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Liveaboards may be the only way to dive Darwin and Wolf, but that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone nor does it mean there isn’t great diving elsewhere in the Galapagos! See hammerheads, schools of rays, giant mantas, sea turtles, sea lions, huge schools of fish of all sizes and penguins, too! Did I mention it’s possible to see all that on just one dive? And that the cost is about 50% of a live-aboard unless you need a super luxurious hotel.
The best dive sites in the central islands are accessible only from Santa Cruz. You can see dive site descriptions in our Itinerary options below.
Liveaboards are only permitted 1 land visit and some do not have any land visits. A couple that do offer a land visit go to North Seymour.
This itinerary is perfect for groups of 12 or less. If you have a group of 8 or more, ask us about customizing a land based dive program for your group.
GPS Baltra Airport, Galapagos
Flexible based on your flight
This program is available all year. As all tours are on strict itineraries, we can’t deviate from the schedule much, if at all. We think this schedule works best to fit into your time away from work.
Each day, you will be collected for your tour, whether it is diving or a land visit. Each afternoon, you will be returned to your hotel. You are free to have dinner anywhere you want and we do have recommendations.
Please bring your C card and log book (if you have one). All diving is no decompression diving and lead by Park certified dive guides.
Our Best of Both Worlds Santa Cruz package includes diving the best sites from Santa Cruz in addition to land visits typically only accessible from a naturalist cruise.
We always recommend a day of diving before you dive Gordon Rocks, a dive site in the central islands that used to be on the Aggressor’s itinerary until the rules changed and the dive site became the exclusive domain of daily dive operators. It can be as challenging, if not more so, than the northern dive sites.
You will be met at Baltra Airport, escorted across the Canal and transferred first to a private ranch in the Highlands of Santa Cruz where you will walk around observing the iconic giant tortoises of Galapagos in their natural habitat.
Afterwards, you will be transferred to your hotel in Puerto Lopez.
Travel Time: 1.5 – 2 hours depending on sea conditions, from Puerto Ayora.
The dive sites at Floreana offer a most interesting topography, with rocky outcrops, small caves, and a sandy bottom providing an excellent hiding place for many marine animals. The large school of black-striped Salema fish is an amazing sight, taking you to another world as they envelop you in their thousands. Whilst the red-lipped batfish with its leg-like fins and cherry red lips has made more than a few jaws drop.
White and blacktip reef sharks, green sea turtles, stingrays, eagle rays, and hammerhead sharks are also among those who frequent the Floreana dive sites. Floreana is a special place to snorkel and dive with the baby sea lions (don’t be surprised if they take a liking to your fins!).
North Seymour is a flat, bushy island which has the largest population of nesting Frigates in the Galapagos. There is a 2 kilometer trail around the is- land which will put you very up close and personal with these birds in addi- tion to nesting Blue Footed Boobies. Your timing should be good to see Blue Footed Booby hatchlings. You can also see my favorite swooping in the air, the ethereal Tropicbird. You will see other bird species, land iguanas, sea lions, marine iguanas and the typical cast of fearless Galapagos characters.
Another interesting sighting on North Seymour is the Palo Santo tree. Palo Santo literally translates to Holy Stick. It was often used as incense in churches and even now is commonly used on the mainland as a mosquito repellent. The scent is distinctive. Lunch will be served onboard. You will return at approximately 5:00 PM.
Now that you know what the topside looks like, let’s go underwater for the rest of the life there is to see. Hint, hint…there’s even more than the topside.
Travel Time: Approx 1 hour car and boat travel from Puerto Ayora.
The North Seymour topography consists of gradual steps descending from the island shoreline, declining 8 meters to a beautiful rock reef, before reaching the sandy bottom at 16–18 meters. Diving at Seymour provides the opportunity to swim with many white and blacktip reef sharks, as well as being a favorite resting place for large numbers of green sea turtles. Though Seymour does not as famous for hammerhead sharks as other sites, it is still possible to see small schools at both Seymour sites, swimming along the current.
Large schools of barracuda, snapper, and other reef fish are also in abundance, and the rock reef is an excellent place to search for well-camouflaged octopi. A personal favorite, of ours, however, are the schools of spotted eagle rays that glide through the channel just above the sand, occasionally joined by devil and manta rays.
Mosquera: When you fly into Baltra, Mosquera is the spit of sand between Baltra and North Seymour easily visible from the sky.
Diving at Mosquera and its fringing rock reef is similar to Seymour until you reach the largesandy-bottomed platform and rock drop of around 21 meters. Here you can relax underwater and wait for the schools of magnificent eagle rays, hammerhead sharks, blacktip reef sharks, and the occasional, elusive, Galapagos shark. Manta rays are a special treat anywhere and sightings at Mosquera are certainly a possibility. On the sandy-bottomed platform you will be amazed by the Galapagos garden eels — thousands of them, as far as the eye can see, craning out of their tunnels to take in all the currents have to offer.
Travel Time: 45 min – 1 hour from Puerto Ayora.
Dive Difficulty: Though Gordon Rocks can be a calm and easy dive at times, it is known for strong currents and is, therefore, best suited to advanced divers. Please ask for advice on booking if you have experience of fewer than 30 dives.
Gordon Rocks is an extinct volcanic crater with a sandy bottom of 32 meters at its core and a wall drop around the outside of about 65 meters.
The site has three exposed rocks that surround the crater and three pinnacles found under the surface at the northern edge of the crater, found between six to eight meters underwater. There is one larger pinnacle of approximately 21 meters below the surface in the center of the crater.
The strong currents found at Gordon Rocks make it an excellent home for schools of hammerhead sharks, some of the most iconic animals found in the Galapagos. Schools of up to 50 sharks (or more if you are lucky) can be found circling the rocks through the current, giving divers ample repeated views of these extraordinary creatures. White and blacktip reef sharks also frequent the area, as well as green sea turtles, sea lions, stingrays, eagle rays, large schools of barracuda and snapper, and the occasional majestic manta ray or Mola mola.
Travel Time: Approx 2 hours car and boat travel form Puerto Ayora.
Beagle Rocks, named after the ship that carried Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands, consists of 3 rocks, the remains of a tuff cone, located off the northwest coast of Santa Cruz Island, south of Santiago Island. The dive begins on a 12-meter platform before reaching a drop-off wall that descends to more than 60 meters.
This underwater cliff face is covered with black coral, sea fans, and a huge variety of colorful reef fish. Hammerheads and Galapagos sharks can often be spotted off the wall, deep in the blue; rays, green sea turtles, and sea lions are common closer to the wal itselfl. Manta rays are also a special treat during the hot season.
Daphne is located off the northern coast of Santa Cruz and provides a diverse diving experience. It is a wall dive with little current. The main attractions to this site are the frequent visits by manta rays. There is always plankton in the water, making conditions murky, but the rays come so close that it is not a problem. Juvenile Galapagos sharks, whitetip reef sharks and eagle rays are also common.
This day you have options. You can either go to Tortuga Bay or visit Plazas on a daily tour boat.
Tortuga Bay is a rather spectacular place. It is 2 bays divided by a peninsula. The large white sandy beach is not appropriate for swimming. Head over to the end of that to find the smaller calm waters of a cove surrounded by mangroves. The peninsula itself is a lovely walk with large colonies of marine iguana sunning and sneezing the salt after returning from sea on the short walk between the sea and an Opuntia Cactus forest. Crimson Sesuvium covers the ground much of the year. It is a stunning array of colors – blue skies, black volcanic rock, white sand, emerald green or deep blue sea, crimson or yellow sesuvium and green and brown shades of opuntia or mangrove. Keep an eye on the path so you don’t step on a marine iguana as they are very abundant in this area.
There are usually kayaks available to rent at Tortuga Bay. I would choose that over snorkeling as the calm side is so silty, visibility is next to nothing.
Las Plazas: A tour to South Plaza Island puts you face to face with Sea Lion pups, Land Iguanas, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, and various nesting sea birds. South Plaza Island is half of a pair of islets off the east coast of Santa Cruz. The channel between the two islands pro-
vides the perfect haven for California Sea Lion pups.
In fact, South Plaza has one of the largest Sea Lion colonies in the entire Galapagos Archipelago. Often you can see bulls defending their harems in the azure waters of the channel. On land, you can see Land Iguanas, Swallow-tailed Gulls, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Shearwaters, Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies, Frigates and more. On the return cruise you will stop for a snorkel just outside of the Ithabaca Canal, a refreshing way to end this interesting day tour.
You need to leave Puerto Ayora 3 hours prior to your flight.
Posada Del Mar is a simple, but attractive option in standard rooms. It is so well located. It is close to the dock and many restaurants, including everyone’s favorite, Galapagos Deli, which is on the ground floor of this hotel!
Galapagos Pearl is it’s own little compound. It is near a number of restaurants, galleries and the entrance to the National Park in Santa Cruz.
La Isla is a lovely small hotel just off the main avenue that runs seafront in Puerto Ayora. It’s less than one block to restaurants and the fishermen’s dock.
Ikala is a beautiful hotel located about 3 blocks back from the main dock and close to many restaurants.
SolyMar is right in the middle of everything in front of the sea. It’s within walking distance to the main dock, to restaurants and to the fishermen’s dock.