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It’s a long way to Tipperary, but it’s even further to the Galapagos. Far as it is though, this tiny archipelago is possibly the most famous natural habitat on the planet. We have a 19th century naturalist to thank for that. And if you have never heard of Charles Darwin, perhaps you are a member of a lost hill tribe.
Darwin put the Galapagos on the map and thanks to his seminal work the ‘Origin of Species’ these rocky Pacific islands have stayed at the forefront of scientific thinking ever since.
There is something very special about the Galapagos islands that entices divers and nature lovers from across the globe. So popular are they that the government has developed some unique protocols to keep mankind and nature living together in a sort of symbiotic relationship, like a clownfish and anemone.
The popularity also means planning and patience is required. My friends’ group waited two years for their trip. Smaller parties can sometimes find last minute places, but larger groups usually need some forward planning. So if you are thinking of heading to dive the Galapagos on a liveaboard or land based, then get in quickly as spaces go fast. Although saying that, at the moment, Planet Dive Holidays does have some spaces for 2014 and 2015 available. See the itineraries here: http://www.planetdiveholidays.com/liveaboards/itineraries/ecuador-galapagos/ecu
The Galapagos Islands are owned by Ecuador in Central America. The 18 major islands straddle the equator and are volcanic in origin. So on paper they are just rocky outcrops in the ocean. Look closer though, and you see they sit on an intersection of currents and have been isolated from any mainland since they rose from the seabed. This situation has allowed the development of diverse and unique life on land and has created one of the most spectacular underwater environments on the planet.
The Galapagos has cold, temperate and warm water habitats, meaning in one trip you can see extreme species like penguins and whalesharks – no other diving location can offer that.
Galapagos diving therefore is unrivaled. Yes there are easier places to get to; there are better places to see certain species; there are even less expensive places to go, but get on a Galapagos liveaboard and do one trip and all of the hindrances will drop away. The place is like nothing on else on the planet and is, therefore, rated as one of the world’s best diving locations.
Divers can stay on land, most though opt for a liveaboard as they take you to remote locations such as the remote outlying Wolf Island and Darwin Island. This is not the Red Sea though. There are only four Galapagos liveboards who can take divers to the Wolf and Darwin Islands. Planet Dive Holidays offers all four – the Galapagos Aggressor, Galapagos Master Deep, Galapagos Sky and the Humboldt Explorer.
Why do you need to get to Wolf and Darwin islands? Quite simply they offer the best Galapagos diving experience. What you see here can leave the rest of the superb Galapagos diving in the dust. Take a look at a recent You tube video to see what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bI0fhaRi5KU
In addition to penguins, iguanas, silky sharks, hammerhead sharks, mantas, turtles and the great shoals of fish, the Galapagos is one of the top diving destinations to see adult whalesharks. July to December is the best season for these oceanic wanderers as it is the dry season and the whalesharks come to get a fill of the plankton rich cooler water at this time of year.
Galapagos liveaboards generally run 7 night itineraries and guests usually stretch out a trip to make the most of the long journey. When you factor in the need for connecting flights, and the distance, a trip here needs a decent commitment of time and so many add on excursions on land – to see the land based wildlife – and in Ecuador – to see cultural sites around Quito as well as perhaps the Andes and Amazon basin. Planet Dive Holidays can sort islands and mainland excursions and offer advice on where to go and what to try and see.
Diving the Galapagos islands is something many people think about. It’s akin to diving Truk Lagoon or visiting Antarctica. It’s an easier option than both of those and one that I think will leave you more fulfilled. So if you are looking for what many travel agents call a ‘trip of a lifetime’ check out a Galapagos liveaboard and immerse yourself in the real Origin of Species.
By Gavin Parsons