Galapagos & Ecuador Itineraries:
Galapagos Islands - M/V Humboldt Explorer
The Galápagos Islands are an Ecuadorian archipelago of volcanic islands straddling the equator about 970 km west of continental Ecuador. The Galapagos are a UNESCO World Heritage site, an official Ecuadorian province, an Ecuadorian National Park as well as a biological marine reserve.
You may wonder what all this fuss is about, but we can assure you that these islands have earned all of these titles!
Firstly, these 18 islands and 100 islets are well world-renowned for their vast endemic and unique wildlife, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections in the Galapagos contributed to the famous' Darwin Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection'.
In being located both in the Southern and Northern hemispheres, hte islands are already an oddity themselves, but this archipelago is the land of every extreme.
Their vastness (220 km from North to South, 7,880 km2 of land spread over 45,000 km2 of ocean) is surprising, but the fact that it's still being shaped by volcanic activity is amazing.
The wildlife is just beyond wonders and plants, birds and animals do not seem to have changed much since ancient times. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this place seems frozen in time and to visit the Galapagos is truly a chance of a lifetime.
Few people are granted the opportunity of diving these pristine waters, and no place on Earth will boast such a variety of underwater sightings. Your underwater adventures will encompass everything from whales to nudibranchs and much, much more. The islands are best known for amazing shark diving and you will generally have a chance to encounter silky sharks, the famous Galapagos shark and an abundance of schooling hammerheads. Macro-lovers will also get their share of the pies with an array of seahorses, blennies, hawk fishes and many others.
Your trip to the Galapagos will be filled with memories to last you a lifetime and your experience can be challenging, but the rewards will be unforgettable!
We can welcome everyone, but we recommend being qualified as PADI Advanced Open Water Diver or equivalent, have a minimum of 100 logged dives and have last dived within 6 months prior to the trip. Dives can often be challenging, with strong currents. All dives are guided by an instructor/naturalist guide and due to Galapagos National Park regulations all divers must dive with the guide at all times and no night diving is permitted.
Diving and travel insurance are mandatory to access the National park.
**PLEASE NOTE**The itinerary below is an example only and is subject to change depending on local regulation, guests' experience, flight schedules, weather & logistics and is at the Captain's discretion. Currently, each week the itinerary includes the same islands. The order of the island visits, however, is dictated by the Galapagos National Park and may vary weekly.
Flight times, prices and the Galapagos airport of arrival are all subject to change with little or no notification, and flights often run late. Ticket holders are required to check-in a minimum of three hours prior to flight time for all international departures, even when taking a connecting flight.
Day 1 - Flight: Depart Europe, arrive in Guayaquil, Ecuador
Day 1 - Overnight: Hotel in Guayaquil
Day 2 - Flight from Guayaquil to Galapagos Islands: Transfer to vessel, boarding and check dive
Day 3 - Santa Cruz or Santiago Islands: morning dives and afternoon land visit - overnight sailing north
Day 4 - Wolf Island: Diving
Day 5 - Wolf Island: Diving
Day 6 - Darwin Island: Early morning sailing and diving
Day 7 - Darwin Island: Diving and overnight crossing
Day 8 - Cousin's Rock: Diving, sail to Santa Cruz. Afternoon land visit
Day 9 - Check-out and disembarkation: Free time on land and flight back to Guayaquil
Day 9 - Overnight: Hotel in Guayaquil
Day 10 - Flight: From Guayaquil to Europe
Day 11 - Flight: Arrival in Europe
Please note: All diving takes place from 'pangas' (tenders).
Days aboard the M/V Humboldt Explorer generally involve a 6:30 a.m. dive followed by breakfast, a dive at 10:30, lunch at 12:00, and an afternoon dive at dive at 2:00 p.m. Dinner is served at approximately 7:00 p.m. Night dives are only offered when the Galapagos National Park allows them, on days when no crossing s or transit take place and are subject to weather and current.
Please note that these itineraries are examples only, and will change depending on local regulation, weather and logistics at the Captain's discretion. Currently, each week the itinerary includes the same islands. The order of the island visits, however, is dictated by the Galapagos National Park and may vary weekly.
Departing from any major airport in Europe, your flight will take you to Ecuador. Due to the distances, you will be transiting via another major airport and will finally arrive in Guayaquil. We strongly encourage you to plan to arrive at least one day prior the start of your liveaboard to ensure that your luggage makes the connection and/or to make up for any travel delays.
After a restful night in a hotel and checking out, you will head to the airport and catch your flight to the Galapagos. The flight duration is 30 minutes from Guayaquil.
Upon arrival in the Galapagos, the transfer bus will be waiting for you to take you to M/V Humboldt Explorer. After boarding and checking-in, the vessel will start cruising to a calm and sheltered site for a relaxed check dive, which will introduce you to the wonderful underwater world. On your second day's diving, you will spend more time around the central islands, either around Santiago or Santa Cruz and will be able to enjoy two spectacular morning dives with sea lions and rays. The afternoon will be spent on North Seymour to see some of the amazing land vistas and extraordinary life the Galapagos Islands offer. After that, M/V Humboldt Explorer will start cruising (between 15-18hrs depending on currents and time of year) to reach the "Northern Islands"- the most famous spots for divers in the Galapagos: Wolf & Darwin Islands.
Upon arrival the next morning, you will be able to experience first-hand what the Galapagos Islands are all about: sharks! You will conduct 6 dives over 2 days around Wolf Island and likely witness hammerheads, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks and much more! After 2 full days of thrilling adventures, the boat will sail early morning (at 0230h) to reach the other famous spot in the Northern Islands: Darwin. This island will also provide you with 2 full days (6 dives) of spectacular diving. After the second day's diving at Darwin, the ship will start sailing back overnight to the main islands (the journey will last between 18-24 hrs as you will be cruising against currents).
The next day, you will do 2 dives around Santiago Island and in particular "Cousin's Rock". During lunch, the boat will cruise to the island of Santa Cruz. The afternoon would then be spent visiting some of the most famous and oldest residents of the Galapagos: the giant tortoises. You will also be able to visit the Darwin Center and learn a bit more about the geography, geology and zoology of the archipelago. You can then decide where in town you would like to grab a bite to eat before returning to the vessel. The next morning, after breakfast, it will unfortunately be time to disembark and you will have some free time to browse around until your pick up time at 1300hr for your return transfer to the airport. The flight will then take you back to Guayaquil and we strongly suggest you spend another night in the city, as the flight from the Galapagos often runs late and the Ecuadorian government request all travellers to check in a minimum of 3 hours before their international flight.
After a last night in Ecuador, your flight will take you back to Europe and due to distances and connections, you will arrive the day later.
Want to go? Check out the Schedules and Prices HERE
SEASON, WEATHER, CONDITIONS & CURRENT:
The Galapagos Islands have 2 distinctive seasons. The 'rainy season' runs from December until May and the 'dry season' from June through to November.
The 'rainy season' is characterised by mild summer-like temperatures (ranging from 25C or higher outside) which in turn results in wetter weather. It's normally the time where plants and land animals are blooming due to the likeliness of rainfall, but also the time where the Panama current occurs. This current brings warm nutrient-poor waters, pushing the schools of fishes and marine mammals further North or South in search of colder and nutrient-rich waters. The water temperature will slightly be warmer though, ranging from 18C to 25C, but the visibility can sometimes be murky. The 'rainy season' (especially from January until May) normally offers calmer sea conditions.
The El Niño phenomenon also will happen during the rainy season when the Panama current runs very strongly. If that's the case, then heavier rainfall will take place, but the water temperature can sometimes rise dramatically to a maximum of 30C, making it very comfortable!
The 'dry season' runs from June to November and is characterised by dry and cool air and cooler water temperatures (15C -21C). Cooler water normally means more marine life, making this time of the year exceptionally good for underwater sightings. Animals are in their reproduction period and you can find great concentrations of penguins, dolphins, whales and whale sharks. The visibility is also better with an average of 12 to 18m with a maximum of 25m. The downside is that the seas are normally choppier from August to October.
The current will range year round from 1 knot to 5 knots and sea breezes are almost constant.
Lastly, a good fact to know:
The temperatures and the climate will vary within the Galapagos itself. Darwin and Wolf Islands (known as the Northern Islands) tend to have warmer waters.
WHAT TO TAKE:
Except for the obvious (certification cards, logbooks and equipment) some parts of your dive equipment are required: BCD, a regulator with pressure gauge and depth gauge and a timing device. A computer can also officiate as a timing and depth device and is strongly recommended.
All the divers must also carry a DiveAlert, a surface signalling device and an electronic beacon while diving. These will be provided onboard free of charge, but have to be pre-booked.
Most divers are comfortable with a 7mm wetsuit June – November with a hooded vest and gloves and a minimum 5mm wetsuit December - May. Gloves, boots and hood are strongly recommended. If you are someone who gets cold quickly, we would recommend a good 7mm semi-dry suit.
The climate on land doesn’t require much more than shorts, T-shirts, and swimsuits though at sea the winds can be cold and jackets are often necessary. Soft luggage is recommended as it takes up very little space when empty. Sun screens, sunglasses, raincoat, lightweight sweater or jacket, long sleeved shirt, backpack, sandals and a hat are recommended. Lastly, remember that you will be able to go onshore during the last 2 days of your liveaboard and comfortable sandals will make these excursions more enjoyable.
Please remember that the Galapagos Islands straddle the Equator and the sun can be very strong at times. For this reason please make sure you have sufficient strength sunscreen. In case of rough weather or if you have a tendency towards seasickness, come prepared with motion sickness medications. If you have favourite CD’s or DVD’s, feel free to take them.
North Seymour is a flat island located just north of Santa Cruz Island. The island has 5 main dive sites suitable for all levels of divers and offers one of the greatest varieties of species, making this area is a favourite among locals. The island is also a perfect introduction to the Galapagos diving as it will get you used to the currents that you can expect during the week. It might also be the first time you will encounter the impressive schools of hammerheads!!!
Frequent sightings also include a large Galapagos garden eel colony, sea turtles, sea lions, fur seals, golden eagle rays and a large abundance of fish such as snappers and grunts. Since there are lots of fish in this area and the island is an extraordinary place for breeding birds and nesting, you will also get the chance to see the very special Blue-footed Boobies shooting through the water to grab their breakfast!
THE NORTHERN ISLANDS: DARWIN & WOLF
The northern most islands in the archipelago, Darwin and Wolf, rank among the best and most famous dive sites in the world. Due to their fragile ecosystem, the national park authorities prohibit land visits and by being so far removed from the other islands, it means it is only visited by liveaboards.
The conditions around these uninhabited islands can vary but there are sometimes big swells and, with no mooring points, your vessel will anchor in open water and the dives will be done by 'panga' (i.e. RIB). Once you get descend, strong currents are the ruling of these unique dive sites, but once stationed and protected behind big rocks, open your eyes! Darwin and Wolf will not disappoint you as the diving is magical!
Considered as 'the' place to be to see big stuff, you will likely witness schools of every kind of fish drifting by, whilst sharks are swimming above you. And when we say sharks, we mean it: Galapagos sharks, clouds of hammerheads, silkies and from June to October the giant of all, the whale shark. Maybe due to the islands' remoteness, they seem fearless and will approach divers very close. The fish life is also so profuse that they are sometimes hiding the sun light. So settle down and get ready for the Northern Islands!
The northern-most island in the Galapagos archipelago, Darwin is appropriately named for its famous visitor. The waters are much warmer around this rock as it's not affected by the Humboldt current. Because of the water temperature, the underwater landscape is very different from the rest of the Galapagos, offering an almost-tropical environment where corals are blooming.
Very easily recognised by its famous arch, which sits just above the surface, Darwin is considered the best in the Galapagos. How is that possible with only a couple of dive sites around the island?
Firstly, having to work your way around the school of hammerheads so thick that you cannot count them is an awesome feeling, but then to see the underwater ballet taking place in front of your eyes is truly a thrilling experience and will leave you speechless. Mackerel, tuna, jacks and rainbow-runners swirl around the walls, and dolphins are playing in the distance. Whale sharks often visit this remote island and just add majesty to these amazing dives. We haven't yet mentioned the other thousands of species such as eels, turtles, sea lions, fishes, flounders and rays which also populate these waters. We can assure you that coming back from a dive on Darwin will make you want to pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming.
The long journey to Wolf Island will definitely be worth the effort. Wolf was named after a German geologist who established for the first time the true nature of the Galapagos' geology. Around the island, a possibility of dive sites with safe anchorage is available for experienced divers. With fast currents, the drift dives are spectacular and large animals will be at the rendezvous. Schools of hammerheads are swimming along the reefs and large pelagics like whale sharks or eagle rays might be lurking in the blue.
Cousin's Rock is a small rock and the remains of an eroded volcano crater. A small number of birds and sea lions live on it, but the appeal is definitely underwater. This wall dive with strong currents features plenty of black coral, which appear green underwater and provide perfect camouflage for seahorses and other experts in disguise, such as octopus, hawkfishes and sometimes frogfishes. Schools of barracuda, green sea turtles, sea lions, eagle rays, mobulas and the occasional manta rays remind you that the Galapagos are truly a wonderful place to dive and that you need to keep your eyes everywhere!
Along the eastside of Isabela Island, the largest in the archipelago lying right on the equator, the site of Cabo Marshall or Cape Marshall can be found. This island is the only place in the Northern Hemisphere where you can find penguins in their natural habitat. The site is only accessible by liveaboards and is very renowned for its manta rays. If you don't get to see these giants, there is plenty of other action to keep you entertained: hammerheads, white-tip reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, sea lions, sea turtles and other fishes cruise past its volcanic cliffs. The seafloor and walls are covered by black coral and interesting anemone colonies grow on the rocks.
Bartoleme Island lies close off the eastern side of Santiago Island and opposite Sulivan Bay. This cove was formed by the lava flow of a volcano and the whole area will evoke a lunar landscape with comes and craters sticking out. The most famous remain of this geological change is the very easily recognised "Pinnacle Rock" on Bartoleme. It's the guardian of two beautiful sandy beaches, which are popular for swimming and snorkelling, and host a small colony of Galapagos penguin.
The amazing land scenery of Bartoleme is reciprocated underwater and your dives around the islet will surprise you. The rock formations are stunning and covered in black coral, as well as anemones. Hammerheads, turtles, sea lions, manta rays, eagle rays and Galapagos sharks are frequent visitors, while schools of tropical fishes are twirling around. If you think this is not enough, let us tell you that Bartoleme is not famous for all of the above, but for a much smaller inhabitant: the beautiful Pacific sea horses. With great visibility pretty much all-year round, Bartoleme will have a special place in your heart.
Want to go? Check out the Schedules and Prices HERE