The Galapagos Islands lie on the equator 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Evolved over millennia and isolated from any continental landmass, the Galapagos enjoys a completely unique biodiversity that is simply spectacular. These actively volcanic islands host a distinct and unique flora and fauna, including prehistoric creatures found nowhere else on earth.
Thirteen primary islands, five smaller islands and numerous islets and rock formations make up part of the Ecuadorian National Park System and are a World Heritage site in their own right. This includes the world famous diving mecca of Darwin & Wolf.
Several oceanic currents meet in the island group. This has led to an abundance of marine life that has few equals anywhere in the world. The mixed temperature range underwater delivers a fascinating and rarely seen mix of tropical and temperate fish species.
Many divers are drawn to the Galapagos by the presence of large schools of rays and sharks, which are encountered year round. Various species of turtle breed in the islands, whilst endemic marine iguanas have adapted to local conditions, feeding off the sea algae that thrives in the waters that surround the islands. Inquisitive seals and penguins provide divers with unforgettably thrilling shows as they perform their aquatic acrobatic displays. Occasionally divers are afforded an encounter with some of the islands rare species like Mola Mola, flightless Cormorants and Port Jackson Sharks.
Whale Sharks and more Whales
From May to November cooler currents rich in nutrients attract many of the great pelagic plankton feeders. During these months, The Galapagos Islands are recognised as one of the world’s best locations to encounter Whale sharks in large numbers. Numerous species of whales are also regularly seen in the Galapagos over these months. The most common encounters are with Melon Headed, Pilot and Humpbacked whales that migrate to the coast of Ecuador in August and September. Water temperature can vary from 17 - 24ºC.
Manta Rays and more Rays
In December to April, the waters rise slightly in temperature with shifting Oceanic currents, and in come the rays. Water temperature is a slightly warmer 21 - 26ºC. Large Mantas, schools of mobula rays, cow nosed rays, spotted eagle rays and marble rays are frequent visitors.
Darwin and Wolf
These two islands are located 14 hours sailing north of the main island group. The seas surrounding Wolf and Darwin support large concentration of the marine life that makes the Galapagos the dive destination that it is. Certainly no dive itinerary to the Galapagos is complete without a visit to Darwin and Wolf. Schools of hammerheads, dolphins and rays make these islands a highlight for many divers visiting the Galapagos. The whale shark aggregation occurs in the warmer water surrounding these islands.
Hammerhead sharks and other shark species make regular appearances in numbers year round.
Because of their isolation, most species have evolved in different ways to their mainland relatives and even within the archipelago species have developed differently. Of the extraordinary animals to be found many are reptiles, such as the great tortoise, large land iguanas, numerous lizards and three species of non-poisonous snakes.
Up to three quarters of a million seabirds flock to the islands, including a third of the world's blue footed boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, cormorants, albatross and petrels. Aside from the extraordinary marine and land borne wildlife, the islands themselves are a fascinating place to walk around, with dramatic volcanic cones and solidified lava flows.
For a map of the Galapagos Islands please click here
land based extensions
Regaldive holidays to the Galapagos Islands are completely tailormade to your personal requirements, giving the option to extend your liveaboard holiday with a land-based stay for as many nights as you choose. With so much to discover in the Galapagos, we recommend an extension on Santa Cruz Island at the Hotel Silberstein in Puerto Ayora, home to the Charles Darwin Research Station.
Please contact the Regaldive Team for help planning your Galapagos Islands holiday.
Please note that liveaboard itineraries can change without notice. The itinerary will depend on several factors including, but not limited to, weather, diving ability of guests & the number of other boats already present at the various dive sites. All dive sites visited are subject to weather conditions and are at the discretion of your dive guides and vessel captain.
Diving in the Galapagos - Liveaboards
The diving in Galapagos is not for novice divers. Before attempting to dive in Galapagos you should be completely comfortable in the water and comfortable with all aspects of your equipment. Having experience of diving in cold water with a thicker wetsuit and hood, as well as experience of diving in strong currents, up currents and down currents is highly recommended. Experience in mixed surface conditions, mixed currents and varying water temperatures, proficient use of a DSMB and the ability to cope in buddy pairs or on your own should you become temporarily separated, is imperative.
Regaldive advise that guests booking on to a Galapagos liveaboard should be minimum PADI Advanced or equivalent and have more than 50 logged dives.
The water in the Galapagos is relatively cold, ranging from 15 - 26ºC between May and November and 20 - 26ºC between December and June. Divers are highly recommended to wear a minimum full 7 mm wetsuit or semi-dry with a hood and vest, or 5mm layers.
The visibility in the Galapagos is often limited, due to the high nutrient content of the water. Visibility can be as low as 4m and as high as 30m but the average is 15m. Visibility varies between dive sites and with the time of day and can even change during a dive. The visibility at Darwin & Wolf tends to be higher than in the Southern islands.
Diving from Pangas
Diving in the Galapagos is conducted from small boats (like RIBS) called pangas. The currents in Galapagos are strong and so it is important the divers enter the water together as a group.
The majority of dive sites are small islands that break the surface of the water and then taper down. Because of this, it is impossible to bring the dive yacht directly over the dive site.
Divers suit-up on the main yacht before stepping over to the panga. The panga then approaches the dive site and the divers back-roll into the water.
A mandatory check dive will be required of every diver on the first day of the charter, regardless of diving certification or experience. Every dive in the Galapagos will be guided – this is a requirement of the Galapagos National Park. Please note that, due to frequently strong currents, it is mandatory for each diver to carry a DSMB and small light on all dives. A method for attracting attention through noise and reflective light, plus a system such as EPIRB is highly recommended; some of these items can be hired or will be offered as part of your liveaboard.
Galapagos Sky itineraries
Aggressor III itineraries
Humboldt Explorer itineraries
Galapagos Master itineraries
KLM, via Amsterdam to Quito or Guayaquil.
Iberia via Madrid to Quito or Guayaquil.
Continental Airlines via Houston to Quito (ESTA USA visa waiver required).
KLM and Iberia may offer good UK regional departures.
The Galapagos Islands are reached via a 90 minute flight from Quito or Guayaquil. You normally fly into San Cristobal.
Extra nights: A minimum of one night on the outbound and one night on the inbound is required in Quito or Guayaquil, due to international flight schedules and internal flights.
We encourage divers to stay on the Ecuador mainland 2 nights before travelling onto the Galapagos. You are travelling a long way on the trip of a lifetime and we want you to join your liveaboard rested and hydrated. This also helps in case your luggage is delayed.
Internal flight luggage allowance: 23kg, plus 10kg hand baggage. Excess, overweight and oversize baggage fees apply.
Passports & Visas
Please always check your own entry requirements regardless of your nationality. Your passport should always have at least 6 months validity on date of return travel.
British Nationals are currently granted a 90 day tourist visa on entry.
Always check for last minute changes in entry requirements at the Foreign & Commonwealth website www.fco.gov.uk
Nationalities other than British citizens should check with their own consular office.
Vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure. For the most up to date advice please consult your travel clinic or GP. Further information regarding vaccinations for travel to this country can be found at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk and from your local healthcare provider.
There are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Galapagos Islands area of Ecuador, but we always recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and polio.
Birthday with Hammerheads!
Just a quick one to say cheers! The trip was up to expectations. Everything including connections went smoothly. The diving was fantastic and spent my birthday surrounded by hammerheads and turtles! Nice. Also made me a fab cake (slightly embarrassing!) and partied up with great company. Peter Hughes was onboard with us and very nice guy. Great crew and service.
Hotel in Quito was up to scratch and despite recent turmoil’s in country it felt safe to walk around with little hassle by day.
Missed out on whale sharks (other group saw one but missed out on the mantas we saw) so will have to go on another holiday to see them! Any excuse!
Definitely a cut above the rest and although expensive, worth every penny.
12 October 2012
Whale Sharks Galore!
"Huge big "Thank you" to you and your team at Regaldive.
Holiday was smoothly operated - fantastic (actually - the best diving I've ever done), Hammerheads galore, Whalesharks (take note of the plural!), and Mantas, sheer number and diversity of marine life was absolutely stunning.
DivEncounters - and Galapagos Sky - absolutely brilliant staff, good fun with safety paramount at all times.
One VERY, VERY HAPPY customer.
Thanks and Kind regards,
| 19 October 2012
"Hi Kate / Clare,
Just a note about the trip. It was by far and away the best dive experience I have ever had. Everything on the boat was perfect, the service amazing and the diving mind blowing - the quality of the guides was exceptional.
I think everyone on the trip felt the same way.
Thanks for everything.
- London | 15 November 2012
"We have had the most amazing time. Brilliant crew and dive masters Santiago and Natasha were amazing. Everything from the skill of the panga drivers to the food, from the cabin cleaning to the help on the dive deck was amazing. And thats all before we talk about the diving - WOW is all I can say."
- North Yorkshire | 25 June 2014
My trip to the Galapagos Islands
"This was the dive trip of a lifetime, featuring challenging but rewarding experiences. The long voyage to Darwin and Wolf was worth it as we encountered hundreds of hammerhead sharks swimming in groups, and several huge whale sharks. Plentiful mola mola, fish, and playful sea lions were the icing on the cake.
I cannot praise M/V Galapagos Sky enough. With really professional divemasters, superb cuisine and a really attentive and friendly crew catering for our every need. I thoroughly recommend this trip to those adventurous souls ready for something different and truly special.
- UK | 14 October 2014
Truly Amazing - the Galápagos Exceeds Expectations
KLM flight from Norwich to Guayaquil via Amsterdam, note the plane stops in Quito on the way then it's a short 35 minute hop to Guayaquil - this is better as the Galapagos connection goes via Guayaquil anyway so there's no benefit to staying in Quito which is also at altitude.
Spending a full day in Guayaquil is recommended as it helps you get into the time zone (also if your luggage gets delayed by 1 day like mine was you have a bit more leeway) and I had an enjoyable day wandering the city, the Malecon walk along the river is good and there is also a small free park with Iguanas adjacent to a fantastic Cathedral. Stayed the 2 nights at Hotel Oro Verde, great hotel with a fantastic choice for breakfast; the other real bonus here is the great Wifi which made FaceTime home very easy.
The boat stops in Santa Cruz on the last day after the diving has ended and I highly recommend jumping ship there and extending your stay for 3 or so days to do some land tours rather than overnight back to San Cristobal for the flight home. I did the Plaza tour and Santa Fe tour, both were very similar and if I chose again I would only do Santa Fe, on both tours we saw similar; I would replace one with North Seymour which has a larger breeding colony of Boobies.
Note the tours seem to consist of circa 1.5 hours on the island & always a snorkelling trip, so if like me you've been diving for a week, try and get a tour without this!
Isabela Island is highly recommended by most travellers I met. if you can spare the 2-3 days needed to get over there and sight-see.
Experience of current diving, negative entries and backward rolls from pandas (ribs) are essential.
Nitrox certified, whilst not essential given how far you are from the nearest recompression chamber, is highly advised, especially with up to 4 dives per day, it also makes it easier for the crew refilling cylinders as they only have 1 gas to contend with. Also, you feel an element of responsibility toward the whole group, as any incident up at Wolf/Darwin would effectively wipe out 2 full days of diving for everyone.
Water temperatures range from 17 to 22 degrees (at least 3 dives were 17 degrees for the full 45 minutes).
Dives are limited to 45-50 minutes which works well, as that generally ensures the whole group (max 8 per DM) ascends at the same time. I used a 6.5mm semi dry in May for every dive with Lavacore hood & gloves (mainly for holding on to rocks in the current) and nearly all the other divers used similar protection or 2 piece wetsuits. Don't underestimate the cold as you can be stationery for some time.
Galapagos Sky Boat
Fantastic service, the food is extremely good and not repetitive at all, the crew work extremely hard to make sure you have a great experience and the camaraderie between them is obvious and makes for a great week.
After every dive there are dry towels, a hot shower available on the dive deck and one of the crew waiting with a hot drink and home-made nibbles!
Truly amazing, the Galápagos exceeds expectations; after the week we tried to come up with our number 1 experience and failed, there were 5-6 outstanding moments and everything else wasn't too bad either.
19 dives in all, including 1 night dive, with 11 of them at Wolf & Darwin, these 2 islands are the main reason for going and stand head and shoulders above the other dives.
Always the luck of the draw, but we saw over 20 hammerheads in one school, loads of Galápagos Sharks, Silkies, a 10 metre Whaleshark, massive shoals of tuna & jacks being fed on, snorkelling with dolphins. The other highlights were Red Lipped Bat Fish, Marine Iguanas, Rays and interactions with Sea Lion.
Safety was taken very seriously with comprehensive briefs and all divers issued with GPS trackers and air horns that attach to your bcd hose
The crew and dive guides often went the extra mile with little things, such as the snorkelling with dolphins & silky sharks and a panga ride to some caves, though we were blessed with some pretty calm seas making this possible. I suspect that this isn't offered on every trip, as it depends on the crew and importantly the nature/behaviour of the guests towards them. You also get a tour to see the Giant Tortoises and Bartolome island which are both well worth it.
The only minor niggle in my opinion is the implied 10% tip by the company, whilst I recognise this may be industry norm, I’d suggest 99% of dive trips cost nowhere near as much to start with."
- UK | 15 June 2016
Just wanted to thank you for our amazing holiday... everything went well.
The reception at the Mercure Alameda were very good about advising us of places to go whilst in Quito, and getting us a friendly taxi to do some sightseeing... The Hotel was of a very good standard, rooms very large and clean.
The Aggressor trip was excellent, I think helped by the fact there were only 8 divers on the boat and only 9 guests in total. But that aside food was excellent, accommodation good and the trips well thought out.
Hotel Silberstein receptionists were excellent and, as you had said, we could always get on some trip or other.
You did an excellent job of organising an amazing holiday for us.
Karen and Pete
12 October 2012
Galapagos - Brilliant!
"we had a brilliant diving holiday in the Galapagos Isles. Brilliant but different in that the colours of the Red Sea Coral were replaced with very large boulders but the sea life was amazing – hammerheads, very large black tip and white tip sharks in large numbers, close enough to touch (although we did not of course!!). Large groups of massive eagle rays, a Mola, Mola fish, Iguanas, sea lions, Orca’s, Dolphins.
The ship and crew were outstanding and all of the admin arrangements (meeting off the plane etc.) went perfectly.
The only potential negative were the currents around Wolfe Island, very, very, very strong – too strong to maintain control and the only option was to hopefully grab a passing large bolder and hold on for a few seconds! We all survived but remained uneasy about these conditions.
As ever credit to Regal Dive and your very good service – naturally we will book again with you guys next year but how do we find such a brilliant, amazing and great holiday like this again?"
Bernard and Emma
- UK | 18 March 2014
A Special Place - Very Good Boat, Crew, Food and Service!
"The entire trip went very well. All flights, transfers and excursions went perfectly to plan. The first week organised by Jennifer was excellent. All accommodation, food and service was as good as I could have expected. Despite the population having doubled over the last 10 years, the impact on the islands is minimal. All movement is strictly controlled leaving the vast majority of the Galapagos land mass untouched, and pristine. Everybody living on or visiting the Islands seem to have bought in to the conservation ethos. There is no sign of litter or rubbish any where and the islands are teeming with unique wildlife above and below the water. The Galapagos really is a special place.
The second week on the Humboldt was just as good. The boat, crew, food and service were all very good. The only slight down side was the effect of the El Nino. Before the trip I was concerned about what wet suit I would need. All the information, pictures and U-tube videos suggested 7mm. I don’t have a 7mm so decided not to take a suit and hire one on the boat. They only had 7mm available and my experience swimming and snorkeling in the first week told me that 7mm would be too warm. I ended up hiring a 5mm suit from a store on the mainland but when we got to Wolf & Darwin I was using my 2mm sleeveless vest and swimming shorts! The water was 28 - 29degC! This meant for lovely warm comfortable diving with hardly any weight, but unfortunately had a detrimental effect on the profusion of underwater life usually found in the Galapagos. The diving was still great with plenty of Hammerheads, Sea Lions, Penguins and even some Dolphins, but no Mantas or Whale Sharks.
Despite the EL Nino, it was still a fantastic trip. My thanks to you and your team for all your help."
- UK | 20 January 2016