Home » Best Liveaboards in the Galapagos – Ultimate Guide to Galapagos Liveaboard Diving

Best Liveaboards in the Galapagos – Ultimate Guide to Galapagos Liveaboard Diving

by Max
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Best Liveaboards in the Galapagos - Ultimate Guide

The Galapagos Islands are a one-of-a-kind destination renowned for their rich biodiversity and unique wildlife. Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, these islands have captivated travelers for centuries. One such traveler was Charles Darwin, who famously used his observations on the islands to develop his theory of evolution.

Today, visitors can experience firsthand what inspired Darwin’s famous work by traveling on a liveaboard in the Galapagos. With its diverse range of marine life and stunning landscapes, Galapagos offers an unforgettable experience that will stay with you long after your journey ends.

Whether you choose to explore above or below water – or both – there are plenty of exciting adventures waiting for you! This ultimate guide will help prepare you for liveaboard diving in the Galapagos, so you can confidently hit the deep sea.

Why The Galapagos Is Great For Liveaboard Diving

The wonderful thing about liveaboard diving in the Galapagos is that no two trips are alike. This remote destination offers an abundance of wildlife, from playful sea lions and whale sharks to hammerhead sharks and manta rays. But aside from the incredible marine life, Galapagos liveaboards will also offer a chance to explore some of the islands’ dramatic and diverse landscapes.

The best way to explore this volcanic archipelago is by liveaboard diving in the Galapagos. With the freedom of movement, you can explore more remote areas without the restrictions of shore-diving trips. Plus, liveaboards provide plenty of amenities to make your stay enjoyable, from comfortable cabins and delicious meals to expert guides and various activities.

If this wasn’t enough, let’s take a closer look at some of the perks of Galapagos liveaboards – and why they are one of the best ways to experience this unique destination.

Unique Wildlife Experiences

The Galapagos Islands are famous for their wildlife. There are many species of birds, mammals, and reptiles found nowhere else in the world; each adapted to survive in the Galapagos. On liveaboards, you can have the chance to spot many of these animals in their natural habitats.

Depending on the time of year, you can expect to dive alongside an array of unique marine species, including the endemic Galapagos penguin, flightless cormorant, and Galapagos sea lion – all of which can be seen while liveaboard diving in the Galapagos.

Access To Remote Dive Sites

Darwin and Wolf Islands are two renowned but remote dive sites in the Galapagos, which can take several hours to reach. You can only access these islands on liveaboards in the Galapagos, meaning you do not need to worry about mass tourism ruining your dive experience. In fact, only some boats can stop at Darwin and Wolf, so aside from research vessels, you can be sure that these sites are relatively untouched.

Opportunities to Swim With Sharks

The Galapagos is renowned for the abundance of sharks spotted here. Although some species of shark remain elusive, the Galapagos is home to at least 33 species. Liveaboard diving in the Galapagos provides ample opportunity to spot as many types of sharks as possible. Whether you are hoping to see a hammerhead, tiger, or whale shark – Galapagos liveaboards can make this dream a reality.

Exciting Underwater Landscapes

As the Galapagos Islands are primarily volcanic, coral formations are few and far between in the archipelago. However, this does not mean you won’t be able to explore stunning underwater landscapes while liveaboard diving in the Galapagos. The islands are home to dramatic rocky outcroppings, pinnacles, and lava rocks, which form a unique habitat for the many species of marine life.

Ideal For Advanced Divers

Although some Galapagos liveaboards do offer diving for beginners, most trips cater to advanced divers. The waters boast strong currents, meaning drift dives are common here, creating an exciting experience that is sure to offer plenty of thrills. Plus, because most Galapagos liveaboards are best suited to advanced divers, you will get to meet like-minded individuals – all while topping up your total logged dive hours.

Liveaboards vs. Galapagos Dive Resorts

Although Galapagos dive resorts can provide a great diving experience, liveaboards in the Galapagos offer far more flexibility. With the ability to move between sites and access areas only available by boat, you can explore more and have the chance to spot a wider range of wildlife. Not to mention, liveaboards offer an inclusive experience, with everything you need on board, including meals, snacks, and drinks.

Ultimately, choosing between a dive resort and a liveaboard in the Galapagos comes down to what kind of experience you want. If you want to get the most out of your diving experience, nothing can beat the eat, sleep, dive, repeat ethos that comes with liveaboard diving in the Galapagos.

Things to Consider When Booking Liveaboards in the Galapagos

While the Galapagos islands are one of the world’s most sought-after dive locations, there are a few things to remember before booking a liveaboard in the Galapagos.

Dive Locations You Should Not Miss in the Galapagos
Dive Locations You Should Not Miss in the Galapagos

Locations Visited

There are 13 major islands to explore in the Galapagos, and a wide range of dive sites are available. Make sure you check what islands any prospective liveaboards will visit and what dive sites you’ll have access to.

If you’re unsure of what the Galapagos can offer, here are some of the fascinating dive sites you can visit via Galapagos liveaboards:

Darwin and Wolf Islands

These neighboring islands are home to some of the best dive sites in the world. Both islands are extinct volcanic craters and offer divers the chance to see an abundance of aquatic life, manta rays, and schools of hammerheads. Land visits are strictly prohibited, so Galapagos liveaboards are the only way you’ll be able to explore them. You will find fantastic dive sites such as Darwins Arch and Shark Point here.

Fernandina Island

The youngest island in the Galapagos, Fernandina, is home to stunning black lava formations thanks to its volcanic activity. Galapagos penguins and vast numbers of sea lions also inhabit the area, making Fernandina one of the Galapagos’ most popular dive sites.

Isabela Island

Home to dive sites such as Punta Vincente Roca, Cape Marshall, and Roca Redonda – Isabela Island is teeming with unique and exciting sea life. The waters here can be colder and prone to strong currents, but the rewards are well worth it once you experience this wonderful location.

Santa Cruz Island

The main hub of the Galapagos islands, Santa Cruz, offers many dive sites that are well-suited for both beginners and more experienced divers. White-tip sharks, sea turtles, and marine iguanas are all sighted here, as well as mola mola (aka sunfish).

San Cristobal Island

Kicker Rock and Whale Rock are two of the most popular dive sites on this island and are renowned for their large schools of fish and larger marine life. Depending on what dive site you visit, San Cristobal is ideal for divers of all abilities.

Boat Types

There are several Galapagos liveaboards to choose from, but only a small number offer scuba diving excursions. For liveaboard diving in the Galapagos, you will mostly find custom-built yachts and boats designed for cruising and diving. In terms of total capacity, Galapagos liveaboards tend to be on the smaller side, providing a more intimate experience. This does mean they can book out quickly, so it’s essential to book ahead of time.

Trip Length

Most liveaboards in the Galapagos will set sail for 8 days, providing ample time to explore the islands and dive sites. However, there are some options for longer 11-day trips. These longer excursions spend additional time at some of the prime dive sites, such as Darwin and Wolf, as well as visiting more locations in total.

Total Daily Dives

The number of dives you can do will depend on the boat, with some offering up to 4 dives a day. Although, some itineraries only include 1-2 dives a day, along with some land visits. Most boats offer at least one night dive, but these are strictly regulated and can be subject to change.

Required Experience

While liveaboard diving in the Galapagos is best for advanced divers, beginners can still participate. All boats require a minimum Open Water certification to dive, but a select few do not require any logged dives. For the most part, Galapagos liveaboards will request at least 50 logged dives, with some requiring as many as 100 hours. Always check with the boat to confirm their experience requirements if you’re unsure.

Local Regulations

The Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage site and, as such, are highly protected. As a result, strict regulations are in place for liveaboards and dive sites. Certain items, such as single-use plastics, are prohibited in the region, and you mustn’t remove anything from the ecosystem. It is always best to check the local laws and regulations when traveling to a new area, and the Galapagos is no different.

Dive Insurance

When diving the Galapagos, it is essential to ensure you have adequate dive insurance. It is a requirement, and all liveaboards in the Galapagos will check you have it before departure. Having valid dive insurance is always in your best interest – you never know when something may happen.

We recommend DiveAssurethe leading dive insurance with the most comprehensive Diving Accident and Dive Travel insurance plans. Get your dive insurance now and enjoy your scuba diving vacation without worries.

Nitrox Availability

Nitrox usage is not uncommon when aboard liveaboards in the Galapagos. Most liveaboards in the area will offer nitrox for an extra fee; just be sure to bring your certification to show you are qualified to use it. Even if you don’t have a nitrox certificate, you may be able to get qualified aboard your liveaboard for an additional fee.

Gear Requirements

You may be able to rent scuba gear aboard your chosen liveaboard. If you have your own gear, then check the average water temperature for the month you are traveling, as it can get cold – meaning you may want to bring a thicker wetsuit. Gloves are also advised when liveaboard diving in the Galapagos, as you may need to hold onto rock formations at times due to the strong currents.

What Is the Best Season for Liveaboards in the Galapagos?

So long as you don’t mind cooler waters, you can go liveaboard diving in the Galapagos all year. The Galapagos has two seasons, with the best season for liveaboards in the Galapagos being December-May. During this warmer season, the waters tend to average 75-80°F(23-25°C), which is the best time to spot mantas.

However, whale shark season happens during the cooler months, which are June-November. The water during this time is choppy with strong currents and an average water temperature of 60-65°F (16-18°). As for visibility, you can generally expect 30-80ft throughout the year.

Ultimately, while the warmer months are clearly the best season for liveaboards in the Galapagos, the cooler months still offer plenty of fantastic diving – just with a few added challenges.

The Best Itineraries for Galapagos Liveaboards

With all Galapagos liveaboard itineraries, you can expect to visit the world-famous Darwin and Wolf islands. There are a few different routes to choose from, each offering unique experiences.

Here are some of the best itineraries for Galapagos liveaboards:

Fernandina Islands

Departing from San Cristobal, this itinerary stops off at Fernandina Island – while visiting many other dive sites on the way. This 8-day, 7-night trip will take you to some brilliant locations such as Punta Carrion, Seymour, Wolf, and Darwin. Along the way, you can expect to see majestic sea lions, hammerheads, and many species of tropical fish.

Galapagos Islands

Starting with an orientation dive at Punta Carrion, this Galapagos liveaboards itinerary also includes hikes to Bartolome Summit – providing a beautiful view of the islands. This 8-day, 7-night trip visits all the major sites, including Darwin and Wolf Islands, along with some other diver favorites, including Cabo Marshall, Cabo Douglas, and Cousins Rock.

Baltra – Baltra

Another 8-day, 7-night trip, this route offers multiple dives a day at many fabulous locations. Areas visited include the City of de Mantas at Isabela Island, Darwins Arch, Shark Bay, and The Secret Cave (all at either Darwin or Wolf Islands). Santa Cruz, Santiago, and Fernandina are all visited, making this one of the best itineraries for Galapagos liveaboards.

What Is the Required Budget for Liveaboard Diving in the Galapagos?

Due to the scarcity of diving liveaboards in the area, the prices for a Galapagos liveaboard trip tend to be on the high side. Fees usually range from around $4500-$7000 per person for 8 days and up to $9500 for an 11-day vacation. These prices vary considerably depending on the company and any deals they may have available, so it pays to shop around. Clearly, liveaboards in the Galapagos are much more expensive than in locations such as the Red Sea, the Maldives or even the Bahamas – but you’ll get a lot in return.

The Best Liveaboards in the Galapagos

The Galapagos is truly a dream destination for liveaboard diving, so it is no surprise that there are excellent boats to choose from. Below is a list of some of the best liveaboards in the Galapagos.

4 Best Liveaboards in the Galapagos – Our Top Picks
4 Best Liveaboards in the Galapagos – Our Top Picks

Tiburon Explorer

Length: 39.5m Width: 7.4m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 9 Maximum capacity: 16 guests Rental Gear: Yes

The Tiburon Explorer liveaboard is the perfect way to explore the Galapagos Islands. This yacht offers home comforts, including daily housekeeping, TVs in cabins, and ensuite bathrooms. On deck, a hot tub and leisure area are available, and a BBQ to enjoy delicious meals together.

Divers can also take advantage of top-notch dive experiences with a dive deck and tenders available for exploration. In addition, 8-day trips visit excellent areas such as Darwin, Wolf, Cabo Douglas, and Cousins Rock – making it an unforgettable adventure!

Galapagos Sky

Length: 30m Width: 7.3m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 8 Maximum capacity: 16 guests Rental Gear: Yes

Led by an experienced captain and crew, the Galapagos Sky is fully air-conditioned, with sea-view cabins and an observation deck. Guests can enjoy snacks all day and complimentary soft drinks, offering extra convenience during the cruise.

Taking on a classic Galapagos Islands itinerary, marine life such as red-lipped batfish and Marine iguanas are often seen over the 8 days. Built with divers in mind, the Galapagos Sky is ideal for experienced vacationers.

Calipso

Length: 35.4m Width: 8m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 8 Maximum capacity: 16 guests Rental Gear: Yes

Led by an English and Spanish-speaking crew, the Calipso offers free internet, a bar, and a hot tub to keep guests entertained. Additionally, there is a shaded diving area complete with nitrox and DIN adaptors for advanced divers.

8-day trips follow the Fernandina Islands route, with plenty of incredible wildlife like sea lions, mola mola, and various sea birds to spot. This route also offers great opportunities to dive with sharks, which will be an experience you’ll never forget.

Galapagos Aggressor III

Length: 30m Width: 6.7m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 8 Maximum capacity: 16 guests Rental Gear: Yes

Visiting all the prime locations over 8 days, the Galapagos Aggressor III is one of the few liveaboards to accept beginner divers. A full board option ensures you’ll be well-fed throughout your journey, with various cuisines available.

Fully equipped with a camera room and charging stations, rinse hoses, and nitrox – the Galapagos Agressor III has everything you need for a remarkable diving trip. Plus, if you’re traveling with any non-divers, they’ll be happy to know there are snorkeling facilities onboard.

What to Bring for a Galapagos Liveaboard Trip

Galapagos liveaboards are the perfect way to explore the islands and get up close with unique wildlife – but they don’t always have everything you will need! To help you make the most of your trip, here is a list of what to bring for a Galapagos liveaboard trip:

Essentials:

  • Passport and any required travel documentation
  • Appropriate clothing for the season
  • Medication – if needed
  • Sun protection (ocean-safe sunscreen etc.)
  • Toiletries (soap, shampoo, etc.)
  • Towels (it always pays off to bring some spare towels, even if the liveaboard provides you with towels)

For Diving:

  • Dive log book
  • Dive and nitrox certifications
  • Scuba equipment, including a 5-7mm wetsuit for colder months – unless renting
  • Surface marker buoy (SMB or DSMB) – if needed
  • Credit card or local currency
  • Dive insurance evidence

Additional:

  • Photography equipment
  • Electronics (tablet, phone, etc.)
  • Dry bag
  • Entertainment (books, binoculars for viewing wildlife, etc.)
  • Water bottle

Final Thoughts on Liveaboard Diving in the Galapagos

Liveaboard diving in the Galapagos is an unparalleled experience that every diver should try at least once. If you’re looking to explore the islands and see the diverse wildlife, then a liveaboard is a great way to do it. Whether you’re a naturalist or a seasoned diver looking for a challenge, you’ll find something to suit your needs. Before booking any liveaboards in the Galapagos, be sure to check the required dive certification level, rental equipment availability, and onboard facilities. Once you have checked all of these, you’re ready to set sail and explore the Galapagos Islands in style!

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