Galapagos diving is one of the most popular things to do at the Galapagos Islands, as the archipelago provides some of the best scuba diving conditions in the world. With hundreds of miles of protected marine habitat, the Galapagos waters boast excellent visibility and a diverse array of sea life, from sea turtles to hammerhead sharks, to manta rays, dolphins, sea lions, and even Galapagos penguins. Many of the species present in Galapagos waters are unique in the world, making your Galapagos Islands scuba diving trip a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Many cruise ships offer tour packages specifically for people who are interested in Galapagos diving. This includes accommodation and meals on a cruise ship or yacht, and guided dives in some of the most interesting dive sites in the Galapagos islands. This option is usually termed live-aboard, as you live on the boat instead of finding hotels on land. It is possible to earn your PADI certification with one of the scuba diving operators around the islands. However, beginner divers may find that Galapagos Islands scuba diving is an activity primarily suited for those with medium to advanced scuba diving experience. This is because many dive sites in the islands are located near walls or other formations, with surges and other changes in water conditions, and medium to strong currents are common in most dive locations. Many live-aboard scuba diving tours require participants to be open-water certified before joining the tour.
November through June is the time when water conditions are best for non-advanced divers. Remember that some of the currents can be cold—a 7-millimeter wet suite is recommended for June to November, and a 5-millimeter suit is recommended the warmer months of December through May. Temperatures can also vary depending on your location in the islands.
The premier dive sites for Galapagos Islands scuba diving are the islands of Wolf and Darwin in the northernmost part of the archipelago. These islands have an extremely fragile environment, therefore land exploration is not permitted. However, those with live-aboard diving tours can sometimes explore the excellent diving sites around these two islands, and view amazing creatures such as hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, dolphins, barracudas, tunas, sea turtles and spotted rays. Don't worry about the sharks; the hammerheads are timid and the whale shark, despite its huge size—it's the largest fish in the world—feeds on plankton and small fish. Diving at Wolf and Darwin is reserved for experienced scuba divers, due to waves and strong currents.
Don't feel left out if you are not an advanced diver, however, as Galapagos diving offers many amazing sites for the intermediate level diver, and snorkeling trips are often available as well. Many dive tours take you on a dive to visit a sunken ship in San Cristobal's harbor, as well as many famous dive sites within the central islands. The Gordon Islands, for example, comprise a medium to advanced site where you can see marine turtles, hammerheads, moray eels, octopus, and tropical fish. North Seymour Island is also a good place for divers of all levels, and there you can see white-tipped reef sharks, garden eels, sea turtles, and many more aquatic species.