PHOTOGRAPHY & SPECIALTY

Scuba diving in the Galapagos with Ecoventura

AUTHOR Juan Bastidas

The Galapagos archipelago, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, is located at the confluence of 3 great oceanic currents: cold, nutrient rich waters from the south, known as the South Equatorial Current, mix with the warm Panama Current and the cold, deep Cromwell Current from the West.

Combined with the Galapagos’ remote location, the result is a bewildering array of both land and marine wildlife, made famous by Darwin’s famous trip here in the 1830s; 80% of the birdlife and over 95% of the reptiles and land mammals are found nowhere else on earth.

And under the waves the wildlife is just as spectacular. A diverse array of marine life, more than 20% of which is endemic, draws scuba enthusiasts from far and wide to experience diving encounters unlike anywhere else on the planet.

At Ecoventura, we offer experienced scuba divers the option to cruise with our dedicated scuba Live-Aboard – the 16-passenger luxury vessel, M/V Galapagos Sky.

With the help of Amy Lionetti, an experienced diver and member of the Sky team, the aim of this blog is to lay out some key information about diving. As well as to learn more about what Amy does for us – she has been part of our valued team since 2014.

Our itineraries offer approximately 18 dives over the course of a 7-night cruise, as well as 3 land excursions. The Galapagos Sky is one of just a few dive boats that spends 3-4 days at the northern islands of Wolf and Darwin on every trip – often regarded as among the best dive spots in the world, something that Amy would certainly agree with.

“Having dived in many places and having experienced some of the best crews and operators in the world, I was truly in awe of the Captains and crew of Galapagos Sky. Arriving at Darwin’s Arch took my breath away then, and still does every time I go there – the Bucket List trip you want to do more than once!” says Amy. “Darwin’s Arch is often the pinnacle of a diver’s recreational career as this arch is the iconic symbol of the ultimate dive destination in the world”.

Credit: Lazaro Ruda

Seasonal changes to water temperatures and currents mean that, whilst most species can be observed year-round, the chances of seeing some favourites changes at different times of the year. The size of the archipelago and the interaction of the currents means different areas have different temperature waters as well.

“Galapagos is truly a year-round dive destination” says Amy Lionetti, part of the Galapagos Sky team. “The incredible diversity of the marine life in Galapagos provides amazing diving 52 weeks of the year”.

Speak to the team to determine the optimal time to visit based on preferences including the thickness of the wetsuit or dry suit undergarments and the nature of the wildlife most likely to be spotted in different seasons.

June through November is whale shark season, so the best opportunity to spot the planet’s largest fish, which can reach up to 40 feet (12.2 metres) in length. These gentle giants are often accompanied by an entourage of other species, including cleaner fish, tuna, mackerel and remoras.

December through May is the warmest season for Galapagos diving; water temperatures may be around 78 – 82 degrees. Hammerhead sharks tend to gather in schools and may even “wall up”, gathering in tight proximity at reef points to form a solid wall of shark, a truly spectacular sight.

The warm season is known as “Manta” season, and for a reason – many rays, including giant mantas as well as mobulas, spotted eagles and golden rays to name a few, gather in large schools at this time of year.

So what is it Amy loves so much about diving in the Galapagos?

“I love the diversity of the Galapagos. Warm water in the north with big animals, big schools of fish – you never know what you will see next. Whale sharks, hammerheads, rays, big tuna, the list goes on! Cooler water in the southern and central islands means we see marine iguanas, penguins, mola mola, flightless cormorants, horn sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions. Different water temperatures show us different animals – nowhere else can you see such differences on the same itinerary”.

Credit: Lazaro Ruda

Please note that diving in the Galapagos, and particularly around Wolf and Darwin Islands, is for experienced divers only.

“We spend 3 days at these remote islands doing up to 4 dives a day” explains Amy. “The dives are mostly spent at 20-30 meters/80-100 feet. The surface conditions can be choppy near the entrance/exit points which are close to rocks, whilst currents can be quite strong. At times, one must hover near 30 meters/100 feet with no visible bottom as a reference – divers must be able to handle themselves in these conditions.”

Divers must be Nitrox certified, and we suggest experience levels of 50-100 dives in these conditions. Divers approaching this level of experience, as well as all guests who are looking for a more personal experience, may also hire a Private Dive Guide – contact the team for more details.

Credit: Lazaro Ruda

The national park regulates all activities on tour boats in the Galapagos. For our other boats (the Origin, Theory and Letty) our operational permits allow us to offer guided walks, snorkelling, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and zodiac rides. On our yachts we offer one, and sometimes two, snorkelling opportunities daily — either from the beach, or in deeper water from the zodiac boat for those who are comfortable in the ocean.

Only our dedicated scuba tour boat (the Galapagos Sky) is licensed to offer scuba diving as an activity from the boat.

Ecoventura guests wishing to combine a non-scuba cruise with diving are therefore advised to arrange to dive with a local dive shop when we are in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, although this would mean missing the visits we offer on that day, to the highlands of Santa Cruz and the tortoise breeding station.

Clients can arrange to dive with the dive shop and we can provide transportation to and from the shop.

Guests can also extend their stay before or after an Ecoventura cruise, for example in San Cristobal, or combine a diving week on the Sky with a non-diving cruise to focus on land-based and non-diving excursions aboard the Theory, Origin or Letty.

Finally, we asked Amy what her favourite memory of diving in the Galapagos is. “For me, the most incredible thing I see are the smiles behind the regulators on our guests’ faces, and seeing newer divers experience the magic of the Galapagos underwater for the first time. The excitement in their eyes behind their masks, or hearing the cheering underwater when amazing animals are swimming by them!  The experience is moving and powerful – watching our divers take it all in is just the best for me!”.

If you have any questions please get in touch with us today – we look forward to welcoming you on board.

Credit: Lazaro Ruda