Galapagos / Ecuador
Quito, Galapagos Islands, Isla Lobos, San Cristobal Island, Wolf Island, Darwin Island
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Hammerhead schools swirl and manta rays cruise in the Galapagos. Sea lions swim past juvenile whale sharks while turtles elegantly pass eagle rays and endemic species. This is one of the world's most revered dive destinations, and there's never a dull moment in the water. An 8-day Galapagos liveaboard diving cruise trip takes you to the archipelago's finest dive sites, including four days on Wolf and Darwin Islands. A few days on San Cristobal unveils equally enchanting seabirds and reptiles.
Quito - Overnight in a World Heritage City
Flights to the Galapagos depart early in the morning so an overnight stay in Quito is unavoidable. But this is no tedious layover. You're greeted at the airport and transferred to a hotel in a 17th-century heritage building. You're in the heart of old Quito, the first ever World Heritage site and a delightful world of ancient terraces and palaces. Spend the afternoon slowly exploring; relax at early 16th-century squares, wander through golden churches, and sip coffee or beer in the courtyards once owned by conquistadores. Quito is an elegant and gentle introduction to any vacation and more than just a stopover on route to the Galapagos.
Galapagos Islands - Check Dive and First Galapagos Impressions
Fly over the archipelago and it's hard to contain the excitement. While there are many islands and islets beneath the wingtips, the overall impression is of empty ocean space. Land in San Cristobal and you're transferred directly to your liveaboard boat. This 16-passenger boat has air-conditioned cabins and a spacious deck for relaxing after your dives. Meals are served in a decorated restaurant and there's always a place to escape to if you're looking for privacy. Meet the crew and have lunch on board before your first dive.
Many Galapagos dive sites are reserved for advanced divers. Strong swirling currents and 30-meter depths mean this isn't a place for beginners. The first dive is from the shore at Isla Lobos and will reach nine meters. It's a chance to check whether you're happy with the equipment and revisit any skills if it's been awhile since your last dive. The dive masters will ensure you are all caught up, and will assist in buddying you with another diver for the trip. Consider reading more about your Galapagos tour operators who strive to make every dive unique and breathtakingly amazing. Sea turtles swim past, large schools of fish pick at eclectic coral, and there's usually a first sighting of reef sharks. Return to the boat where dinner is served and you enjoy the first night of dramatic starry skies.
Galapagos Islands - Rays and Huge Fish Schools
Along the sandy bottom at Punta Carrion you must look closely to see the rays. They're expertly camouflaged, just an eye and tail betraying their stealth. Cruise along a reef wall and these rays wait patiently on the ocean floor, occasionally darting away with trademark precision. Today's two dives introduce you to the huge diversity of the marine world here. Rays are joined by dozens of strange tropical fish, eels hide beneath large boulders, and there's even a few sea lions cruising the depths. You'll get first glimpses of different shark species and encounter gargantuan schools of pelagic fish. After two morning dives, you spend the afternoon on North Seymour Island, where vast colonies of blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigates seek out mates. Walk slowly and silently and you'll see the males vividly posturing, either displaying their bright feet or inflated throat sacks. Back on board you depart for the far Northern Islands, an overnight journey of around 16 hours.
Day 4 - 5
Galapagos Islands - Multiple Ray and Shark Species at the Galapagos' Most Revered Dive Island
This liveaboard itinerary is centered around four days on Wolf and Darwin Islands. These two islands are the pinnacle of Galapagos diving, and it's impossible not be wowed by the abundance of huge marine creatures. Schools of hammerhead sharks are a norm, sometimes over 50 of them circling and swirling together. Galapagos sharks cruise through the reefs and large dolphin pods often grace their feeding grounds. Sea turtles are so plentiful they blend into the landscape while different ray species compete for your attention. And then there are the gigantic whale sharks swimming past to steal the limelight. You don't even need to be in the water. Dolphin pods and sea lions regularly poke their heads from the water just meters from the boat.
Enjoy four dives around Wolf Island. Morning dives go deep, with hammerheads, silky sharks, and eagle rays the most enchanting of highlights. Then an afternoon and night dive showcase the completely diversity of the area, like mammoth mantas silhouetted below, octopi arriving from the depths, and red-lipped batfish. Day five offers two more dives here and there's never a dull moment. With so many sharks and rays, every minute seems to come from a Jacques Cousteau documentary. The visuals can be outrageous and all the dreams of Galapagos diving come to fruition. Peruvian grunts, jacks, wahoo, amberstripe scad, and it's not just a few of them; these sites explode with life and there's always a shark charging through the melee. Return to the boat and continue the cruise north, where you dock overnight besides Darwin Island.
Day 6 - 7
Galapagos Islands - An Incredible Abundance of Oceanic Giants
Huge hammerhead schools dominate Darwin Island and it's always an intimate encounter, their indelible frames cruising just meters away. As you drift along there's a series of Galapagos sharks and eagle rays keeping you entertained. Silky sharks meander and the distant swimming grace of a juvenile whale shark. But there's much more than these revered highlights. Butterflyfish and anglefish swarm in large numbers, as do a menagerie of damsels, wrasses, and anthias. Hawkish and parrotfish keep you occupied and the proximity to dolphins is enough to make your heart sing.
You can enjoy four dives on day six and three on day seven, most of them strong drift dives around the wall. At some sites, you sail along and watch the parade, while at the Darwin Theatre you can explore a plateau that's packed with variety. Inquisitive turtles pass by and large numbers of garden eels poke their heads from hidden burrows. Everything from vivid shapes in the foreground to the distant mass of another shark below, the action never stops. Over the course of these dives you appreciate why the Galapagos Islands are so revered. So much of this ocean is protected and has never been fished, meaning the evolution of abundance hasn't been interrupted. And with three ocean currents converging, you encounter a diversity that's difficult to replicate elsewhere on the planet.
Galapagos Islands - Seahorses and Sea Lions
Even when you cruise back to the central Galapagos, the dive sites are still dominated by shark and ray sighting. Down in the depths of Cousin's Rock, it's also hard to miss spotted eagle rays and large barracuda schools. But this site also allows you to inspect the macro of Galapagos life. Diminutive sea horses float past octopi and bizarre nudibranch hide amongst forests of sea fans and red sponges. The dive experience becomes interactive as sea lions enter the water, the playful creatures somersaulting as they chase salema fish. After the northern islands, today brings two easy dives and a chance to add more diversity to the long list of species that have been spotted. After Cousin's Rock, you'll cruise to Santa Cruz and spend the afternoon on land. Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and explore the shops of Puerto Ayora.
Galapagos Islands - Luxury Along the Coast
Swap sea-legs for land-legs for the final few days of your Galapagos adventure. After a farewell breakfast, you check in to a luxury lodge on San Cristobal Island and have a day at leisure. A beautiful sandy beach is within easy walking distance, and there are always the antics of sea lions and marine iguanas keeping you company. Kayaks and snorkeling equipment are included should you wish to continue the marine exploration. The lodge is ideally situated for those wanting to be active, with numerous hiking trails taking you along a coastline patrolled by seabirds and endemic finches. And if you're looking to relax, it's hard to beat a few hours on the beach besides the sea lions. All meals are included at the lodge.
Galapagos Islands - Giant Tortoises and the Ancient Highlands
After descending into the marine blue, you now ascend into the lush green of the San Cristobal Highlands. Stark cliffs give way to expanses of deciduous forest and carpets of mowed grass. Giant tortoises fill these highlands, their 140-year old shells making a slow march across the lavish landscape. Like the sea turtles of the ocean, you're not just encountering a few giant tortoises. There's hundreds of them plodding around. Some try to bite necks as they assert dominance; youngsters meander through the reeds, and females escape the clutches of domineering males. Spend the day in these highlands, standing amongst a canvas of tortoise shells and gazing down on the green slopes of San Cristobal. Return to the lodge by mid-afternoon where there's ample time to relax at the beach or in the spacious grounds.
Galapagos Islands - Remarkable Nesting Sites and Red-Footed Boobies at Punta Pitt
Punta Pitt is one of the archipelago's most famous wildlife sites. Red-footed boobies hop on raised rocks, those with the most vibrant feet winning the attention of females. Nazca booby chicks stand curiously in small nests, their fluffy-white plumage resplendent in the morning sun. Also dancing around are blue-footed boobies, their feet complimented by blue beaks and a slither of blue feathers. Nowhere else in the world can you see these three species together. As the males give off an air of invincibility, seeking to impress the females. The females inspect feet and wait for the males to guide them to a nesting site. They wait, they ponder, and then flutter onwards to another outrageous pair of hopping feet.
Much like the Galapagos dive sites there's an intimacy to the wildlife experience on land. You're standing on trails adjacent to the breeding ground, barely a few meters from these flamboyant mating displays. These seabirds have few predators, and they don't change their behavior when you arrive with a camera. Spend the morning on land, wandering amongst the thousands of birds that inhabit the cliffs. There’s also a chance to snorkel from the shore or lounge on a quiet beach. Return to the lodge by mid-afternoon for another relaxing evening along the coast.
Galapagos Islands - Coral Sand and Beaches Filled with Seabirds
Step into history as you walk along the Cerro Brujo beach, one of the first Galapagos sites visited by Darwin. Pelicans take spindly steps through the shallows while marine iguanas creep across the sand. These incredible creatures have evolved to survive solely from salt-water, drinking from the ocean and expelling the salt with a flurry of sneezes. Blue-footed boobies are also found in abundance and you continue the love affair with sea lions. These are bachelor males: big, boisterous, and belligerent as they compete for a mate. Enjoy a final snorkel and wave farewell to the marine world before an hour of lounging on the white coralline-sand of what is ostensibly Ecuador's best beach.
Galapagos Islands - Departure
After 12 days on the islands, it's time to depart and return to the mainland. Wave farewell to the sea lions, share a last moment with the dive-bombing seabirds and depart from the airport on San Cristobal Island. You'll land back in Quito in the early afternoon where you have a few hours to unwind before your international departure.
- Discover the world-renowned dive sites of the Galapagos with an 8-day liveaboard diving cruise
- Explore the remarkable Galapagos world above the surface with four days in and around San Cristobal
- Dive beneath circling hammerhead schools and above the silhouettes of huge manta rays
- Visit iconic seabird nesting sites and watch the antics of blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigates
- Cruise around the very north of the Galapagos Archipelago and dive sites that can only be accessed by liveaboard boats, including four days at the Islands of Wolf and Darwin
- Sunbathe on white sand beaches that come alive with the antics of sea lions and marine iguanas
- Enjoy up to 20 dives in the Galapagos with each dive site offering an eclectic mix of unusual characters
An air of mystery floats through the Galapagos archipelago. Nothing seems quite real, whether you're watching the blue-footed dance of boobies or the juxtaposition of hammerhead schools and nudibranch. Giant tortoises grow to 550-pounds while diminutive fish clean parasites from gargantuan green sea turtles. Whole islands are painted red by volcanic history and then there are the reef walls that disappear into the abyss. These islands have evolved in isolation and the strange wildlife dances both above and beneath the water. Of the various Galapagos cruise and tours we offer, this customized itinerary takes you to the extremes of two interconnected worlds to discover. With eight days on a Galapagos liveaboard diving cruise, you'll dive to the most enigmatic and iconic of dive sites. Then four days on land allows you to bask on white beaches and hike through highlands of endemic creatures.
Three oceanic currents converge in the Galapagos, adding their respective nutrients to underwater volcanic cones and shields. This convergence zone attracts bizarre macro life, from two-centimeter high seahorses to vivid nudibranch. And it attracts the oceanic giants, including numerous shark species, various rays, and almost-impossible numbers of pelagic fish. Even after seven days it doesn't seem real, especially when junior whale sharks or sea lions suddenly join the hammerheads and mantas in the water. There's always abundance here; don't hope for a glimpsed shot of a reef shark, just drift on the current and see hundreds on a single dive. Galapagos diving is also intimate. The dive sites are devoid of other groups, and the program brings close encounters with all the famed marine life.
Choosing a liveaboard option is the best way to dive the Galapagos’ most renowned sites. These sites predominantly lie in the far north of the archipelago and are not accessible without a specialist liveaboard boat. After the western wonder of Punta Carrion, you'll cruise north to the remote islands of Darwin and Wolf, places where huge oceanic giants are a regular part of the scenery. Over these eight days, you can enjoy up to 20 dives, although note that some of these are only available to those with an advanced open water certification. Again, don't expect the odd shot of a hammerhead or manta. It's usually hard to keep count of how often they've graced a single dive. The luxurious boat provides excellent space and a good place to relax after a day's diving.
The Galapagos world doesn't just exist beneath the surface, even if you're encountering sea lions and seabirds while diving in the water. Completing the itinerary are four very relaxing days exploring the charming characters that inhabit the land. You stay at a luxury lodge on San Cristobal Island and journey to the oldest parts of the archipelago. Marvel at seabird breeding grounds and watch the mating antics of different boobies and magnificent frigates. You'll visit the highlands and stand amongst hundreds of giant tortoises as well as see coralline beaches filled with rumbustious sea lions. It becomes the perfect wildlife combination, a week of wonder beneath the surface and a few days of relaxation and weird characters above it. Even from your hotel it will be impossible to miss the dive-bombing of seabirds or the occasional dart of a land iguana. Welcome to a surreal world, one that will constantly take you by surprise over these two weeks.
$9,745 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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