Diving in the Galapagos is a dream. Hammerheads, whale sharks, sea lions, turtles, and all kinds of crazy fish. During the later months the currents bring lots of nutrients to the area attracting the sharks and whales but making visibility a bit tricky. There are actually plenty of challenges to scuba diving here, the currents can be very strong, the water is bloody cold and there are so many dive shops to choose from you need to do your research from the start. But if you go with a good operator and you are lucky to get good conditions, the rewards are bountiful.
So how to choose a dive company in the galapagos islands? Well not based on price. Because the prices vary wildly, initially we arrived and asked a couple of places on Santa Cruz and were quoted $170 at one place then $130 at another. After some more research we found companies with rather shocking reviews about faulty equipment and divers getting lost, this was all the convincing we needed to cough up the cash. So my suggestion would be to look at the reviews on tripadvisor, read blogs, then go and meet the dive master and look at the equipment. After all, you wouldn’t skydive with the guy who has dodgy shoots to save $40 would you?
We arrived at the Academy Bay dive shop at 6.40am to have our complementary bread, cheese and coffee before we headed out to our 1st dive site at 7am. To be honest it was this offer of breakfast that made our minds up about where to dive. After reading reviews and blogs we had narrowed it down to 5 shops and at $160 for 2 dives Academy Bay were in the middle. But they were the only place that offered breakfast. None of the shops in our top 5 were the $130 place, so God only knows which one Richard the local travel agent would have stuck us with.
After breakfast we all walked across to the pier, were loaded onto a water taxi and boarded our vessel to meet the crew. This boat wasn’t the newest boat around but she was very tidy and oh so organised! Not an object in site that was surplus to requirements, which meant there was plenty of space for the 8 of us diving and the crew of 4. With 2 dive masters the captain and the captains assistant we were well looked after.
The briefing was very thorough, then we pulled up at a calm spot to jump in and check our buoyancy. The guys were awesome at getting us all kitted up. We’d been into the shop the night before to fit our gear, and today they had it all there ready. BCDs all hooked up, they tightened our weight belts, put on our flippers and while we were all sitting on the edge of the boat they even put our tanks and BCDs on us! We rolled back into the water and sunk to the bottom. Because Steve and I were the only two who hadn’t dived in the last month we had to preform a couple of skills checks as well as the buoyancy check, but because these guys had explained everything to a T and made us feel so comfortable we had no problem!
Back on the surface the crew helped us out of our gear before helping us onto the boat. I haven’t done many dives but man, this was first class service! On to the 1st dive spot of the day, Seymour nord este. Under the water the visibility was a bit milky but still about 12-17 metres, enough to see the hundreds of fish we were sharing the ocean with! The schools of hundreds of all different types of fish are mind blowing, looking up and around and feeling like you’re surrounded. Sinking lower and lower, down to about 20 metres we also saw rays flying past, white tipped reef sharks sleeping on the ocean floor and we spent some time admiring an interesting crop of garden eels, who look just as though they are growing out of the sea bed but suck themselves down into their holes as you pass over them. My highlight was coming within metres of a hammerhead shark! Due to the crappy vis in that spot I only caught a fleeting glimpse, but oh what a guy! This little taste was enough to get both me and Steve super excited about more diving in the galapagos .
Lucky we didn’t have to wait long for our next dive, after a rest and a quick bite to eat we were off to explore the deep blue sea at Daphne Major. This dive spot is characterised by a rocky wall that leads around one side of the ocean, normally we might move away from the wall to explore but visibility seemed slightly worse here. In spite of that, minutes after we got to depth Oscar led us into a dense school of little striped fish and this is when our National Geographic moment really unfolded. You know how you see the images of a sea lion busting through a dark school of fish exposing the light from above? Well this happened while we were inside the ball of fish. They began to part and all of a sudden a sea lion came shooting out! I can’t even begin to explain how surreal it feels to be suspended 18 metres below the surface of the ocean in a school of fish so big it feels like you are in a cave. Wow. Diving in the galapagos is every bit as unbelievable as I’d hoped.
We went with Academy Bay dive centre and paid $160usd each
Ave Charles Darwin, Puerto Ayora
Phone: +593 5252 4164