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Diving in Ecuador

With one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, Ecuador should be included on every wildlife lover’s bucket list. Divers regularly log animals that can be seen nowhere else on Earth.

Diving in Ecuador

Quick facts

Ecuador is a sealife lover’s paradise, packed with species found nowhere else on Earth. Don’t expect to find coral reefs here, however. Instead the area features heavy current and nutrient rich waters that attract major pelagic action.

The majority of divers head straight for the Galapagos Islands. The waters surrounding this group of deep-sea, volcanic islands form a protected marine reserve where virtually no commercial fishing has occurred in the last five decades. This fact combined with the area’s deep sea upwellings create one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in the world. Divers can take advantage of everything this region has to offer on a liveaboard trip. These boats have the ability to travel to the northern dive sites, such as those around Darwin Island, Wolf Island and Punta Vicente Roca, which are too far from inhabited islands to be visited in a single day. Learning about Darwin’s concept of natural selection while gazing at large shoals of hammerheads and the awkwardly graceful mola mola is a once in a lifetime experience.

For those who wish to dive in Ecuador without the cost of traveling to the Galapagos, Machalilla National Park is known as the ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’ and features some of the same endemic species found in the famous archipelago. The national park, which is the only coastal national park in Ecuador, incorporates fog forest, dry forest, small islands and two larger islands, Salango and the small Isla de la Plata. Large groups of giant manta rays, whales and dolphins are commonly seen here during the right season. Unfortunately, the same level of protection has not been given to Machalilla National Park as has been seen in the Galapagos. Overfishing, pollution, poaching and deforestation are common problems in the region.

With as much to discover under the water as there is above, it’s no wonder than most divers dream of exploring underwater Ecuador at least once in their lifetime.

When to go

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Where to dive

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  • The Galapagos

    Diving in the Galapagos Islands is a truly unique experience. The islands are home to a staggering array of marine life, which are found nowhere else.

  • Manabí
USD 2,214Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
USD 2,175Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
USD 3,706Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
6 Reviews
USD 2,925Per trip
9 Reviews
USD 4,595Per trip
6 Reviews
USD 5,595Per trip

What to see

The number of marine species found in Ecuador is unreal. Certainly, there are too many to list in a short article. In general divers can expect to see black corals, large seahorses, four-eyed fishes plus more whales, sharks, dolphins and turtles than you can count.

In Darwin Island of the Galapagos, divers are rewarded with hundreds of Galapagos sharks, whale sharks and hammerhead sharks. Wolf Island features smaller life such as butterfly fish or trumpet fish as well as unique dolphin encounters. The colder Isla de la Plata hosts red-lipped batfish, horned sharks and the ever elusive mola mola. Other sightings in the Galapagos include marine iguanas, fur seals and sealions, and penguins.


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Found in northwest South America, Ecuador is a country in two hemispheres as it straddles the Equator. Ecuador also includes the Galapagos Islands which lie 600 miles (1000 kilometers) off the Pacific Coast.

Historically, Ecuador is known as the northernmost point of the Inca Empire. Previous to its incorporation in this ancient empire in fifteenth century, the country was home to a variety of indigenous groups. During the sixteenth century, Ecuador was colonized by the Spanish. The evidence of this colonization can still be seen in the official language, Spanish. Ecuador’s independence began in 1820 as a part of Gran Colombia. It became an independent state in 1830.

Since independence, Ecuador has struggled with military rule, wars for territory and indigenous rights. Today it remains a democracy with a developing economy, but its efforts to protect the diversity that naturally occurs within its borders is extraordinary. In 2008, it became the first country in the world to recognize the Rights of Nature within its constitution.

Other attractions

Ecuador is a natural playground for nature loving tourists. Visitors can explore the Amazon and the Galapagos, trek through the Andes, mountain bike down volcanos, surf on the Pacific coast, or shop in Quito’s markets. Travelers will also love the opportunity to straddle the Equator or visit the historical town of Cuenca. Whatever you are looking for, you are sure to find it in Ecuador.

Getting there

Most international travelers will arrive in Ecuador at one of two airports, either Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito or José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil. It is also possible to enter into Ecuador by bus from surrounding South American countries.

In order to travel around the country, buses, rental cars and domestic flights are available. To reach the Galapagos, a flight or overnight boat journey is necessary.

The best dive sites of the Galapagos in the northern part of the archipelago are best reached by liveaboard. These trips usually last one or more weeks and depart from Santa Cruz or Baltra.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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