Did you know that scuba diving is available on many of our partner ships in the Galapagos Islands? Ideal for certified divers who want to share with family and friends a small ship cruise and spend an day or two diving, the following options give Galapagos scuba divers the best of both worlds. There are of course week-long dive trips scuba enthusiasts can book, but these excursions allow you to be on a non-dive-specific cruise, seeing more of the diversity of the Galapagos, on both land and underwater.
An Introduction to Galapagos Scuba Diving
Scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands is not typical tropical diving, and is always from boats, i.e. no shore dives. Due to the currents and out of respect for the marine environment, boats usually cannot anchor; therefore, it is not possible to dive down an anchor chain and come back to the anchored vessel. Descents and ascents are usually done free (without a line) and most dives are done “drift-style”: the dive boat follows the divers’ bubbles and picks them up at the end of the dive.
Although the Galapagos Islands are located exactly on the equator, they are affected by several cold water currents. As a result, average conditions are more like those in California's Channel Islands, with waters that are often cold and with relatively poor visibility. The Galapagos are also a mid-ocean island group, and dive sites are commonly affected by moderate to strong currents and occasionally by rough surface conditions. Experience in colder water, wall diving and diving in currents is strongly recommended, as 7-mm wetsuits can be restrictive and strong currents can be disorienting or distressing for divers unfamiliar with these conditions.
Taking all this into account, scuba diving in the Galapagos, at least while aboard a small ship cruise, is not suitable for beginners. For all boats listed below, you must already be scuba certified by an internationally recognized dive association (PADI, NAUI) at an intermediate to advanced level. All rates are for 2014, unless otherwise noted.
Legend, Coral I & Coral II Scuba Diving
For certified scuba divers, a new optional excursion is available during cruises aboard the Galapagos Legend and Corals I & II for $300 per person and includes: 2 half-day immersions, pick up and drop off from cruise ship, transportation to/from dive site, 2 immersion duration of 45-60 minutes, dive equipment (tank, weights, wetsuit, fins, mask, regulator, bcd, snorkel), snack and beverages.
Galapagos dive sites visited may include Gordon Rocks (advanced), the top of a submerged cone at the northeastern end of Santa Cruz Island; North Seymour's ocean and channel sides (intermediate); Mosquera (intermediate); and Cousins (intermediate), the remains of an eroded crater sticking up out of the sea whose claim to fame is the seahorses that can be spotted around 50 feet.
National Geographic Endeavour Scuba Diving
Scuba is offered on National Geographic Endeavour departures sailing out of San Cristobal. Departures embarking in Baltra do not have scuba diving available. Per person cost is $220 per day and includes two dives, full 7mm wetsuit, jacket type BCD with power inflator, regulator with octopus and pressure gauge, and mask, snorkel, fins, booties, hoods and gloves. Most dives are between 45 and 80 feet as this is where you encounter most of the marine life in the Galapagos; maximum depth is 100 feet.
A National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions representative based on land in the Galapagos is the main contact between divers on the cruise and the local dive companies who operate the dives for Endeavour's cruises. All dive schedules are made to ensure that you can experience diving while missing as little as possible of the rest of the cruise.
Tip Top II, III & IV Scuba Diving
Aboard the Tip Top fleet, you may schedule scuba diving in advance at specific diving spots at Floreana, Mosquera, Bartolome, Seymour and Santa Fe, depending on the itinerary. Costs vary by site, and availibility is limited, so check with AdventureSmith to customize scuba diving into your Tip Top cruise.
Beluga & Cachalote Scuba Diving
Guides aboard the Beluga and Cachalote yachts can arrange scuba excursions for two or more guests with local operators in Santa Cruz, San Cristobal or Isabela under request in advance. Cost per person varies by dive site: Santa Cruz $220, San Cristobal $200, Isabela $240.
Ocean Spray & Cormorant
Scuba diving may be added to cruises aboard catamarans Ocean Spray and Cormorant. Costs vary by site, and availibility is limited, so check with AdventureSmith to customize scuba diving into your Ocean Spray or Cormorant cruise.
For further information about scuba diving on your Galapagos cruise, contact the experts at AdventureSmith Explorations. We will continue to update this blog post as scuba dive options change and are added to our partner ships. Photos by Derek Keats/Flickr.