time to Mosquera is about 30 minutes by boat from the northern dock of Santa Cruz at the Itabaca Channel.

The long beach on the west side (West Beach) is populated by barking sea lions. It is even possible for them and their pups to join you when snorkeling in 3-5 meters (~10-16ft) of clear water in the break. The eastern side of Mosquera (East Mosquera) forms a vertical wall with large boulders. The eastern side of Mosquera (East Mosquera) forms a vertical wall with large boulders.  The current comes from the east most of the time and can be quite strong in the channels north and south of Mosquera.

Common Sightings: Marine Iguanas, Sea Turtles, Hammerheads, White-Tipped Reef Sharks, Galapagos Sharks, Silky Sharks, Golden Cowrays, Eagle Rays, Galapagos Grunts, Yellowtail Grunts, Creolefish, King Angelfish, Galapagos Ringtail Damselfish, Chamelion Wrasse, Rainbow Wrasse, Barracuda, Streamer Hogfish, Tuna, Parrotfish, Wrasse, Razor Surgeonfish, Moorish Idols, Panamic Graysby Cabrilla, Cardinalfish, Yellowtail Snapper, Nudibranch, and Octopus.

Dive Levels: Intermediate / Professional

Cousins Rock: Cousin’s Rock is a small islet located just north of Bartolome. Travel time is about 2 1/2 hours by boat from Santa Cruz’s northern dock at the Itabaca Channel.

This wall dive is recommended only for experienced divers. Currents are typically strong due to the steep wall formation and nearby channel. This has been known to be one of the best places to dive in the Galapagos Islands.

Common Sightings: sea lions, whitetip reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, manta rays, sea horses, octopus, various tropical fish, and barracuda are typically seen during this dive.

Dive Levels: Intermediate / Professional

Bartolome Island:
 Bartolome is a small volcanic islet located just off the east coast of Santiago. Travel time is about 90 minutes by boat from Santa Cruz’s northern dock at the Itabaca Channel.

The currents here are mild to medium and visibility is good on most days. There is amazing scenery on both land and underwater, which makes this one of the most complete dive sites. Here you are able to take a boat ride near the rocks where the small but proud looking penguins rest standing, heads up.

Common Sightings
: stingrays, whitetip reef sharks, and various invertebrates. Most notable are the Galapagos penguins, the only species of penguin to live on the equator. This area is also the nesting and breeding grounds for green turtles.

Dive Levels: Beginner / Intermediate

Gordon Rock: Gordon Rocks is located just north of the Plazas, located on the east coast of Santa Cruz. Travel time to Gordon is about 40 minutes by boat from Santa Cruz’s northern dock at the Itabaca Channel.

This rock formation is famous among experienced divers around the globe. It is hailed as one of the best dive sites in the Galapagos. Gordon Rocks is actually an ancient volcano caldera. Currents may be strong here, so this is recommended for experienced intermediate and advanced divers only who have a minimum experience of 30 logged dives. The maximum depth is 30m (~98ft).

Common Sightings: The best for close encounters with Hammerhead Sharks, Eagle Rays, Stingrays, Marbled Rays, Mantas, White-Tipped Reef Sharks, Galapagos Sharks, Jacks, Turtles, Heiroglyphic Hawkfish, Flag Cabrillas, Blennies, Wrasse in various growth stages, Cardinalfish, King Angelfish, Sea Lions, Yellowtail Surgeonfish, King Angelfish, Barracudas, and various kinds of Jacks.

Dive Levels: Intermediate / Professional

Floreana Island: Floreana Island (also known as “Charles” and “Santa Maria”) is located directly south of Santa Cruz. Travel time is about 2 hours by boat from the main dock in Puerto Ayora.

There are two dive sites we visit at Floreana:

Champion: A small island close to the main island, Champion is characterized by walls covered with coral, and a maximum depth of 20m (~66ft). Currents are mild and the dive is a drift dive. Here divers will see schools of barracudas, whitetip reef sharks, turtles, and schools of tropical fish.

Enderby: This dive site is an ancient volcano. The wind and waves have eroded one side which allows divers to explore what used to be a crater. The rock formations are interesting to see and this area is full of schools of fish, rays, sea lions, sharks and cleaning stations for sharks and turtles. The maximum depth is 25m (~82ft). There can sometimes be strong currents.

Common Sightings
: Floreana is most famous for marine life like sea lions, tropical and exotic fish, barracudas, black coral, white tip sharks,  black tip sharks, hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, moray eels, and eagle rays.

Dive Levels: Beginner / Intermediate / Professional

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