Can I Scuba Dive in the Galapagos Islands?

Lots of people going to the Galapagos Islands want to know if they can scuba dive on their trip. After all, the Galapagos Islands is one of the world’s top dive destinations.

The answer is a qualified “yes.”

You must be an experienced scuba diver to dive in the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos has cold water and strong currents, and diving there is only appropriate for divers with more than 20 open water dives, and who are comfortable in thick wetsuits and strong currents.

Last year my brother and I signed up to dive a couple days after our yacht trip on the Flamingo I.  The dive operator allowed very inexperienced divers to join us, and the result was both frustrating and scary.  Frustrating because our dives were ruined by the divemaster having to spend the entire dives chasing after inexperienced divers who couldn’t control their buoyancy in the strong up and down currents, leaving us hanging onto rocks so we wouldn’t be swept away by the current while we waited, waited, and waited some more.  Scary because the inexperienced divers could have been seriously hurt as they ran away to the surface, and because our dive master was constantly having to separate from the group to chase down these inexperienced divers.

Additionally, Galapagos diving is heavily regulated by the Galapagos National Park. Diving is only allowed with licensed shore-based land operators, or from the few licensed live-aboard dive only boats.  It is no longer possible to dive directly from any of the yachts on naturalist itineraries in the Galapagos.  However, many yachts can arrange for a land-based dive operator to pick you up from your yacht when near a port town for two dives in place of the regularly scheduled shore activities planned for that day. My brother and I chose that option on our Flamingo cruise last year and had 2 fantastic dives.

Another option is that you could  extend your trip to dive before or after your cruise with a land based dive operator (preferably before as you should not fly until 24 hours have passed since your last immersion).

Whalesharks in the Galapagos on a trip on the Alta
Whalesharks in the Galapagos on a trip on the Alta

For serious divers, live-aboard dive trips are the way to go.  These trips go to Wolf and Darwin Islands, some of the best dive sites in the world, with possibilities to dive with whale sharks and schools of hammerheads, among many other species. These trips focus exclusively on diving with around 20 immersions in your week on the boat.  They are not suitable for non-divers, or for those seeking a comprehensive land itinerary, as they don’t make many shore visits.

Please contact a Detour for more details on arranging your dives in the Galapagos.