Scuba Diving in the Galapagos Islands

Scuba Diving in the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos: a SCUBA diver’s paradise

It’s easy to see the reasons why pretty much every diver’s bucket list contains an entry called “Scuba diving Galapagos”. The untouched natural beauty of the islands is a breathtaking spectacle. Diving around the islands is an experience no diver will soon forget.

Located in the Pacific Ocean, off the western coast of Ecuador, this paradise offers one of the most pristine underwater wonders left on the planet. It’s got it all: sharks, whales, whale sharks, manta rays.. Whether you’re looking to dive the Galapagos islands from a Liveaboard or with a land-based operator, you’re sure to jump into a world of incredible wonder.

Scuba diving in the Galapagos

What animals can you see in the Galapagos?

The spectacular wildlife of the Galapagos was one of the inspirations for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. It’s not hard to see why: some of the most interesting animals in the world live on and around these islands. On land, you can spot some pretty cool beasts, like the enormous Galapagos turtle. But it’s underneath the water’s surface where things get really interesting.

Some of the most impressive marine animals roam the waters of the Galapagos. The island group has an 
insane variety of sharks, and it’s one of the best places in the world to spot whole schools of hammerhead sharks. There’s also a good chance you’ll see manta rays, penguins, and even humpback whales.

But one of the main things that puts the Galapagos on almost every diver’s bucket list is the great chance to spot 
the magnificent, gentle whale shark

What are the best dive sites in the Galapagos?

Ready to go? Check out our Scuba Dive partners for the best dive sites in the Galapagos!

If you want to know which islands and dive sites you should visit in the Galapagos islands, we’ve got some pretty good news: you almost can’t go wrong.

Most people who dive in the Galapagos want to go to Wolf Island and Darwin Island, which are famous for the massive schools of hammerhead sharks and regular sightings of whale sharks. Since both islands are uninhabited by humans, the only way to dive these spots is via a liveaboard, where you’ll spend up to a week on board of a comfortable ship and dive some of the most amazing sites.

Check out these certified liveaboard options in the Galapagos!
Getting excited? Check out our list of the 11 most spectacular dive sites in the Galapagos.

What’s the best time to go?


Joking aside: the best time to visit really depends on your preferences. The main things to take into account are, bluntly put: how much you like warm water, and whether you prefer to see whale sharks or manta rays and hammerhead sharks.

June - November
Most scuba divers choose whale shark season (June - November) as their moment to go. With good reason: these gentle giants are among the most spectacular and interesting animals in the ocean, and you can often get ridiculously close to them.

January - May
However, there’s also a good argument to make for January - May, which offers warmer waters, often sunny skies and good chances to see manta rays and hammerhead sharks. Another plus side to manta ray season is that the visibility is slightly better.

We’d say: take your pick and book an adventure as soon as possible :)

What are the conditions like?

The Galapagos have two seasons: the wet and the dry season.

The wet season (January - May) is also the warmest, with temperatures around 84-86°F. This season has the most rainfall, but although showers can be quite strong, they’re often also of short duration. Water temperatures range from 76 to 74°F and the sea is calmest during this period.

The dry season is a lot cooler, about 74 - 80°F.  During this season, the Humboldt current picks up, cooling the water to temperatures of around 69 to 72°F. The current makes the sea a bit rougher on the surface as well, which can cause some sea sickness when you’re on a boat for extended periods of time (which you will be if you’re taking a liveaboard cruise). 

If you take seasickness medicine, it can be wise to test it well in advance so you’re aware of any side effects.

There’s no need to be bored when you’re visiting these beautiful islands. Take a hike around one of the islands and spot the insanely huge Galapagos tortoise. Go snorkeling. Check out the glorious Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island. Visit the lovely quiet town of Puerto Villamil. We guarantee you’ll fall in love with the area even if you never touch your diving gear.

Although you’ll have an unforgettable time if you do, of course

School of Hammerhead sharks in Galapagos

The conditions in the Galapagos can be somewhat tricky due to varying conditions, deeper waters and occasionally low visibility. This makes it an area that’s slightly more suited to more experienced divers, although it’s certainly possible find awesome spots that are more suitable for beginners.

PADI advises at least an Advanced Open Water Diver certification as well as a Drift diving course to help you deal with the strong and occasionally unpredictable currents in the Galapagos.

Is it for me?

Find out how to get certified

What else can I do when in the Galapagos?

How can I get there?

There are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands, so you’ll have to fly to Quito or Guayaquil on mainland Equador, and take a domestic flight from there.

Before you go, check that your passport doesn’t expire within 6 months of your arrival date. If necessary, get a new passport. You wouldn’t be the first poor diver whose holiday got cut short by being turned around at the airport!

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Other fantastic dive sites include: 

  • Gordon Rocks – Experience walls with a deep bottom, large schools of hammerhead sharks, sea lions, a variety of fish species, and white-tipped and Galapagos sharks. Most famous for the regular sightings of hammerhead sharks. If you’ve always wanted to spot these weird creatures, you can’t give Gordon Rocks a miss. The fact that you can also see white and blacktip reef sharks, green sea turtles, stingrays, eagle rays and playful sea lions here, makes it a must-see. Due to the depth and dangerous currents, it’s recommended for more experienced divers.
  • North Seymour Island – In addition to sea lions and sharks, you can see eels, invertebrates, sea turtles, and rays at this incredible dive site.
  • Santa Fe Island – Suitable for beginners, thanks to its calm, clear waters. Spot huge varieties of tropical fish, sea lions, turtles, eels, and even some shark species.
  • Tijeretas Hill - a famous dive site off of San Cristobal Island, suitable for beginners. Visibility here is great, so be sure to bring your camera - great photo ops are pretty much a guarantee here!
  • Daphne Minor - Found on the north coast of Santa Cruz, you’ll explore magnificent caverns, walls and slopes with lots of wildlife to spot. How about white-tipped reef sharks, eagle rays and baby Galapagos sharks? If you’re lucky, you’ll even run into manta rays as well. Suitable for a beginner as well as more experienced divers.
  • Shark Point - located off of Wolf Island, this super-popular site offers the chance to spot the legendary whale shark. Other large marine species include dolphins, hammerhead sharks, and Galapagos sharks. It’s a rough environment, though, with strong currents, limited visibility, and harsh surges causing it to be an expert divers only dive site. 
  • Whale Rock - An easy drift dive just off San Cristobal. Visibility is great (up to 50 feet), making it a a perfect site to spot huge schools of fish, rays and sea turtles. 
  • Camaño Islet - A great spot for beginners who want to see groupers, batfish, seahorses and sea lions. Shallow, great visibility, the chance to hang out with marine iguanas - what more could you wish for?
  • North Seymour Island - A good site for beginners to dive with hammerhead sharks. Also good for spotting black and white tipped reef sharks, green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, devil rays and the mighty manta ray.
  • Cape Marshall - Just off Isabela island, Cape Marshall offers a wall of volcanic rock that disappears into the depths. Chill with the sea turtles and sea lions, hang out with hammerheads and spot sunfish and manta rays at this advanced level dive site.
  • Bartholomew Point - Well known for its abundance of penguins. It’s also possible to spot hammerheads and manta rays here. 
  • Tortuga Island - Just off Isabela, you can find Tortuga Island, home to Galapagos sharks, groupers, mantas, stingrays, white-tipped reef sharks and, if you’re lucky, hammerhead sharks. Or if you’re REALLY lucky: the occasional passing killer whale.
  • Santa Fe Island - Great place for beginners to enjoy playful sea lions, turtles, eels and whitetip reef sharks. There’s also a cave here to make this easy dive even more interesting and worthwhile.