Gordon Rocks  E-mail
Santa Cruz Dive Sites

Gordon Rocks as seen from above

Site:  Gordon Rocks
Location:  Santa Cruz
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
Depth Range: 20-130 ft. Avg 60-80 ft
Current/ Surge:  Strong at times
Travel Time: 40-1:30. Depends on whether you depart from Itabaca Canal or Puerto Ayora and depends on boat speed.

Attractions:  While there is lots and lots to see, there is one reason people head to Gordon Rocks and one reason it is a world-renowned site: the Hammerheads. Lots of hammerheads up close and really personal.

Sure, there are 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, Jack and more…but people remember one thing: Close encounters with Hammerheads.

Gordon Rocks is a highlight of any diving experience in the Galapagos. It is is the top of a submerged cone at the northeastern end of Santa Cruz Island.  It is sometimes referred to as 'the washing machine' for good reason.   The exposed northern and southern rocks are what remains of a caldera.  Below the water are submerged pinnacles and a channel between that can make for very strong currents, surge, down currents and there is depth, so this site is an advanced dive site. 

Sometimes, you take a taxi to the Itabaca Canal (45 minutes) and board the dive boat.  From there, it is 20-30 minutes to Gordon Rocks.  I have actually taken a very fast boat that departed from the main dock in Puerto Ayora and arrived at The Plazas (across from Gordon Rocks) 35 minutes later.  The following is a mini-trip report from one of my Gordon Rocks dives, the first ever Galapagos Dive Triangle I had put together.  It's one thing to dive for yourself, but if you're taking guests out, you REALLY want it to be good.

Dive 1: We got all suited up near shore and headed over as the currents around Gordon Rocks can be strong and the chop too difficult to do much beyond not fall out of the boat. We entered the ‘washing machine’ about at the center of the western ‘rock’, the more intact piece of the visible crater. We descended rather quickly assisted by a somewhat strong down current and were immediately rewarded with Hammerheads cruising the sandy bottom next to the reef. Being so fascinated by the hammerheads and not paying attention to our dive computers or depth gauges, Macarron had to ring his bell to alert us to the fact that we had descended a bit too far and guided up a ridge where we just held on for awhile watching the hammerhead swim around us and below us. One curious ‘martillo’ ended up about 5 meters or less in front of us. Fantastic experience to view hammerheads so up close and personal. We continued over the reef and crossed the strong current in the channel heading for the pinnacle.  There are a lot of amazing creatures at Gordon Rocks, but hammerheads are a pretty tough act to follow.  You end up so focused on them that you just forget that everywhere you look, especially above, is a well-stocked fish bowl!

Dive 2: More hammerheads, large schools of fish, eagle rays…and did I mention the hammerheads? Dive 3: Again, I sit this out…Miriam and Javier left their camera onboard, so naturally, it was the best dive of the day. They reported sighting about 40 sharks, mostly hammerheads with a couple of white tips and 1 Galapagos Shark.

Post note: Luck of the draw…I dove Gordon Rocks the day after everyone left and waiting for us as we climbed back into the boat was a young whale shark, about 6-7 meters long. Fortunately, we could quickly don our snorkels and jump right back in where I swam about a meter away from him until he decided to speed it up. It’s as hopeless to chase a young whale shark as it is to chase penguins. Too fast.