- Published on Friday, 28 December 2012 20:48
- Written by Rick Stratton
The Galapagos Islands, an archipelago that calls to divers; a place that sports some of the most impressive marine life on the planet; a playground for those whose sandbox is underwater. The world's marine life come to the Galapagos Islands to play so why shouldn't divers follow suit? They do and every one of them report back that the experience was otherworldly.
Located 525 miles west of Ecuador and part of an Ecuadorian province, this is a national park that offers divers a look at what populates the most unexplored part of planet earth…our oceans. This group of islands is a protected biological marine reserve; home to 23,000 local residents and thousands of sea going visitors. The islands were originally discovered by Ambrose Cowley in 1684 and consist of a group of 15 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and various other outcroppings that are volcanic.
DNN Members going to Galapagos:
Dec. 28, 2012-Jan 5, 2013
Dec. 28, 2012
Every dive industry professional has his or her own preferences about where to dive in the Galapagos. Caleb Hayes of Red Mangrove Resort says that their dive masters take divers to a lot of places including Isabella Island. "There is a lot of great inner island diving here," says Hayes. This area is constantly fed by the current and offers divers amazing opportunities to dive." Hayes adds that one of the things he would encourage divers to realize is that you don't have to use a live-aboard while in the Galapagos. "Everyone thinks that a live-aboard is the only way to dive here but it isn't. We have diving for every level of diver here."
According to March Storm, marketing coordinator for Buddy Dive Holding Group, visiting the Galapagos on a liveaboard is a unique way to explore the islands in that you get to see the most active sites with knowledgeable divemaster guides and naturalists. "No matter which liveaboard in the Galapagos you choose, you experience 'the best of the best' when it comes to diving and they will all take you to the same amazing sites," she says. "What distinguishes the operations from each other is the level service & quality. We at Buddy Dive Liveaboards take pride in offering exceptional service on the newest, fastest liveaboards in these breathtaking islands. Our unique motor yachts also eliminate the dangers to divers and marine life alike that are associated with propeller powered vessels."
Although there are many other popular dive sites in the most popular are definitely Darwin and Wolf Islands. Jennifer Cumming, general manager of Galapagos Explorer Ventures says that they specifically go to Wolf and Darwin because of the richness of the large life in that area. "Our boat, the Humbolt Explorer, makes many trips in the area so that divers can see the whale sharks and other large marine life," Cumming says. "These areas offer divers an amazing abundance of marine life. Cummings moved to Galapagos after she fell in love with the islands. "It is nice to have a place where there is spectacular world class diving just steps away, friendly people and the security of knowing that there is no huge crime rate. I just love being here." Cumming says.
Michael Greene of Dive Dive Dive in Lawrenceville, Georgia says that they try and do at least two exotic trips per year and that the Galapagos Islands fit the bill perfectly. "Divers can do down and enjoy the Santa Cruz Island which is a popular destination," Greene says. "The Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Service are there." Greene says that their trip this year will be a New Year's one. "We will head down and meet up with the rest of our party of 15 on San Cristobal," Greene says. "In our group this time around 15 have never been to the Galapagos."
Mike O'Meara from Squba Holidays says that they, as travel specialists pride themselves in knowing exactly what to look for in terms of what divers want. The Galapagos Islands are a hot ticket. "The Galapagos Islands are one of the destinations that we are specialist in because we know what it has to offer the diver," says O'Meara. "The average diver who has only dove in his own backyard would be in awe of what the Galapagos has to offer and there is a certain kind of fun in connecting divers to their first experience there." Randy Ranbazzo, owner of Hampton Diver Center, a full service dive center in Riverhead, New York utilizes Buddy Dive for his trips. "I have done the Galapagos trip several times and each time I have gone I am amazed by the diversity of the marine life in the area," Ranbazzo said. "People go to see the big animals like the hammerheads and they are never disappointed. Everything is bolder and bigger in Galapagos which makes it a great dive destination for anyone."
Steve Collins, manager at the Dive Shop on McEver in northeast Georgia just outside Atlanta, says that although he loves to find new places for divers, places like the Galapagos are a must-dive. "We do everything at the Dive Shop from technical to recreational diving to trips and we try to do an exotic trip once or twice a year," Collins says. "This year's New Year's trip to the Galapagos is something we all are looking forward to. Where else can a diver find animals as majestic as the whale shark alongside hammerheads?"
Wally Peterson with Thunder Country Diving in Thunder Bay Ontario also books trips Squba Holiday and he is headed to the Galapagos in the Fall. "We go with Galapagos Sky Live Aboard," says Collins. "The great diving in the Galapagos is a compliment to the live-aboard's crew and food. We have worked with Peter Hughes before; it is a part of his group. He is one of the most knowledgeable folks in the live-aboard business." Collins adds that diving in the Galapagos is enhanced by the area's protection laws. "It's a one boat at a time program for the dive sites so the animals don't get stressed out and there is no crowding," Collins said. "The last time I was there I saw whale sharks 5 different times. The way that they are taking care of the area is good for the animals and the divers." According to Hughes, President of DivEncounters Inc., there are two distinct seasons to dive the islands and both are equally impressive and offer the chance to see whale sharks. "The interesting thing about the Galapagos Islands is that it can be a colder dive or a warmer dive depending on the season," Hughes says. "From June 15th thru the end of December is the cold season - the air and water are cooler. The sky is a little darker and this is when you are guaranteed to see Whale sharks."
Hughes adds that the rules for liveaboards have changed somewhat recently. As of June 1st the National Park Service has changed the number of dives one can do in a day from four to three. "We all understand," Hughes says. "They are simply trying to minimize the impact of human contact."
Diving isn't the only thing that the Galapagos Islands have to offer. Visitors come for the famous lava tunnels and the large tortoise populations. Española Island is the oldest island and Española's Gardner Bay is popular for swimming and snorkeling. One of the newer attractions on this island is the swim-with-the-sharks attraction. Florena Island is home to green sea turtles. The "Devil's Crown", an underwater volcanic cone is a divers favorite. The coral formations are world renowned. San Cristóbal Island, often a popular meeting place, offers both ocean and lake diving and Laguna El Junco is the largest freshwater lake in the archipelago.
If you really want to see what diving is all about you can in the Galapagos whether you are a live-aboard diver or a resort diver, these folks have you covered. One thing is for sure, the beauty, the good natured people and the incredible ocean environment come together to offer visitors the experience of a lifetime. If the Galapagos isn't on your Bucket List…pencil it in now…it will be more than worth it. ■
Special Thanks to: