Diving in the Galapagos

Galapagos Spotlight: Diving at Academy Bay

This week we put our Galapagos Spotlight on diving at Academy Bay. The bay’s convenient location on the island of Santa Cruz and its four sites of varying levels of difficulty make it a popular diving spot for beginner, intermediate and experienced divers alike.

Academy Bay is located close to the town of Puerto Ayora. It’s easily accessible and is one of the few dive sites that can be visited in half a day. The whole trip generally lasts around five hours.

There are four sites, two of which have calm currents and are ideal for non-experienced divers. The other two sites are more suited to intermediate or advanced divers as the current is stronger.

You will see a variety of marine life at Academy Bay, including reef fish, sea lions, sting rays, golden rays, eagle rays, invertebrates, morays, garden eels, turtles, marine iguanas and white-tipped reef sharks.

There are several agencies in Puerto Ayora offering trips to Academy Bay, either as a single trip or in combination with a visit to another dive site.

Academy Bay’s four sites are:

  • Punta Estrada: this site is located in one of the calmer areas and is therefore ideal for those who haven’t dived before. The site has an abundance of golden rays and white-tipped reef sharks, and, as this is also a sea turtle canyon, you’ll have the opportunity to dive with green sea turtles.
  • Caamaño Islet: this is the second of the sites offering calmer currents and is also suitable for beginners. You’ll spot a variety of tropical fish, marine iguanas and playful sea lions.
  • Punta Nuñez Cliffs: here you’ll find lava rock cliffs with underwater lava tunnels which form wonderful caves – great for exploring. You’ll see sea turtles, stingrays, tropical fish, white-tipped reef sharks and sometimes manta rays. This site is suitable for intermediate divers.
  • El Bajo: the ocean currents are usually calm but stronger than the other sites. This is a submarine platform that has mini-walls and a great quantity of marine life such as large schools of reef fish, rays, white-tipped reef sharks and sea turtles. Intermediate and experienced divers will love this site.

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Photo credit: Flickr/Anthony Patterson

Man arrested for attempted smuggling of Galapagos iguanas

The Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment has reported that a man has been arrested for attempting to smuggle 11 iguanas out of the Galapagos Islands. 

The man, who has not been named but is said to be Mexican, was caught with the iguanas in his vehicle in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island on Sunday 6 September. Officials believe he was attempting to smuggle the iguanas with the help of others who had been posing as tourists. The suspect is said to have a history of trafficking animals and previously served a 4.5 month prison sentence for illegally smuggling reptiles out of New Zealand. The arrest reportedly follows a three-month investigation by the Ministry into an international network of wildlife trafficking.

The suspect has now been transferred to a prison in Guayaquil on Ecuador’s mainland, and is facing a possible three year sentence if found guilty of attempting to smuggle a protected species. 

The iguanas – nine marine iguanas and two land iguanas – were said to be in a good condition and were being monitored by officials. 

In 2013, a German man was also caught attempting to smuggle iguanas out of the Galapagos Islands and was subsequently sentenced to four years in prison.

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Photo credit: Flickr/Rudy R

Galapagos penguins

Galapagos Islands in September

To read an updated version of this article click here.

We take a look at what’s going on in the Galapagos Islands during the month of September.

  • September is the start of the breeding season for sea lions so you’ll be sure to see a lot of sea lion activity – males can often be observed aggressively patrolling their territories (be sure to keep well out of their way!) 
  • Penguins are also very visible during this month: it’s a great time to spot and even snorkel with them, particularly on Bartolome Island
  • The cooler waters at this time of year means lots of potential whale sightings
  • September sees the lowest rainfall of the year, while temperatures are comfortable (18-24°C) – ideal for walking
  • Waters can be choppy in September, so if you’re prone to sea-sickness a land-based tour is recommended
  • September and October are low season, meaning you can find some great deals on tours and cruises, and tourist numbers are generally lower

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Photo credit: Flickr/Benjamin Jakabek