There is a reason the Galapagos is considered the best pelagic diving on the planet. Because it is. There is a reason every diver has Galapagos on their bucket list. Because it’s Galapagos. It is an advanced dive site, so especially in high season, experience is necessary for diving the Galapagos.
While overfishing has reduced sharks and other large fish by more than 90% in our oceans, the northern islands of Darwin and Wolf are home to the world’s largest shark biomass at 12.4 tons per hectare (2.47 acres or 100 m2). Those amazing photos of large schools of Scalloped Hammerheads are common sightings at Darwin and Wolf.
Scuba diving the Galapagos Islands requires great buoyancy control and the ability to handle yourself in advanced conditions. Diving in the Galapagos is advanced due to strong currents, varying visibility and cold water. Water temperatures can range from 56 F (13 C) to 80F (26 C) depending on the season and the dive site. Galapagos is also remote. You are often at least 16 hours away from medical facilities. Diver safety must always comes first.
It is recommended that you have a minimum of 50 logged dives in the low season and 100 logged dives in the high season. Some Liveaboards require 100 year round. Having said that, some may be more skilled with 20 logged dives than others with 400 logged dives. The type of experience you have matters: Cooler water, 7mm wetsuits, strong currents and drift dives. All due respect, we sort of joke that 20 dives in California is the equivalent to maybe 100 in the Caribbean.
It’s not a given that conditions will be extremely challenging, but it’s always a possibility. Divers need good buoyancy control and must be able to handle 2-4 knot currents. Down currents may exist, though not over walls that drop into really deep waters, nevertheless you need to be aware, calm and capable of adapting to conditions you may meet. It’s not what will happen in Galapagos, it’s what can happen.
All diving is done from a Zodiac RIB, which are called pangas in Galapagos. All diving is no decompression diving. All dives are lead by National Park Marine Reserve certified dive guides. Divers are responsible for themselves. You must be able to call a dive if you are uncomfortable for any reason.
Please use the following suggestions for self-assessment:
- You must be a certified diver with your certification card from an internationally recognized certification organization.
- You need to be in good health and good fitness. We recommend a stress test for divers over 55 years old.
- Minors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
- We recommend a minimum of 50 logged dives if you are traveling between December and May and 100 logged dives if you are traveling between June and November. Again, some boats require 100 dives.
- You should have logged at least one dive in the 6 months prior to boarding.
- Currents can be very strong. Down currents may exist. You need to be able to remain calm and have the skills to adapt in advanced diving conditions.
- You need good buoyancy skills. We dive in 7mm wetsuits. The water is 6% more salinic than most sea water. This adds up to more buoyancy which requires more weights. Many begin heavier and are able to shed weight once adapted.
- Dives are from Zodiac RIBs, locally called pangas. Entries are a backroll from the sides. You must remove your gear in the water prior to climbing up the ladder. It is lifted up for you.
- Dives at Darwin usually require a negative entry, no air in your BC, and straight down to the platform.
- All dives are guided by a Park certified guide with the appropriate Marine Reserve certification. Due to regulations, all divers must dive with a guide at all times. The normal ratio is 1 guide per 8 divers in 2 groups that are rarely together as 1 big group.
- Less experienced divers may hire a private dive guide at a cost of $1750 per week ($250 per day).
- Necessary equipment includes a submersible console with an SPG & depth gauge. Dive computers are mandatory and available to rent if you don’t have one.
- Decompression diving is not allowed in Galapagos. The maximum allowed depth is 130′ (39.62 mts) if diving air or 110′ (33.5 mts) if diving Nitrox.
- Nitrox is strongly recommended. If you are not certified, with advance notice the course is available onboard on several liveaboards enabling you to dive Nitrox from tank 1.
- Alcohol is prohibited during diving activities. There is a standing rule onboard that is strictly enforced: Once you have your first drink, you are done diving for the day.
- Touching wildlife is prohibited. If previously warned, you may lose dive privileges for duration of the departure.