The Galapagos Islands off Ecuador have some of the best marine shows in the world for scuba divers. This historical site of over 20 volcanic islands is famous for its wildlife and marine life and is a key area for conservation efforts, making a Galapagos liveaboard trip an incredible experience for any diver.
Most of the area is a national park where commercial fishing is banned, while 20% of the marine life is native to the area. The waters around the Galapagos Islands are rich in nutrients which make the underwater world thrive with life and activity.
From whale sharks and rays to marine iguanas and hammerheads, the Galapagos Islands are one of the top rated scuba diving destinations in the world.
To help find the right Galapagos liveaboard for you, we’ve put together this guide to show you everything you need to know to make the best decision.
QUICK ANSWER: THE BEST GALAPAGOS LIVEABOARD
- MV GALAPAGOS SKY
- GALAPAGOS AGGRESSOR III
- MY NORTADA
- GALAPAGOS MASTER
- HUMBOLDT EXPLORER
THE 6 BEST GALAPAGOS LIVEABOARD BOATS – A COMPARISON
5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN DIVING WITH A LIVEABOARD IN GALAPAGOS
1. TIME OF YEAR
There are two distinct seasons for the Galapagos Islands: wet and dry. The wet season runs from December to June with warmer water temperatures from 68℉ up to 82℉ in January (20℃ to 28℃). However there are still some sites with cooler temperatures where adequate protection including a hood is mandatory.
June to November is the dry season but cooler with temperatures ranging from 66℉ to 73℉ (19-23℃). The dry months are the peak tourist season and also when there is the highest chance of seeing multiple whale sharks. However the seas can be rougher during this time.
January through to May is still a pleasant time to visit with warmer waters and better chances of manta ray encounters or seeing hammerheads in action.
Visibility is typically between 30 to 70 feet (10-20m).
2. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE?
The Galapagos Islands are famous for their diverse marine life. Whale sharks, schools of hammerheads, Galapagos sharks and marine iguanas typically provide some of the most exciting action underwater. But you can also expect to see mantas and other rays, sea lions, penguins and turtles and many pelagic fish species.
Most of the liveaboards also offer land excursions, including the Darwin Centre research facility, so consider how much other wildlife you would like to see and choose a dive boat which runs excursions to the islands if you wish to spend some time on land.
3. GROUP SIZE
Most diving liveaboards in the Galapagos have a maximum of 16 divers. However if you want a truly intimate experience, you can choose a liveaboard with only 8 guests, or a bigger dive boat with more dive professionals. Some boats only have one or two dive professionals for the entire group, while others have more with a maximum number of 4-5 divers per guide.
4. DIVING ABILITY AND EXPERIENCE
Diving in the Galapagos is for advanced divers. The waters can be very choppy and there are moderate to strong currents which require divers to hold on to rocks to secure their position in a drift. All diving is done from an inflatable dinghy, with a back roll entry. Some liveaboards will offer dive training and certification but it’s preferable to have at least 60 logged dives to ensure you can make the most of your trip without endangering yourself or others due to inexperience.
5. DIVER PROTECTION
Divers need to wear appropriate protection underwater, not just for warmth. There are certain dive sites which require you to be stationary to observe the marine show happening in front of you, when you may get cold. You’ll also need protection from other objects such as rocks and barnacles. Be sure to have adequate dive gloves to protect your hands as you may be required to hold on to the rocks in strong currents.
The water is saltier around the Galapagos Islands so you will need to adjust your buoyancy to compensate.
VIDEO: SCUBA DIVING IN GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR
GALAPAGOS LIVEABOARD REVIEWS
THE BEST 6 GALAPAGOS LIVEABOARD BOATS OF 2017
MV GALAPAGOS SKY
Photo Credit: MV Galapagos Sky Liveaboard
The 100ft (30m) Galapagos Sky is a custom built dive boat with eight cabins. It has a maximum capacity of 16 guests and 11 crew, with two dive professionals on board.
The Galapagos Sky has a spacious dive deck, air conditioning, a battery charging station and a separate rinse area for camera equipment. Staff speak Spanish and English.
Nitrox, wreck, shark, manta and whale shark diving are all available, as well as snorkelling options. It is an ideal liveaboard for those wanting to dive with nitrox as the nitrox is free.
GALAPAGOS AGGRESSOR III
Photo Credit: Galapagos Aggressor III Liveaboard
The Aggressor is a 100ft (30m) dive boat carrying up to 16 guests around the Galapagos Islands. Nitrox and internet is available for a charge; in fact it’s one of the only liveaboards in the region with internet available, so this is an ideal option for those working remotely.
The captain has been on the boat for 17 years so you can be sure of being taken to the best sites. With wildlife tours and land excursions, there are plenty of non-diving activities and sightseeing to do as well.
The Aggressor has small diving groups with just 4-5 divers per guide.
It’s also ideal for photographers and videographers with a complete photo and video centre, as well as a hot tub, salon and sun deck with shading. Both PADI and SSI training options are available.
Photo Credit: MY Nortada Liveaboard
The Nortada is an extremely intimate dive liveaboard with a maximum capacity of just eight guests. The 85ft (25m) has one dive professional on board and five crew, offering a close knit and cosy diving experience.
The Nortada runs land excursions for more wildlife spotting, as well as a shore excursion to Darwin station – the biological research station and breeding centre run by the Charles Darwin Foundation. This liveaboard also offers rebreather and technical diving support.
Photo Credit: Galapagos Master Liveaboard
The 105ft (32m) Master was completely refitted in 2014. It caters for up to 16 guests, with 10 crew on board including two dive professionals.
This eco-friendly liveaboard has a has a 2-tier camera station with separate fresh water rinse tanks for photographers and videographers of all levels. The indoor camera station includes plenty of charging ports and storage drawers which is ideal for a photography charter group. The Master also offers land excursions and snorkelling options. The Galapagos Master is a great choice for the environmentally conscious diver who wants an eco-friendly dive boat.
Photo Credit: Humboldt Explorer Liveaboard
The 111ft (34) Humboldt Explorer is a spacious dive boat with a maximum capacity of 16 guests. It has eight double cabins and a large dive deck with gear bins, camera table, recharge station as well as air and nitrox filling stations. There are also separate rinse tanks for photographers and videographers.
The Humboldt Explorer has seven crew on board with two dive professionals, with land excursions, snorkelling and fishing opportunities available. There’s also a jacuzzi and onboard dive shop. Divers can complete PADI certification from Open Water to specialties such as underwater photography, as well as SDI and TDI certifications.
Photo Credit: Astrea Liveaboard
The Astrea is a smaller boat at just 83ft (25m) and was custom-built for diving. The Astrea is the most affordable and the best deal for divers on a budget. It can host up to 16 guests, with nine crew and two dive professionals.
The eight cabins all have private ensuite bathrooms with air conditioning through both decks. There’s an entertainment centre in the main lounge for watching movies or listening to music.
The Astrea also offers a trip to the Darwin Centre for a non-diving educational opportunity. Full gear rental is available and nitrox can be used for a fee. Divers should have completed at least 50 dives similar conditions.