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Diving in the Galapagos during Whale Shark Season
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Galapagos Diving Cruises

There are diving vacations …and there are DIVING VACATIONS! One of the most special underwater adventures can be found in the legendary Galapagos Islands. Touted as one of the top 10 diving spots in the world, the Galapagos has earned a title as the “Mecca for divers.” Where else can you discover massive whale sharks patrolling the deep blue while schools of manta rays shark block out the sun?

 

In this archipelago, each dive promises extraordinary sightings, making it nothing short of a “must-do once-in-a-lifetime experience” – whether you’re a beginning diver seeking to swim alongside playful sea lions or an advanced frogman comfortable with being surrounded by a squadron of hammerhead sharks.

 

But, in addition to offering some of the world’s best diving, what makes the Galapagos Islands even more of an attraction is that they also give travelers a chance to come ashore and find themselves face-to-face with Giant tortoises, exotic endemic birds, and a host of other fascinating land creatures. Adventurers can literally walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, the great naturalist who changed the way we think about life.

 

If you’re interested in this bucket-list experience and destination, contact a Surtrek travel specialist today!

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Highlights

 

  • A UNESCO-declared Marine Reserve named one of the “7 Underwater Wonders of the World”
  • Squadrons of hammerhead sharks, bizarre Mola mola and enormous Whale sharks creating a realm that’s on almost every diver’s bucket list
  • Comfortable, well-equipped and safe liveaboard ships with skilled diving guides, comfortable accommodations, and great meals
  • Nutrient-rich waters densely populated with a tremendous variety of astounding aquatic creatures
  • Opportunities for traditional land excursions for viewing Giant Galapagos tortoises and the other iconic wildlife species of the islands

 

What you’ll experience on a Galapagos diving cruise

 

The convergence of ocean currents through the Galapagos archipelago has combined plant and animal life from contrasting environments and given rise to unique marine species.  Because of these varying conditions, a wide diversity of marine animal life can be experienced. While diving in certain areas of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, you’ll come into contact with astounding aquatic species, everything from enormous humpback whales and docile whitetip sharks to tiny Galapagos penguins and tropical fish.

 

The rich biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands and its surrounding waters represent one of the world’s most unique ecosystems. For these reasons, UNESCO granted the “World Heritage Site” status to the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR), as it’s the largest marine reserve in a developing country and the second-largest marine reserve in the world.

 

For help in planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip to the amazing islands, contact a Surtrek travel specialist.

 

Is it safe to visit and dive in the Galapagos Islands?

 

In the main, the Galapagos diving is for advanced divers with experience beyond the casual open-water certification – those who feel comfortable in deeper waters with varying currents and conditions. Such experienced divers will be attracted to areas such as Wolf and Darwin islands, which are known for the diversity of rare and large marine life.

 

Nonetheless, several sites within the archipelago are suitable for even absolute beginners, as these areas are shallow and enjoy calm and gentle conditions that allow for easy, relaxed scuba diving instruction.

 

Whatever your level, it's important to first talk with your Surtrek travel specialist regarding your level of training and ability.  Although enjoyment is the main goal, safety is our top priority.

In terms of the Surtrek-vetted liveaboard diving ships sailing the waters of the Galapagos, these are operated by trained and experienced professionals. Their highly-skilled crew members and diving guides are trained in first-aid and CPR, and, as you’ll see, each cruise begins with them giving a comprehensive safety briefing to familiarize you with all of the ship’s safety equipment and protocols.

 

As for aquatic life, note that the species of sharks in the Galapagos are relatively benign and generally coexist peacefully with humans.  Though these sharks will only bite if provoked, care should be taken when diving in dark or murky water.

 

Concerning crime, the few towns and villages in the Galapagos are known to be safer than those in mainland Ecuador. Still, to prevent opportunistic wrongdoing, levelheaded measures should be taken, such as keeping an eye on your belongings, not flaunting valuables, etc. – just like anywhere else in the world.

 

As for the big cities of mainland Ecuador, you’ll be accompanied by experienced local guides during any time spent here. In any case, travelers should avoid going out alone at night, take registered taxis, and walk-in groups – just to be sure.

 

Best Time to experience the Galapagos Islands

 

For Galapagos diving, there is no particular good or bad diving season, it all depends on what you want to experience. The decision is ultimately yours, but feel free to contact us here at Surtrek and ask us for more information about the different seasons. As we’ve been booking and running successful diving trips to the Galapagos since 1993, we can give you solid recommendations whatever your interests, skill level, needs, or preferences.

 

Note though that the warm season in the Galapagos Islands extends from December to May, when the warmest water and air temps are recorded. During this period, water temperatures range between 70°-86°F (21°-30°C), though some cooler thermoclines can be experienced, especially in the northern islands. Expect visibility of between 40-100 feet (12-33 meters). This warmer December-May period is considered Manta ray season when generally larger schools of hammerhead shark and giant manta rays can be witnessed patrolling the waters off Isabela Island. Also during this season, the sea surface conditions are both calmer and sunnier, making for a more pleasant onboard experience.

 

The colder June-November period is Whale shark season when these gentle giants come to feed on the plankton and other nutrients brought in with cool ocean currents of between 60°-75°F (16°-24°C), though visibility is slightly less as a result. Still, the nutrient-rich currents result in more abundant and active marine life, which can enhance your diving experience even more. On the downside, though, diving and onboard conditions can be rougher, and the skies tend to be cloudy and gray during this season is known as the garua.

 

What should I pack for traveling to the Galapagos Islands?

 

When packing for a diving trip to the Galapagos Islands, keep in mind that you’ll be visiting not just those tropical and semi-arid islands, but also continental South America. With no direct flights to the archipelago, you’ll touch down first on the much cooler Ecuadorian mainland, where most travelers choose to spend at least a day or two in Quito, so as to arrive in the Galapagos fresh and ready to “hit the ground running.” Dressing for the spring-like weather of the Andean city of Quito means you’ll need to wear and pack a few warm and water-resistant items (e.g. a jacket, long-sleeve fleece or sweater, and long pants, as well as bring along a travel umbrella).

 

Later, when landing in the Galapagos Islands, you’ll have to dress for warmer weather and geographies that range from sandy palm-tree-backed beaches to cactus-dotted deserts and volcanic-rock fields. In any case, for your time onboard your liveaboard, pack a wide-brimmed sun hat or a cap with a strap, short-sleeve breathable T-shirts, long-sleeve expedition-style shirts, convertible cargo pants, comfortable walking shoes and open-toe sports sandals with non-slippery soles. Don’t forget shorts and some reef-friendly sunscreen for your ship’s sundeck and the shore.

 

For the cool evenings on the water, most of the items you packed for the mainland will serve you well.

 

Since you’ll sometimes be traveling to uninhabited (meaning store-less) islands, be sure to pack plenty of film or memory cards, recharging cords, batteries, and personal toiletries.

 

Diving tour packing: Given the size and weight of diving equipment, as well as the fact that equipment is provided by your ship, the overwhelming number of divers do not bring their own equipment. The exception of this general rule is your dive mask, which is absolutely essential to carry as it’s the most important item of your dive equipment. A certain way to ruin a trip is to use a rental mask that fogs and leaks.

 

Worried about leaving anything out? Don’t fret – after you book your tour, you’ll receive a detailed packing list from Surtrek as a part of your information packet.

 

How to get to the Galapagos Islands?

 

As there are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands (an Ecuadorian province), you’ll fly into mainland Ecuador*, choosing to land either in Quito (which is the county’s capital and located in the Andes) or in the coastal Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil.

 

In either city, you’ll be welcomed at the airport by Surtrek representatives, who will assist you with your luggage and privately drive you to your upscale hotel.

 

From the airports in Quito (UIO) and Guayaquil (GYE), there are three daily flights to the Galapagos Islands, landing at the airport on Baltra Island (GPS) or San Cristobal Island (SYC). These take approximately 3 hours and cost between $300 to $500 USD per person for a round-way ticket, depending on the time of year you fly.

 

Dive boats commonly start their itineraries from either Baltra and San Cristobal islands, where a Surtrek representative will pick you up from the airport as part of the tour.

 

Like with your stay in mainland Ecuador, from the moment you touch down in the islands and until it’s time to leave, you will be accompanied by experienced bilingual Surtrek representatives and guides who will accompany you throughout your cruise and when traveling to and from your liveaboard diving boat or hotel.

 

Therefore, during your Galapagos experience, you’ll be welcomed upon your arrival at each airport, assisted with your luggage and checking in at all domestic and international airports, provided ground transportation to your boat or hotel, and finally seen off on your flight home or onward**. 

 

So don’t worry – Surtrek’s soup-to-nuts services make travel and getting around a breeze.

 

(*) Note: Direct non-stop flights fly to both Quito and Guayaquil from several US cities, including Houston, New York, and Miami. Likewise, such flights arrive from European cities such as Madrid.

(**) REMEMBER: While planning your visit and your flights, keep in mind the 24-hour fly rule after diving.

 

Why go on a Galapagos diving tour with Surtrek?

 

Since 1993, Surtrek has been helping travelers find the best liveaboard Galapagos diving experience that suits their particular needs. We personally inspect the quality of each and every liveaboard diving ship to confirm that it meets our exacting standards and conforms with our environmentally friendly Green Philosophy.

 

We sleep in the beds, make dives, test the gear, and get to know the guides before we give any diving ship our thumbs up. Contact one of our expert Galapagos trip planners for help planning a once-in-a-lifetime journey to the “Mecca of Diving” that is the Galapagos Islands.

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