Dive the Galapagos Islands on an affordable liveaboard
The Galapagos Islands are known for their large number of endemic species and not necessarily for their budget dive liveaboards. It was these islands that were studied by Charles Darwin during the second voyage of HMS Beagle. It was during Darwin’s observations of the the flora and fauna of these islands that contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection.
But it’s not just what’s above the water that’s of interest around the Galapagos Islands. There is also a whole new world to discover under the surface as scuba divers too. The Galapagos Marine reserve is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Which means that it is subject to the strictest protection.
The best 5 budget dive liveaboards Galapagos Islands include:
- 10 diver, 21 metre (71 feet) MY Danubio Azul liveaboard;
- 16 diver, 26 metres (85 feet) Aqua Liveaboard;
- Mid-budget 16 diver 32 metre (106 feet) Humboldt Explorer;
- Mid-budget 16 diver, 32 metres (106 feet) Galapagos Master;
- 100 guest, 92 metres (301 feet) trekking type scuba diving is optional liveaboard.
Most scuba divers who visit the Galapagos are looking to dive the spectacular Darwin and Wolf islands. These islands are only accessible by liveaboard.
The best way to dive the Galapagos Islands, and especially Darwin Island and Wolf Rock, is by a scuba diving liveaboard. You can check the latest and best deals on Galapagos liveaboards using the following window:
Galapagos dive liveaboards table
This list of Galapagos liveaboards is in descending customer rating order, followed by Scuba Diving Luxury Rating (SDE Lux Rating, see below), so the liveaboards with the highest customer rating and the best SDE lux rating will be at the top of the list. If you want to change the list order, use the “Sort by” dropdown below.
|Liveaboard main photo||Discover Liveaboard||Customer Review (Max 10)||SDE Lux Rating %||Flexible Booking||Dive Courses||Dietary Requirements||Nitrox||Gear Rental|
|Review Link: MV Tiburon Explorer; Booking Link: MV Tiburon Explorer||9.7||85%||NO||NO||YES||YES||YES|
|Review Link: MV Galapagos Sky; Booking Link: MV Galapagos Sky||9.5||81%||NO||NO||YES||YES||YES|
|Review Link: MV Calipso; Booking Link: MV Calipso||9.4||85%||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Review Link: MV Galapagos Aggressor III; Booking Link: MV Galapagos Aggressor III||9.1||65%||NO||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Review Link: MY Aqua; Booking Link: MY Aqua||9||65%||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Review Link: MV Humboldt Explorer; Booking Link: MV Humboldt Explorer||8.9||58%||NO||NO||YES||YES||YES|
|Review Link: MV Galapagos Master; Booking Link: MV Galapagos Master||8.6||69%||YES||NO||YES||YES||YES|
|Review Link: MV Nortada; Booking Link: MV Nortada||8.3||77%||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Review Link: MV Galaxy Diver; Booking Link: MV Galaxy Diver||0||67%||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES|
The Scuba Diving Earth Luxury Rating (SDE Lux Rating) is explained on each liveaboard review when you click the “Discover Liveaboard” link, and is my own Liveaboard Luxury Rating I’ve assigned to all liveaboards. Choosing between liveaboards is helped by customer scores, and if you get stuck choosing between two or three liveaboards, where each one has a high customer score out of 10, you can use the SDE Luxury Rating to help narrow down your choice.
Think about it like using Booking.com when searching for the best hotel. Booking.com also use a customer score where each customer rates hotels out of 10. This is similar to the liveaboard customer rating, which is also rated out of 10. But let’s say you only like to stay in hotels rated 8 and above on Booking.com, but you also want the hotel to have WIFI or parking, or to have a swimming pool etc. The features each hotel has is usually secondary to the score out of 10.
Galapagos Islands – Where is Galapagos exactly located?
The official name for the Galapagos Islands is Archipiélago de Colón. Or their other Spanish name is Las Islas Galápagos. The Islands are part of Ecuador and lie 968 kilometers (605 miles) to the west of South America.
The Islands of the Galapagos Archipelago are made up as follows:
- Isla Isabela is the largest of all the Galapagos Islands.
- The other large islands are made up of Isla Fernandian, Isla Santiago, Isla Santa Cruz and Isla de San Cristobal.
- The southern smaller islands include Isla Floreana and Isla Espanola.
- The northern smaller islands include Darwin Island, Wolf Island, Isla Pinta, Isla Marchena and Isla Baltra.
- It’s Isla Baltra that has Seymour airport for arrivals to the Galápagos Islands.
- The best island to dive around are Isla Darwin and Isla Wolf.
Of all the Galapagos Islands, it’s Darwin Island which is the best place for scuba diving. This is the northernmost land mass of the archipelago.
The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands. These islands are located in the Pacific Ocean and lie on the Equator.
How do you get to the Galapagos Islands?
To begin with you must fly to mainland Ecuador. You can either get there by flying into the capital city of Quito or Guayaquil. From there you are best to get a flight from Quito to Baltra Island, which is where most liveaboard boats depart from.
The flight time from Quito to Galapagos Islands (Baltra) is around two hours 10 minutes long.
Flying from the UK to Ecuador
If you’re flying from the UK to the Galapagos this can take over 20 hours of flying time with stops along the way. Most flights to Ecuador from the UK will be via America.
Flying from the US to Ecuador
If you are flying from the USA, the flying time will of course be less. For example, if you’re flying from New York, the flight from New York to Quito, Ecuador is just under 9 hours long.
The best budget dive liveaboards for Galapagos Islands
These are the best low priced and affordable liveaboards trips to scuba dive the Galapagos Islands.
5 low budget diving liveaboard boats
- MY Danubio Azul – A low price option 21 metre (71 feet) steel hulled liveaboard yacht is designed for 10 divers. Dive trips of 3-7 nights with up to 8-16 dives in total. Cruises central Galapagos, Wolf island and Darwin Island. All the cabins have TV, DVD and en-suite facilities. Plus a Jacuzzi on the sun deck. Nitrox is available and DIN Adapters.
- Aqua Liveaboard, Galapagos – This very low budget liveaboard boat offers fantastic diving. A custom built dive boat caters for up to 16 divers. Dive trips of 3-7 nights with up to 8-16 dives in total. With a length of 26 metres (85 feet). Nitrox and DIN adapters are available on board. Each cabin features a private en-suite bathroom with hot-water shower, air-conditioning and storage. Sometimes offering even better discounts off a low budget price.
Mid-budget Galapagos diving liveaboards
- Humboldt Explorer – More of a mid-budget liveaboard option. This is one of the more popular dive boats of the Galapagos and gets great reviews. It has an average 4.5 star rating. A 32 metre (106 feet) steel hulled liveaboard for 16 divers. Dive trips of 7-11 nights with 20 to 44 dives in total. Cruises central Galapagos, Wolf island and Darwin Island. All the cabins have TV, DVD and en-suite facilities. Nitrox and DIN adapters are available on board.
- Galapagos Master, Galapagos – Another mid-budget liveaboard option. This is another very popular dive boats of the Galapagos with great reviews. It has an average 4.5 star rating 9.3 Superb! A 32 metre (106 feet) steel hulled liveaboard yacht for 16 divers. Dive trips of 7-10 nights with 18-25 dives in total. Cruises central Galapagos, Wolf island and Darwin Island. The cabins have air conditioning and en-suite facilities. Nitrox and DIN adapters are available on board.
Non-diving focused Galapagos liveaboard with optional scuba diving
- Galapagos Legend, Galapagos – An affordable liveaboard boat with great reviews and an average of 9.3 and superb! Although scuba diving isn’t the main attraction of this boat, certified divers can join underwater explorations. She is mainly a trekking type boat with snorkeling trips available too. A family friendly cruise caters for up to 100 guests, with 55 cabins. Trips are between 3-4 nights. A much larger liveaboard with a length of 92 metres (301 feet). Cabins feature a private en-suite bathroom and air-conditioning.
Examples of reviews on the affordable budget diving liveaboard boats to the Galapagos
Review of MY Danubio Azul:
Boat quality low but also the lowest price. You get what you pay for – Seeing over 100 scalloped hammerhead sharks. Very knowledgeable dive guides concerned about protecting this precious environment, and safety of the divers. Recommended for Great dive guides. Wonderful crew. Friendly helpful guests.Amy K – United States – 8.4 Very Good & 4 stars
Review of Humboldt Explorer:
Unbelievable diving & a fabulous boat! Diving with Whale sharks & huge schools of hammerhead sharks. The boat was immaculate & the crew outstanding. The two dive guides Daniele & Gabby were absolutely brilliant. I cannot criticise any part of the trip from start to finish!Recommended for Diving, the crew, the food.John C – United Kingdom – 9.6 Exceptional & 5 stars!
Review of Galapagos Master:
Best trip in my life! Hundreds of sharks, lots of turtles/sea lion and unique sea creature I have never seen before.Recommended for1. Professional diving vessel with all equipment and facility I need 2. professional crew and dive guide. 3. nice arrangement of Liveaboard.com.Wang F – China – 10 Exceptional 5 stars!
Review of the Galapagos Legend:
Big, fast, comfortable ship – The Legend is a fast ship, so you can get to multiple locations in one day. They have everything organized well to maximize your time off the ship and hiking on islands or snorkeling. We took the ‘West’ itinerary and saw huge diversity of animals both on land and in the ocean – 100’s of iguanas sunning themselves, 100’s of sea lions swimming among the group, land and sea turtles, penguins, boobies, flamingos, sharks, rays, countless birds and fish. Recommended for Real ship (not a boat), fantastic excursions, large decks with pool to relax.John S – United States – 9.2 Superb 4.5 stars!
Affordable Galapagos scuba diving liveaboard – what to expect…Hammerhead sharks galore
This celebrated Ecuadorian diving destination is on the bucket list of most scuba divers. Not an easy place to get to for most. It can also be outside of many scuba divers budget. But in this article I discover some of the best budget diving liveaboards for the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Islands are not only a draw for the fantastic scuba diving. So combine your scuba diving trip with a wildlife adventure trip. Make sure to also visit the islands themselves too. Experience the giant tortoise and the Marine Iguanas and much more.
Underwater sea creatures of the Galapagos Islands
The seas around the Galapagos Islands are rich in nutrients. This is because the Galapagos Islands are volcanic oceanic islands and are unconnected to the continent. As a result the seas around these islands are extremely deep, which leads to sea up-swellings.
It is these up-swelling currents that make the waters rich in nutrients and therefore thriving with life. It is this that draws in huge numbers of larger sea creatures, which are exciting for scuba divers to experience.
Galapagos sea creatures include:
- Whale sharks.
- Hammerhead sharks.
- Galapagos sharks.
- Silky sharks.
- Manta rays.
- Eagle Rays.
- Golden Rays.
- Sea turtles.
- Large schooling fish & big pelagics.
Hundreds of hammerheads and Galapagos sharks can pass right by your nose. You can also expect incredible whale shark encounters when you visit in the right season (see below for more on the best time to see whale sharks).
The best dive spots in the Galapagos Islands is around Darwin Island and Wolf Island.
Galapagos diving difficulty
The sea conditions around Wolf and Darwin islands can be rough with some big swells. There are also strong current experienced too.
These sometimes strong currents means that some dives might be drift dives.
Most of the budget Galapagos liveaboards require divers to have at least 50 under their belts. Plus to have a minimum of PADI advanced open water diver certification or equivalent for BSAC, SSI or NAUI.
Most of the dives in this region are to a depth of 30 meters (100 feet). We would therefore recommend to extend your dive time and diver safety to consider using Nitrox. Nitrox is available on all dive boats in the Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos diving season – Diving Galapagos hammerhead sharks
The Galapagos diving season is year round. But depending on your preference, there are two distinct seasons.
Affordable Galapagos diving season – The warm season
The warm diving season is from December through to May. During this time water temperatures around 23-25°C (75-80°F).
During this time of the year the weather conditions are calmer and there are less currents to contend with. It’s during this season where you get to see huge numbers of hammerheads, silkys and Galapagos sharks.
Budget dive liveaboards Galapagos – The cooler season
The temperature of the water cools down between June to November. During this season water temperatures drop to 16-18°C (60-65°F).
Expect much rougher sea conditions at this time of year and strong currents too. This makes for much more challenging diving and is better for the more experienced divers.
But it is during this time of year when you are more likely to see whale sharks. These can be found around the islands of Darwin and Wolf.
There are still large schools of hammerhead sharks. Plus you may see the and occasional silky shark and Galapagos shark too.
Combined scuba diving trekking travel package
If you would prefer to combine a bit of diving with experience the islands of the Galapagos, why not try this tour.
It’s not on a liveaboard dive boat this time, but instead includes two days’ diving from Puerto Ayora with Eagle Ray dive company. You can enjoy two dives on each day, making a totla of four dives.
This trip includes all land and sea transfers and Galapagos accommodation. Galapagos dive sites may include local sites like Cousin’s Rock, Mosquera Island, North Seymour, Gordon’s Rock and Bartolome Island. 6 night travel package with 4 dives in total.
Galapagos dive liveaboard dive trip video
Here’s a sample of what to expect when you visit the Galapagos Islands to scuba dive on a liveaboard boat.
I hope you enjoyed this article about the best budget dive liveaboards Galapagos Islands
I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof Gopro’s!
If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or types of scuba diving (or specifically about the best budget dive liveaboards Galapagos Islands), please comment below with your questions.
There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.
Have fun and be safe!