Dive the Galapagos
I learned to dive in the Galapagos Islands 8 years ago and had the priviledge of diving my first 80 dives there. Ever since, I’ve been chasing the feeling I got diving in the Galapagos, and have still yet to find it. Along the way of my search, I’ve tried to figure out what makes it so good. If you’ve never heard of the Galapagos, or you have and you want to know why you should dive there, I have compiled the list of my top five reasons to do so.
#5 - Sea Turtles and Giant Tortoises
The most iconic Galapagos animal is the giant tortoise, which can reach upwards of 6 feet in length and nearly 1,000lbs. Each island has its own species, each adapted to its specific environment. These island-to-island variations helped steer Charles Darwin towards his theory of evolution during his visit to the Galapagos. During a trip to the islands, enjoy a tour of a tortoise nursery or take a hike to find them in the wild!
The tortoises’ aquatic cousins, sea turtles are abundant in the water around the Galapagos. It is not uncommon to see multiple turtles grazing in the same area (I once saw 8 in the same frame!). Due to the difficulty in reaching the islands from mainland Ecuador, the sea turtles you see will also be some of the biggest, and oldest turtles in the ocean!
#4 - Sea Lions
Galapagos sea lions are direct descendants, and nearly identical relatives of the variation found in California. These adorable mammals congregate in large groups called harems at many locations around the islands, and typically make a big splash during the dives. Much like puppy dogs, sea lions are very curious, playful and unafraid, which makes interactions with them underwater so precious. Their acrobatics and antics are sure to be a highlight of the diving, and their snuggly nature on land draws equal adoration.
#3 - Rays
The nutrient rich waters flowing past the Galapagos from 4 different ocean currents make Galapagos one of the best places to see rays. These include manta rays, devil rays, eagle rays, cownose rays and many more. These gentle giants are some of the most graceful and beautiful marine creatures, and diving the Galapagos promises up-close and personal encounters with many of them.
Oceanic manta rays, the largest of the ray species and one of the largest fish in the ocean, are not uncommon, and if you suddenly find yourself in a shadow, take a look up and hope to see one of these enormous animals cruising over you. It may even make a few passes to feel the bubbles from your exhale on its belly!
#2 - Penguins, marine iguanas, Mola mola and other weirdos
The remote nature of the Galapagos (600 miles from the nearest land mass) makes them an ocean oasis for creatures from all over the world. From the south pole comes the Galapagos penguin, the northern-most penguin species in the world and definitely one of the cutest. These tropical penguins thrive on the fish life sustained by cool waters brought by the Humboldt current.
Galapagos marine iguanas, descended from green iguanas originating in the jungles of mainland Ecuador, are one of the only marine reptiles, and the only marine diving lizard in the world. Able to hold their breath for more than 30 minutes and dive to depths of 100 feet, marine iguanas are one of the oddest encounters you could have while diving, and it will only happen in the Galapagos!
Other strange and unique creatures call the waters around Galapagos home. These include the Mola mola (the largest bony fish in the world), the flightless cormorant (an aquatic bird that has lost its ability to fly but gained incredible mobility underwater) and many others. Take a chance and see something totally out of the ordinary!
#1 - Sharks, Sharks, Sharks!!!
My top reason to dive the Galapagos is hands down, the sharks. With over thirty species found there (32 to be exact), the shark diversity of the Galapagos is the highest in the world, and also one of the places with the most sharks per cubic foot of water. During any one dive you can expect to see scalloped hammerheads, Galapagos, white-tip reef and black-tip sharks, and in certain spots like the northern islands of Darwin and Wolf, you’ll encounter schooling hammerheads by the 100’s, enormous whale sharks and more. Dive the Galapagos to experience the best shark diving in the world.
If these aren’t enough reasons to dive the Galapagos, check out the trips I’ll be guiding, suitable for all levels of divers. Join me in Santa Cruz at the end of 2019 for one (both!) of two epic back-to-back adventures; an 8-night liveaboard journey to the northern islands of Darwin and Wolf and/or a 7-night island-based dive safari (multiple dates available in November, including Thanksgiving week!).
by Alex Lichtblau
I first dived in the Galapagos in 2011. It inspired in me an unmatched passion...the ocean. Since then I've travelled the world, diving, exploring and building my own concierge dive travel and private dive instruction business, Inside Under Dive & Travel. To learn more about me and my passion, see my bio. Also, learn more about dive certifications and courses, or going on a dive trip with me.