Scuba diving the Galapagos Islands is one of those chance in a lifetime trips. The chance to see hundreds of hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, playful sea lions, clouds of tuna, whale sharks and even humpback whales. The only way to get the most out of scuba diving the Galapagos is by liveaboard. This article includes a table to show the best time to visit and dive the Galapagos Islands to dive, as well as a table of features of all Galapagos scuba diving liveaboards.
Galapagos scuba diving liveaboard top tips: The best way to enjoy the diving experience of the Galapagos Islands is by dive liveaboard and the only way to dive Darwin and Wolf Islands. Your minimum certification is Open Water Diver (Advanced Open Water is better) and a minimum of 50 logged dives. Drift diving experience is also a requirement.
Take a look at this review of the Tiburon Explorer Liveaboard, which is a modern and new dive boat in 2020. The interiors are luxury and very stylish and there’s a list of great features in this article.
How does the scuba diving operate in the Galapagos Islands
- You’ll be scuba diving in a UNESCO World Heritage site and a marine reserve.
- Diving from a liveaboard is the best way to scuba dive the Galapagos Islands.
- Open Water Diver certification is a minimum to scuba dive. But advanced diver certification is recommended, as the depth on some dives exceeds 30+ metres (98+ feet).
- Waters are cold enough to warrant 5mm or even 7mm wetsuit or better still a drysuit.
- The only way to dive the best Galapagos dive sites, i.e. Wolf Island and Darwin Island, is from a liveaboard boat.
- Land-based diving day trips are available for up to two tank dives per day. But dive sites are limited and don’t include Darwin and Wolf Islands diving.
If you’ve not experienced drysuit diving before, you may be interested to read this article about what is drysuit diving like. Also, if you’ve not dive from a liveaboard dive boat before, you should read this article about what to expect from your first liveaboard trip.
Taster video of scuba diving the Galapagos Islands from a liveaboard
How much does it cost to scuba dive in Galapagos?
The cost of Galapagos liveaboard diving tours range from £180 ($245/€202) to £538 ($732/€603) per night. Most of these tours are 8 days 7 nights, but some offer longer 14 night cruises or shorter 5 day 4 night diving tours too.
For more information on the daily rates for Galapagos diving liveaboards, please scroll to the handy Galapagos diving liveaboard table below. Or search here:
How many logged dives do you need to dive in Galapagos?
You need at least 50 logged dives to get the most out of your diving in the Galapagos Islands. Some Galapagos liveaboards require 100 logged dives as a minimum.
In the hand table of Galapagos liveaboards below, the Galapagos Aggressor III Liveaboard doesn’t have a minimum logged dive requirement. But be aware as a novice diver and having not dived in currents before, your diving will be limited.
Many of the dives around the Galapagos Islands have powerful currents. This can include dangerous down currents, so you need to know how to handle such a situation safely. You might want to read this article about how to deal with down currents.
Also at times the visibility can be limited. Low visibility diving may be something you’ve not experienced before as a beginner diver.
If you don’t have at least 50 logged dives (or 100 logged dives on some liveaboards, see below), you won’t be allowed to dive on certain dives. This is for your own safety. This includes Darwin and Wolf Island dives with hammerheads.
Don’t waste a trip of a life time to the Galapagos Islands not being able to dive the best sites on offer!
Pro Diver Tip: Before you arrive for your Galapagos liveaboard diving trip make sure you have at least 50 logged dives under your belt (100 logged dives for some liveaboards – check handy table below).
At the start of your Galapagos liveaboard trip your diving ability will be accessed in shallow water. This will also help you to check your diving equipment is in good working order. Plus it will help you to familiarise yourself with rental dive kit too.
What scuba diving certification is required to scuba dive the Galapagos Islands?
For you to scuba dive the Galapagos Islands you must have a minimum of PADI certification Open Water Diver (or equivalent). Some Galapagos diving liveaboards require a minimum of PADI Advanced Open Water Diver (or equivalent) to take part in diving.
The handy table below includes the minimum diving certification requirement for each of the 10 Galapagos diving liveaboards.
Pro Diver Tip: For your own safety and enjoyment of diving the Galapagos Islands, you are recommended to upgrade your certification to Advanced Open Water Diver. This is in addition to diving as much as you can before arriving on for your Galapagos liveaboard trip. Experience recommendations: Drift diving and deep diving beyond 20 metres (66 feet).
If you don’t upgrade your diver certification your diving depth as an open water diver will be limited to 18 metres (60 feet). Whereas many of the dives are deeper than this, which you would have to sit out unless you get certified beforehand as an Advanced Open Water Diver.
You may like to read this article about how many dives you need for Advanced Open Water Diver. Included in the article is a list of he most popular and recommended PADI speciality courses for Advance Open Water certification. Which includes the enriched air diver course (i.e. Nitrox diving), Drysuit Adventure Diver and Drift Diver, all of which will come in handy diving in the Galapagos Islands.
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Which is the best Galapagos liveaboard?
The list of Galapagos liveaboards is long. This may make it difficult to know which one to choose. If you are struggling, let me help you with my choices of the best Galapagos liveaboards.
- Best rated Galapagos liveaboard: The Galapagos Aqua liveaboard is perfect if you’re looking for the best all-round Galapagos liveaboard. The Galapagos Aqua is perfect as it has a maximum of 16 divers onboard. It also has flexible booking terms; is rated 9.0 out of 10 and has nitrox is on board. Plus dives the best dives around Darwin and Wolf Islands. Read this review of the Aqua here.
- Best value for money Galapagos liveaboard. The Galapagos Aqua liveaboard is the best low budget Galapagos liveaboard, but without compromise. The Galapagos Aqua is perfect as it is the cheapest Galapagos liveaboard on offer. It is rated 9.0 out of 10 and has flexible booking terms. Plus dives the best dives around Darwin and Wolf Islands.
- Top rated large Galapagos liveaboard: The Galapagos Calipso liveaboard is slightly longer and customer rated higher than the Galapagos Humboldt Explorer. They both offer flexible booking terms and cater to 16 divers. But the Calipso is a cheaper liveaboard. They are smaller than the 38 metre (125f) Galapagos Tiburon Explorer. But both are cheaper. They also have customer reviews, whereas the Galapagos Tiburon Explorer has not been reviewed yet. Reviews of these liveaboards: Galapagos Calipso and Galapagos Humboldt Explorer.
- Tech friendly Galapagos liveaboard: Galapagos Nortada liveaboard is best for technical divers. She is rated 8.3 out of 10 and is tech friendly and has rebreather support.
Other Galapagos scuba diving liveaboard reviews include:
- Galapagos Master Liveaboard Review.
- Galapagos Aggressor III Liveaboard Review.
- MV Galapagos Sky Liveaboard Reviews.
- Galapagos Tiburon Explorer Liveaboard Review.
Galapagos diving difficulty
Galapagos diving difficulty is affected by:
- Strong currents making many dives drift dives.
- Deeper dives to over 30 metres (98 feet).
- Colder water diving 22°C (72°F) between June and December, ideally suited for drysuits.
The above points mean that diving in the Galapagos Islands is more suited to advanced scuba divers only.
Pro diver tip: Make sure you have the necessary training and experience to take part in the night dives. Night diving is a great experience to enjoy and the Galapagos Islands are no exception. Please read this article about night diving tips for more information. There are 21 handy night diving tips to follow for Galapagos night diving.
When is the best time to dive Galapagos Islands?
The best time to dive the Galapagos Islands depends on what you want to see. Plus how warm you like the water when you dive. There are two distinct diving seasons in the Galapagos Islands:
- The Warm Season: The warm diving season is December to May with water temperatures around 24-26°C/75-77°F. During this season sea conditions are calmer and currents are less. It’s the best time to see larger numbers of hammerheads, silkys and Galapagos sharks. This is also the best time to swim with manta rays too.
- The Cool Season: The waters get cooler in the season between June to November with sea temperatures dropping to 22-23°/72-73°F. But this can drop to less than 20°C (68°F) in the outer islands. During the cooler season you’ll experience rougher sea conditions and strong currents, which make for more difficult scuba diving conditions as surges are common. Water visibility is generally between 10 to 21 meters (30-70 feet). The cool season when you are more likely to see whale sharks around Darwin and Wolf Islands. The schools of hammerheads and Galapagos sharks around the islands are smaller at this time of year.
Summary of Galapagos diving in brief:
- Schools of hammerheads season: Year round, but hammerhead schools generally larger between December and May.
- Whale sharks season: Best time to see whale sharks is June to November.
- Giant Manta Ray Season: The best time to see manta rays is December to may.
- Whale season: Best time to see whales like humpbacks and blue whales is July to November.
For the best time to dive the Galapagos Islands for weather, air temperature, sea temperatures, rainfall please take a look at the handy table below. Select the column you want to sort the table or scroll to the right to view columns out of view.
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Galapagos scuba diving liveaboard is the only way to scuba dive Darwin and Wolf Island – sharkiest place on earth
- Darwin and Wolf Islands are known for being the “sharkiest place on earth“.
- There’s estimated to be around 17.5 tons of shark per hectare!
- Most of the sharks you’ll experience include scalloped hammerheads. The hammerhead sharks are heading for the Cocos Islands.
If you would like to dive another hammerhead shark hot spot the Cocos Islands, please also read this article about scuba diving liveaboards in the Cocos Islands.
Shark diving in the Galapagos Islands is totally safe as shark attacks are almost unheard of. But if you’d like to read about this before you book your dive trip to the Galapagos Islands; please read this article about is it dangerous to scuba dive with sharks.
Of the total sharks attacks (6 in total) in the Galapagos Islands (non of which have been fatal), non of the attacks involved scuba divers.
What sea life can be seen scuba diving the Galapagos Islands?
- Hammerhead sharks.
- Galapagos bullhead shark.
- Whitetip reef sharks.
- Silky sharks.
- Whale sharks.
- Tiger sharks (rare)
- Eagle rays.
- Mobula rays.
- Sting rays.
- Sea turtles.
- Sea lions.
- Fur seals.
- Manta rays.
- Humpback whales.
- Sunfish (mola mola sunfish).
- Red-lipped batfish.
- Moral eels.
- Garden eels.
- Marine Iguanas.
- Longnose hawkfish.
In addition to humpback whales you can also spot blue whales, Bryde’s whales, minke whales, sperm whales, orca and the sei whales around the Galapagos Islands.
You may also be interested to also read this article about the best time to scuba dive with hammerheads in the Galapagos Islands.
How do you get to the Galapagos Islands?
You get to the Galapagos Islands by flying to Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito or José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) in Guayaquil. All Galapagos diving liveaboards depart from Isla Baltra.
Daily flights are available from Guayaquil or Quito to Isla Baltra or neighbouring San Cristobal, where a ferry is available for a transfer.
What exposure suits are best for diving the Galapagos Islands and is a drysuit necessary?
- Diving the Galapagos Islands requires a minimum of 5mm wetsuits, as water temperatures are 26°C (79°F) in February and March.
- But a 7mm wetsuit or better, or better still a drysuit is necessary when the waters are colder at 22°C (72°F) in September.
- A diver hood is also recommended. This will help to keep your head warm.
- If you want to dive in a drysuit you will need to take your own suit. You also need to be suitably trained before your trip too. There’s quite a difference diving in a drysuit vs a wetsuit, which you need to learn before you dive.
In conclusion about Galapagos scuba diving liveaboards and is diving in the Galapagos worth it?
Scuba diving the Galapagos Islands is worth it if you love to scuba dive with big creatures like whale sharks, hammerhead sharks in large numbers and manta rays. You need to be prepared for diving in strong currents and at times cooler waters too, but when you see what’s on offer this is definitely worth it.
The best way to dive the Galapagos Islands is by liveaboard boat and the only way to dive Darwin and Wold Islands. The distance from Isla Baltra to Darwin Island is 306 kilometres (191 miles). All Galapagos scuba diving liveaboards make this crossing and when you get there the trip will be worthwhile.
You can also search for your favourite Galapagos scuba diving liveaboard boat here:
Final tips for diving in Galapagos
A few final tips for diving in Galapagos:
- Take an underwater camera or Gopro.
- Get certified to Advanced Open Water Diver, as this allows you to dive to 30 metres (98 feet).
- Log at least 50 dives beforehand.
- Consider bringing your own drysuit plus take the Drift Diver training course.
- Gloves or a reef hook are a necessity, as the strong currents means holding onto rocks covered in sharp barnacles.
- Choose your kit carefully as there’s a 20 kilo weight limit on baggage on internal flights.
- Get drift diving trained and experience.
- Choose your trip season carefully. Use the above table to help.
- Get dive experience to 30 metres before you arrive.
- The water around the Galapagos Islands is about 6 percent saltier so you’ll need more weight than usual.
- Be prepared to be amazed.
I hope you enjoyed this page about Galapagos scuba diving liveaboards
If you have more questions either about snorkelling or scuba diving (or specifically about Galapagos scuba diving liveaboards), please comment below with your questions.
Please share your experiences, plus dive sites, resorts and liveaboards you recommend. Share the time of year of your trip together with what you saw, the visibility, currents and dive operator, as this will help others who read this page.
There will also be many more pages and articles about scuba and scuba diving safety tips (and on snorkelling too) for you to read and learn about this fabulous sport.
Have fun and be safe!