Very few places live up to their reputations, especially places with reputations like that of the Galápagos. You have seen the pictures of massive whale sharks, vast schools of hammerheads, friendly sea lions and abundant sea turtles. Imagine my shock on my first trip when I saw all of that and more in just a week.
The Galápagos archipelago really comprises two different dive destinations in one. The southern islands have cool, green water. At Darwin and Wolf islands, 150 miles north, the water is warm and blue. Up north, you find the whale sharks and hammerheads that make the Galápagos so famous, but you need a live-aboard to get there.
Darwin Island is, in my opinion, one of the best dive sites in the world. It is uninhabited, except by wildlife, and there is only one dive site. But what a site! On a single dive in the high season you may see a dozen whale sharks, hundreds of hammerheads and schools of fish so thick they literally block out the sun. Dolphins occasionally buzz the divers for a look, and sea turtles appear at every turn all in 75-degree water with 80 to 100 feet of visibility.
When the time comes to head back to port, you have the opportunity to dive the cool water in the southern Galápagos, where you can play with cavorting sea lions, photograph sleeping whitetip reef sharks and even seahorses if you remembered to bring a macro lens to this wide-angle wonderland.
Destination PrimerAverage Water Temp: 60-70°F in the high season (south), 70-80°F in the high season (north)
What to Wear: 7 mm suit in south, 5 mm with2 mm hooded vest in north
Average Viz: 20-40 feet (south), 60-120feet (north)
When to Go: June-December