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Comparison: Liveaboard vs Daily Diving

People often ask, “What is the difference between diving Galapagos on a liveaboard and diving the central islands on daily dive boats?  I wrote the following in 2008. It is still equally true in 2022.

Those great Galapagos photos you see of hundreds of hammerheads are at Darwin and Wolf.  In the central islands, it is more common to see individuals or small groups and only at certain sites. Whale sharks are common during high season in the north (Darwin and Wolf) versus a maybe every once in awhile in the central islands. Galapagos and Silky sharks are not nearly as common nor as abundant in the central islands.

Diving Wolf and Darwin is worlds better than diving in the central islands. It’s not that diving the central islands isn’t good. It’s just that dive sites only accessible from a liveaboard is so much better that there is no comparison. Ask anyone who has done both. Below is a list of pros and cons for both types of diving in Galapagos.

GALAPAGOS LIVEABOARD DIVING:  

Advantages:

  • Marine Life, the sheer abundance and the variety of species.
  • The best dive sites in Galapagos are only accessible from a liveaboard: Darwin, Wolf, Cabo Douglas, Cabo Marshall and Punta Vicente Roca.
  • It’s relaxing to dive when the logistics are easy. You wake up, have coffee/tea, maybe a pastry and dive.  Eat breakfast and dive. Have lunch and dive twice. No two hour rides in a small boat on a rough sea or with a loud engine. You can converse with others at any time. No more realizing you forgot to bring something when it’s too late. Dive, relax, eat, dive, relax, eat, sleep and repeat.
  • Double the number of dives per day over land based diving. 
  • Virtually no wardrobe is required.  Anyone who packs more than a small duffle bag (apart from dive gear) just overpacked.  Shoes are not even necessary onboard.
  • Extra safety precautions like Dive Alerts, SMBs and the Nautilus Lifeline.
  • The comradery of diving with the same group of people and bonus, most are willing to share their photos!
  • Dive times coordinated when other boats are at the same site to minimize number of divers in the water. 

Disadvantages:

  • Too little topside Galapagos.  As per National Park permits, liveaboard aren’t permitted to visit land sites and naturalist cruises aren’t permitted to dive. There are no options for a mixed itinerary, but that is why we have extensions.
  • Remote location means no access in the event of a medical issue…like injury or illness. Boats are not equipped for medical assistance beyond oxygen, defibrillators and first aid kits. Emergencies mean a long haul back to the central islands.
  • While I enjoy diving from a panga, many don’t as it can be rough sometimes in full gear. But maybe that was before all pangas had ladders and you had to sea lion leap your way out of the water. Now, you remove your gear, hand it up and then climb up the ladder.

Daily Dives in Galapagos:

Advantages:

  • More topside visitor sites possible on non-dive days.
  • Restaurant options for dinner.
  • Internet and cell phone access.
  • Larger sleeping quarters…though on a liveaboard, you spend little time in your cabin. It’s for showers and sleeping.
  • Access to doctors or pharmacies should the need arise.
  • Access to shopping.
  • The cost is lower.

Disadvantages:

  • No access to Darwin or Wolf or the other remote sites aka the best dive sites.
  • Typically limited to 2 dives per day.
  • No Nitrox. Safety gear is limited to what you bring.
  • Bumpier and louder boat rides. In high season, the boats can slam down on swells. All boats in the central islands keep barf bags onboard for a reason.
  • Very limited space on smaller boats which is where you spend almost the entire day. Most boats are 10-12 m / 30-36 ft long and accommodate 10 divers plus 2 crew and the guide.
  • You can only dive sites from one island. To dive other islands, you must pack, change hotels and transport luggage/dive gear via ferry to another island. You cannot leave your dive gear on a daily dive boat overnight.
  • No hot lunches or hot chocolate after dives.
  • No fresh water rinse after dives for you or your gear.
  • Insufficient, if any, camera accommodations.

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