ATOL 4112. ATOL Protection extends primarily to customers who book and pay in the United Kingdom.
Galapagos and Ecuador | Galapagos Aggressors | Sky Dancer | Land Tours | Dive Sites | Prices
Galapagos Islands Dive Sites

Dive Site Map
Main Island Group



Main Island Group

    This was my introductory dive to the Galapgos. The edge of an island that slopes gently down into the deep, waiting patiently for the hammerheads we were assured were always there. While waiting white tips cruised past, turtles flopped by and I spent an amusing 10 minutes playing with a sea lion who was keen on pulling the end of my fin. Occasional glances out into the blue revealed nothing, and it was not until towards the end of the dive that they appeared – dozens of hammerheads, cruising in the blue, almost beyond my range of vision. They slowly cam closer and closer, until they were about 50ft away. They then moved off into the blue. At the end of the dive, back on the boat, we saw some manta rays on the surface. Donning our snorkels we jumped in and swam towards them. I remember looking down and there, perhaps 40ft below me, the sea was moving: right beneath me was a massive school of hammerheads. It was an unnerving experience to be swimming in water hundreds of feet deep and your nearest point of refuge was about 80 yards away! The nearby island of North North Seymour (a small sand and rock island off the north side of North Seymour) was home to a wonderful colony of seals. We sat on the beach and watched the bullmaster showing off, a juvenile sniffed inside my camera case and adults "surfed" in the waves.

    Fernandina is one of the most pristine environments in the world. Unlike many of the Galapagos, it has no introduced species, and as a consequence remains as the Galapagos were hundreds of years ago. It is a highly active volcano, and most of the island is covered in barren lava floes; there is only minimal vegetation. Despite this, it is home to bird species such flightless cormorants & Galapagos hawks and marine iguanas. It is the marina iguanas that are the best thing here from a diver’s point of view! The island is surrounded by shallow rocky reefs that are covered in the green algae that is the only diet of the marine iguana. They warm themselves on the rocks before venturing into the cold see for a tasty snack of weed!

    North & South Plaza are divided by a channel that is almost man-made in aspect. Here, on the rocky bottom you can sit in 20ft of water and have the best time of your life with a very playful school of sea lions. The females pull on your fins, below bubbles in your face and indulge in graceful acrobatics. Suddenly, they disappear! A large bull cruises past, eyes you up and moves on. The females all return and carry on playing. The bossman is just checking that you aren’t nicking his women!!! As Cilla Black would say: "Worra Lorra Laughs!" The land walk at the Plazas is excellent - a landscape dominated by large cacti is home to hundreds of land iguanas who jealously protect their little patch of ground (and their cactus!) The big lumbering lizards have a yellow/orange/green colouration and seem to walk in slow motion… except, of course, when you get to close to his cactus!!

    Genevosa is the remains of an extinct volcano that is open to the sea on the south side. Sheer cliffs drop into the deep water on the outside, and on the inside boats can enter the caldera and moor in the shallows near the small beach. It is a dramatic and primeval scene! You can dive from the outside of the volcano through the channel into the caldera. The rocky bottom is alive with schools of marbled groupers, jacks & barracuda. This was where I saw a massive school of mantas sweeping past on the surface – there were dozens of them!

    Situated off the north coast of Bartolome, is rock that rises about 30ft out of the water and is about 100 yards long. Pelicans, penguins, sealions and boobies all use the rock as a base to feed on the fish life below. Below the surface the rock is stepped in ledges at various levels before levelling out at about 140ft. The whole area is covered with vast forests of black coral trees. Moray eels, some very large, can be observed free swimming across the reef. But it is the fish life that is worth noting here. An endemic fish called the salema (Xenistius californiensis) a stripy species of grunt, schools here in its millions and millions. This school of fish is often filmed for documentaries with sea lions and penguins charging through its slivery mass, the fish parting in unison as if it was one large creature rather than millions of individuals.

    While on the Galapagos Aggressor in 1994 myself and my travelling companions were given the choice of a land walk on a nearby island or a snorkel off the beach at Mosquera. We were glad we chose the latter! A long beach that is used by sea lions to relax during the day is flanked by low lava bluffs at one end, pitted above and below the water with small caves. Where the beach met the rocks there appeared to be a creche – baby sea lions were left in the charge of one or two females while their mothers went off to look for food. It was here that we spent 2 hours snorkelling with about 20 sea lion pups in 10ft of clear water! They would swim up to us, and when they decided they had got close enough they nearest ones would back into those behind in their hurry to swim away, causing a cartoon-like tumble of flippers and bodies! My snorkel was stolen by one particularly brave young pup and we spent the next 20 minutes trying to grab the snorkel off him as he dived though the little holes in the bluff, popping out a little further down the shore. By the time I got my snorkel back it was decidedly chewed at the end! We also swam to the end of the point and found swimming marine iguanas. We did a night dive along this bluff, and found sleeping turtles, nudibranchs and lots of other small critters.

    Just north of the Plazas are two large rocks that are that remains of the rim of a long extinct volcano. One the inner side of the collapsed caldera rim the seabed is a mass of rocks jumbled over each other while on the outer wall the sea drops away into thousands of feet of water. Currents here are exceptional strong here and the local name for the dive site is La Lavadora, The Dishwasher. Here you can see schools of hammerheads, amberjacks & pompano, eagle rays and golden cowrays. Whitetips and green turtles are also sited here.

    Located off the northwest tip of Isabela Island, Round Rock, to translate into English is a magnet for hammerheads, Galapagos sharks and whitetips due to the strong currents that sweep the rock. As this sea here is affected more by warm currents than cold you can see barracuda, pompano and butterflyfish. The south side of the island has fumeroles in the shallows, and you can see gas bubbles rising to the surface. This volcano is not quite extinct!

    A huge 500ft rock with a massive split through the middle, Kicker Rock offers no sanctuary for land dwellering creatures, so you will not find any seals or sea lions here. What you will find is another monster school of salemas that get a beating from barracuda, jacks, rainbow runners and other predators. Surprisingly, the water he is quite shallow – 50ft is about as deep as it gets around kicker rock, but there are lots of nudibranchs, crustaceans and other invertebrates to be seen.

    This is the Galapagos Islands at it’s most recognisable! A walk to the highest point of Bartolome affords you the opportunity to admire the almost lunar landscape that has been formed by the volcanic activity that created this, the youngest of the Galapagos Islands. Situated just off the east coast of Santiago Island, Bartolome is instantly distinguished by the huge tower of rock off its northern coast – The Pinnacle - and the narrow isthmus that divides the island in two. The larger eastern side is pitted with volcanoes and you can walk a well beaten track to the top to admire the fabulous view. Off the northern side of the isthmus you can snorkel with one the Galapagos’ star attractions, the Galapagos penguin. Endemic to these islands and only just over a foot tall, these cheeky chappies can be seen sunbathing on the rocks or swimming after the small fish that are their diet. I recall trying to photograph one as he sat on his rock about 4ft off the sea. In utter disdain he turned his back on me and proceeded to crap in my general direction!!!! Quite clearly he had seen enough tourists for one day! You can cross the isthmus through rough vegetation to the south side. Here a wonderful sandy beach is a favourite nesting site for green turtles. As the sun set we watched these lumbering creatures haul themselves up the beach to find a nice place to lay their eggs. In the shallows more relaxed after their ordeal, getting their breath back and cooling off before venturing back out to see where, we mused, randy male turtles were waiting to do it all over again!

    This is a fabulous night dive – the Galapagos equivalent of a muck dive!!! A sheer wall that drops to over 200ft is covered in sponges and black coral trees, and filled with nooks & crannies. Here you can find all sorts of crustacea including slipper lobsters, crabs & shrimps, frogfish of infinite variety lurking amongst the sponges (frogfish should, in an ideal world, be called spongefish!), seahorses, hawkfish, tube anemones and barnacle blennies. Under ledges on the sea wall can be found sleeping turtles.

    A large and deep bay on the western side of Isabela, this is the best place in the world to see the weird and wonderful red-lipped batfish. In my opinion the red-lipped batfish is a cross between an upturned soup tureen and Barbara Cartland. Its fins are more like legs and it has a pointy nose and big puffy down-turned lips, bright red in colour, all surrounded by a bristly beard (the obviously need some Immac!) How these creatures developed, and more surprisingly, how they survived, is anyone’s guess! I recall while in Cocos being delighted when I saw just one, but here, on the black coral sand bottom, dotted with wonderful glades of black coral trees, was batfish city! Dozens of these strange creatures can be found swim-waddling across the bottom. You can get very close to them, if you lie still on the sea floor on your stomach and inch towards them, camera at the ready. They remain there motionless until the last second, before raising themselves off the floor by their fin-legs and galumphing away across the bottom. Winner of first prize in any Weird Fish Competion!! Amongst the black coral trees you can also find a host of critters, including frogfish, seahorses and hawklfish. Tagus is also home to the largest species of starfish in the world, Luidia superba. This 5-armed asteroid can be as much as 4ft across; it preys on other starfish by virtue of its size and (relative!) speed.

    An overnight sail north of the main island group are the remote Wolf & Darwin Islands. These are the pinnacle if diving in the Galapagos and only Cocos Island in Costa Rica (itself only 2 days’ sail north of Wolf & Darwin!) can match the sheer quantities of fish that fill your view from top to bottom, left to right.

    Wolf is some 4 hours south of Darwin and is actually one large island with smaller islets at either end. The landscape is dominated by high cliffs and sea arches and the shoreline is rocky and unapproachable; sea lions relax on the water’s edge. On the south side of the island a landslide at some time in the past has created a boulder slope that runs into the sea and tumbles down to a sandy floor at about 150ft. Strong currents flow around the island and this attracts large schools of Galapagos sharks, hammerheads and silkies. It is not uncommon to see 300 or 400 hammerheads and 100 silkies or Galapagos sharks in a school. The shallower areas are dominated by vast schools of jacks, rainbow runner, barracuda, skipjack tuna and grunts. It is not uncomon to see dolphins here also. And of course the ubiquitous and inquisitive seals and sea lions! Because of the xposed nature of this site, and the strong currents it is definitely not a place for a novice!

    Darwin is the most northerly of the Galapagos. Here the Humboldt Current has little effect, so the water is warmer and there are more corals than you would otherwise expect. The skyline here is dominated by the majesty of Darwin’s Arch, a huge sea arch that rises high out of the water. On the south side of the arch is a large ledge that acts as a gallery for the action beyond. Again the scene is dominated by monstrous schools of hammerheads, mantas, eagle rays, golden cowrays and the like, but perhaps the main attraction is the whale sharks that are frequently seen cruising past. These sharks, the world’s largest fish, tend to use deepwater pinnacles as markers for the migratory journeys (see the section on Thailand also!) and it is not uncommon to see 4 or 5 on a dive. Some would say that this is perhaps the fishiest dive in the world!



Scuba Safaris | United Kingdom

Scuba Safaris -