of this page - Photos
taken in the Galapagos - Galápagos dive
info (dive operators, liveaboards, dive safety) - Galápagos maps
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color) - Marine animals
seen underwater in the Galapagos (print version)
Champion Rock - Devil's Crown - Enderby - Gardner (Española) - Española - Floreana - Hancock Bank - Leon Dormido (Kickers Rock) - Punta Pitt - Punta Suarez - San Cristobal - Santa Maria
These islands lie in the south and east of the Galapagos archipelago. The water temperature here usually is a bit lower than the central islands. Some fish, that are more abundant in the western islands, the harlequin wrasse or black striped salemas are also more common here, because they prefer colder water.
Click on the names to jump to the dive site (not all places
Google Earth pictures: Española - Floreana - Gardner
Floreana island, about 50km to the south of Santa Cruz has a small settlement, Puerto Velasco Ibarra. Most visitors go to the north, to Punta Cormorán to see the sea lions and the lagoon with the mangrove forest, where flamingos can be found. The diving is done more to the north and west of Floreana. Floreana (Global Volcanism Program)
Corona del Diabolo - Flamingos
Corona del Diabolo (Onslow, Devil's Crown): This dive site is the eroded remains of a volcanic cone, a series of rocks with a shallow center pool. You dive on the outside on sand with huge jagged boulders reaching up to the surface. On the outside of the rocks where it is deeper and larger fishes like Jacks and sometimes hammerheads and reef sharks and turtles can be found. Fish cover everything like a moving carpet so sometimes you nearly don't see the rocks and the sand underneath. On the sheltered areas between the boulders are sometimes white tipped reef sharks and stingrays resting. A good chance to go close and have a good look. You will find smaller fish like hawkfishes, filefishes and schooling fishes like the King angelfishes, Creole fishes and grunts. East of the crown at about 20m depth is a colony of endemic garden eels. A well known place also good for snorkeling. The coral cover isn't so good anymore, since the El Nino event, when a lot of them died.
Enderby Island: This island has an amazing shape - like a half moon with extremely steep outer walls (similar to Tortuga island on Isabela - image). You start the dive at the inner sides and dive down to about 17m on a sandy area with large rocks and a lot of black coral bushes (Galapagos black coral Antipathes galapagensis). Then you continue east towards the tip of the half moon. When you reach a steep slope look our into the blue for the larger animals like sharks and rays. On our dive there was also a large school of barracudas hovering over the area. We dived down to 27m and also saw an eagle ray from up close. Currents picked up a bit and there was also some down current. When you reach the tip there is often a current against you, but if you manage to go around,you reach after a while a steep wall going down several hundred meters. On one dive we had so much current against us, that we just dived over the rocks and into a sheltered area. A huge school of black striped salema (Xenocys jessiae) was just hovering here over the sand, forming a tighter ball when we approached. Underneath our dive guide Leandro found a yellow Pacific seahorse (Hippocampus ingens). We saved its life, because a wrasse was attacking it and we chased him off...
Champion Rock is a beautiful drift dive on a wall. The walls are covered with black coral bushes and yellow cup corals and if you take a close look you are likely to find a Pacific seahorse with its tail around a branch of black coral or some of several species of hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus, Cirrhitichthys oxyphalus, Cirrhitus rivulatus) hiding among them. Here you also find green turtles which like to rest among the coral. There are always large schools of salema or surgeonfishes but If there is current there are also a lot of pelagic fish like sharks and rays gathering here. On the southwestern side there is a small cave near the surface.
The Pacific seahorse (Hippocampus ingens / español: Caballito de Mar del Pacífico / Deutsch: Pazifisches Seepferdchen) is the only seahorse in the eastern Pacific. It has very variable colorings, from reddish to gray, yellow, gold and various shades of brown. Around their eyes they have streaks and lines radiating. Adults have white light and dark markings. They are well camouflaged and are often found among black coral bushes and gorgonians or with their tail around seagrass. They feed on small crustaceans and zooplankton which are siphoned into their tubelike mouth. Although they are seen on reefs around corals, it seems that this seahorse spends a lot of its life in the open sea. About 24 to 29cm. Fact sheet marine animals / Photos of this animal
Española is not so high (206m) and is mainly known for the large colony of Galapagos Albatross birds living here. I had a close encounter with one of these bird while sitting on the edge of a steep cliff. Suddenly an Albatross coming from behind ran past me, not quite brushing me with its flapping wings. Albatross usually need to do some running, before they have enough velocity to take off, so it was quite fast. Of course I nearly dropped off the cliff from fright! The bird jumped over the edge and I just sat there and stared, while he glided gracefully over the water. There is also quite a large colony of blue-footed and Nazca boobies living on Española and a really nice landmark is the huge blowhole on a rocky plateau at Punta Suarez. Don't go too close or you get doused by the exploding water spout.
Coast - blowhole
Redish marine iguanas from Española
You dive at Islote Gardner and at the northeast side of the small island where the dive site is called Gardner's Seamount. Actually it is a bit confusing since there are two places on the Galapagos, called Gardner - one on Española, the other on Floreana, but most divers only visit this one lying to the northeast side of Española.
Islote Gardner: You dive on mini-walls with sand bottom, lava tunnels and towards the south large boulders and several caves. One of them is quite large and you can swim through to where it opens into a large chamber. Normally the currents are moderate but if they get stronger you can also see large pelagics here like sharks and rays and even hammerheads.
Gardner's Seamount (Gardner's Shallows or Bajo Gardner) lies to the northeast of islote Gardner and consitst of a couple of rocks which form the top of a sloping seamount. There usually is a moderate current which makes for relatively easy diving though there are often thermoclines. This is a nice dive site with much to see. If you are lucky you can encounter large schools of eagle rays, manta rays, Jacks, Galapagos shark, white tip reef sharks lying on the sandy area, mackerels and sea lions. This is a good place to see large schools of fish. On the sand there are garden eels and perhaps you you are likely to also see the redlipped batfish here and on the rocky areas you might find tiger snake eels (Myrichthys tigrinus) who have large dark oval spots.
Some of the common schooling fishes - Fact sheet marine animals
The Pacific Creole fish (Paranthias colonus or five spot anthias / español: Gringo) is probably the most common fish in the entire archipelago. It is olive to gray below and copper red above and has 3 or 5 white or dark spots on the back and the base of the deeply forked tail. Juveniles are yellow with blue markings under their eye and intermediates have a dark, ringed spot. They form huge aggregations in open water or above rocks where they feed on small fishes and plankton. They are an important source of food for the blue-footed boobies. About 35 cm. Photos of this animal
The King Angelfish (Holacanthus passer / español: Pez bandera / Deutsch: Kaiser von Mexico) is dark blue or black with a white vertical bar. Females have yellow pectoral fins, males white ones. Like with other angelfishes, the juveniles are colored differently, orange or hazel brown with blue vertical stripes and yellow pectoral fins. They also live north to Panama and Costa Rica and Baja California. King angelfishes are seen in the Galapagos often while cleaning larger fishes like hammerheads or mantas. They pick various parasites off them. They also feed on algea and small invertebrates. About 25 to 30cm. Photos of this animal
The Blacknosed Butterflyfish (Johnrandallia nigrirostris / español: Mariposa barbero / Deutsch: Putz-Falterfisch) is a small butterflyfish (13cm) found in the eastern Pacific. Likes rocky reefs down to 40m, mostly in large schools. The blacknosed butterflyfish gathers at cleaning stations, where they clean other fishes, picking off parasites from their skin. This kind of behavior I have also seen with bannerfishes (a relative of the butterflyfishes) in Lembongan, Indonesia, where they clean sunfishes. Photos of this animal
The Yellowtailed Surgeonfish (Prionurus laticlavius or razor surgeonfish / español: Chancho / Deutsch: Galapagos Sägedoktor) is only found in the East Pacific. This is the most common surgeonfish in the Galapagos, gray to silvery with small black dots and two dark stripes around the eyes and a yellow tail with three retractable spines at the base. They are seen in large schools usually in shallow water. Juveniles are yellow and also school. Feed on algae attached to rocks. About 46cm. Photos of this animal
There are several species of grunts common to the islands with three endemic species: the White Salema (Xenichthys agassizi) and the Blackstriped Salema (Xenocys jessiae) which are quite common and the Galapagos grunt (Orthopristis forbesi) which was recorded only in Fernandina. Salemas are an impressive sight, since they form immense schools above rocky reefs, sandy areas and slopes. The Golden-eyed Grunt (Haemulon scudderi) and the Yellowtail Grunt (Anisotremus interruptus - Burrito - Yellow-tailed grunt) are also very common, but not endemic. Other endemic fishes in the Galapagos / Photos of this animal
Click on the names to jump to the dive site (not all places
Google Earth pictures: Leon Dormido (Kickers Rock) - Punta Pitt - San Cristobal
San Cristóbal is the most eastern islands of the Galapagós and thus geologically speaking one of the oldest and has a settlement at Puerto Barquerizo Moreno with a harbor and airport. The 730m high Cerro San Joaquin in the lush green south is the eroded remains of a volcano. Visitors site are all on the southwest of the island (Frigate hill, Isla Lobos), the diving is done in the west and northeast. San Cristóbal (Global Volcanism Program)
The most well known dive site is the Kickers Rock, a small islet that rises steeply to 148m (some say 152m), with a massive split through the middle. From far it looks like a sleeping lion, thus the Spanish name Leon Dormido. This is the remnant of a tuff cone, so it is actually a pillar of compacted ash. No seals can live here, but underwater are huge schools of salemas and Jacks, barracuda, rainbow runners and Galapagos sharks. On the rocks live nudibranchs, crustaceans and other invertebrates. The dive is interesting because you can dive in the narrow channel with the vertical cliffs on both sides - very impressive. Underwater the better part is actually outside, usually on the west where you can also find large fish like sharks and rays.
Isla Lobos: Dive site for check-out dives, about an hour from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. An easy dive with lots of playful sea lions and some rays - a nice place to start a liveaboard trip...
Punta Pitt lies at the most northeastern point of San Cristobal. This part of the island is very arid. This is the only place, you can see all three species of boobies at the same time. There is a whole colony of red-footed boobies (the other one is on Tower) and you also can see Nazca (masked) and blue-footed boobies. You dive on the southeast side of an exposed rock. Here the surge hits quite hard but it is also good for large schools of fish like grunts, snappers and jacks. I have heard, that during the warm season there are even whale sharks sighted here.
Boobies - Fact sheet marine animals
Boobies belong to the family Sulidae. In the Galapagos, there are three species of boobies: the red-footed booby, the blue-footed booby and the Nazca booby (formerly Masked booby). They have a similar body shape and are differated by the color of their completely webbed feet and their size. You can distinguish males from females by voice - males whistle and the females honk.
The blue footed booby (Sula nebouxii / español: piquero patas azul / Deutsch: Blaufusstölpel) is mostly found at the center and edges of the archipelago (Española, Daphne, and North Seymour). As the name suggests they have amazing blue feet. Females have a ring of dark pigment around their pupils, making them look bigger than those of the males. Courtship, mating and nesting occur year round. The blue-footed boobies nest on the ground and often make a guano ring around the nest area. They lay up to three eggs and in a good year they can raise all three chicks. Blue-footed boobies fish very close inshore in shallow water. Boobies are plunge divers and their dive is spectacular. They have good eyes and can spot fish from about 10m up and then dive down into the water with their wings folded back. You often see small groups of boobies flying in formation looking for fish. If you are lucky can see them underwater while you are diving!
The red-footed booby (Sula sula / español: piquero patas rojo / Deutsch: Rotfusstölpel) have red feet and a blue bill with a red base. It is actually the most numerous of the Galapagos boobies, but since it lives at the outlying islands (Genovesa and Punta Pitt - see above) it also is the least frequently seen. Red-footed boobies fish well out at sea and thus always are gone for a while. This is probably the reason why of the boobies on Galapagos only the red-footed booby builds nests in trees. They lay only one egg and raise one chick. This usually happens when there is plenty of food and can occur at any time in the year. The red-footed booby is with about 74cm the smallest.
The Nazca booby (Sula granti - formerly Sula dactylatra grand / español: piquero enmascarado / Deutsch: Nazca Maskentölpel) is pure white with a black band at the edges of the wings and the end of the tail. They have a yellow or pinkish bill and there is a blackish area of bare skin surrounding the bill which looks like a mask. They are found on most islands (good places are Genovesa, Española, Daphne). Nazca boobies fish a bit farther out than blue-footed boobies. They have an annual breeding cycle. They nest near cliffs on the ground and lay two eggs, several days apart, so the older chick is much bigger than the younger. If the older chick survives, it will push its younger sibling out of the nest. However if the older chick dies, there is still a chance, that the younger chick will survive. With about up to 89cm it is the largest of the Galapagos boobies. Nazca boobies were formerly regarded as a subspecies of the Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) but the Nazca Booby is now recognized as a separate species.
0-200m / 200-400m
/ then 400m-contour intervals to 3200m below sea
Click on the names to jump to the dive areas.
taken in the Galapagos
Anchorage - Channel - Darwin - Darwin's Arch (Rock Arch) - Darwin Bay (Genovesa) - Genovesa - Hat Island - Landslide (Wall) - Marchena - Pinaculos - Pinta - Punta Espejo - Shark Bay - Tower Rock - Underwater Rock - Wolf
Academy Bay - Albany Rock - Bainbridge Rocks - Baltra - Bartolomé - Beagle Rocks - Coamaño - Cousin's Rock - Daphne - El Bajo Solmar - Gordon's Rock - Guy Fawkes - James Bay - La Lavadora - Mosquera - Nameless Rock - North Seymour - Piedra Blanca - Pinzon - Plaza islands - Punta Estrada - Rabida - Santa Cruz - Santa Fe - Santiago - Sombrero Chino
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. Copyright Teresa Zubi