Galapagos Shark Research Insights & Photography Dive Liveaboard

Aqua-Firma's Shark Research Insights and Photography Dive Liveaboard expeditions, are hosted by some of the world's foremost Whale Shark researchers. These includes the Founder of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, Dr Simon Pierce; and MMF Principal Scientist, Dr Chris Rohner.

These scientists conduct their work throughout the world, but the Galapagos is one of their highest priorities since it is the best place to see huge females, which can reach up to 18 metres or more in length. Joining this liveaboard will provide you with a unique opportunity to find out the very latest in whale shark research; as well as insights into other species of sharks and rays, plus local endemic species such as marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins and more. It also helps to fund the work of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, in the Galapagos and beyond.

Video and Photography

All of our hosts are highly accomplished with their cameras, with Simon prioritizing stills photography and Chris leaning more towards video. Onboard workshops will provide you with the opportunity to learn how to get the best out of your underwater camera gear; and how to use software to edit your prized images.

Liveaboard trips are the only way to reach two of the Galapagos' most important diving highlights: Wolf Rock and Darwin. These are some 16 hours across the water from the rest of the islands and it is here where you will find some of the largest schools of Hammerhead Sharks you are likely to see anywhere in the world. This is also one of the best places in the world to dive with Whale Sharks.

There is a huge amount more to see at these dive sites and others, including Giant Manta Rays, blue spotted rays, sealions, white tip sharks, Galapagos penguins and endemic marine iguanas. Our guests have even seen schools of dolphins underwater so large that they have been impossible to count in amongst the hammerhead sharks.

Best Time to Go

Hammerhead sharks aggregate in schools at Wolf Rock and Darwin throughout the year. Whale shark sightings are more seasonal. You are very likely to see whale sharks between June and October. Giant Manta Rays are most commonly seen during the warmer water months of November to June.



Galapagos sea temperatures are always cooler than you would usually expect on the Equator. They are at their warmest around the New Year with sea surface temperatures reaching about 23oC (73oF). They reach their coolest in August when sea surface temperatures drop to about 18oC (64oF). In both seasons, thermoclines can take temperatures down by as much as 5oC (9oF). Typical underwater wear would be a 7mm wetsuit with hood, but the ability to layer is useful since temperatures can vary considerably between the warmer north and colder south of the island group.

The Boats

Our liveaboards are 16 passenger motor yachts with combinations of twin, double and triple cabins with en suite bathrooms. Divers will head out in two separate Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs). For photographs, please click on the Itinerary tab above.

Prior Experience Required

Diving conditions in the Galapagos are not the easiest. You will need to be PADI Advanced or equivalent to join this trip, with about 50 dives or more experience and some of those dives conducted in the months leading up to the trip so that you are fully prepared. Preparation is something we can discuss and assist with in advance.

Seeing more of the Galapagos & Ecuador

To see more of the terrestrial wildlife, marine life, fantastic scenery and diverse habitats of the Galapagos, we have set up 8-day island-hopping Wildlife, Marine Life & Photography trips adjoining all of these dive liveaboard experiences. These will all be led by the same marine biologist hosting your liveaboard trip, plus local guides trained by the Charles Darwin Research Station and Aqua-Firma director & photographer Ralph Pannell, who has been working in conservation and travel in Ecuador for more than 20 years.

If you would like to see more of mainland Ecuador as well, Ralph, formerly of the charity Rainforest Concern, will also be leading week-long journey combining the most biodiverse area of our planet: the Tropical Andes … with our biggest tropical wilderness: the Amazon. Visit or Tropical Andes to Amazon page for details.

Itinerary

Galapagos Shark Research Insights & Photography Itinerary (2022)

All of our liveaboard trips follow an itinerary agreed with the Galapagos National Park and are accompanied by a natural history guide trained by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The precise itinerary is subject to change without notice according to National Park requirements, prevailing weather conditions and the decision of the captain.

(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)

Day 1: Arrive Galapagos & afternoon check out dive (L,D)

You will be met upon arrival in the Galapagos and be taken to the liveaboard yacht.

Galapagos Dive Liveaboard Humboldt Explorer

Lunch and briefing

Afternoon check out dive at Isla Lobos off the coast of San Cristobal island.

Galapagos Dive Liveaboard Humboldt Explorer twin cabin

Day 2: Punta Carrion & North Seymour (B,LD)

AM: 2 dives at Punta Carrion

Afternoon North Seymour land visit. Walk the path around North Seymour Island to see the large colonies of Blue Footed Boobies and Frigate Birds. Sighting of Sea Lions and Marine Iguanas are also common.

PM: Head north to Wolf Rock and Darwin.

 

Day 3: Wolf Island (B,L,D)

Up to 4 dives at Wolf Island.

Possible additional night dive.

Galapagos Dive Liveaboard Humboldt Explorer dining

Day 4: Wolf & Darwin (B,L,D)

AM: 2 dives at Wolf Island

Transit to Darwin Island.

PM: 2 dives at Darwin Island.

Galapagos Shark Diving & Photography panga

Day 5: Darwin Island

Up to 4 dives at Darwin Island.

Day 6: Wolf Island (B,L,D)

Up to 3 dives at Wolf Island.

Overnight steam back to main Galapagos island group.

Day 7: Cousin Rock & Santa Cruz (B,L,D)

AM: 2 dives at Cousin Rock.

PM: Land trip to see the giant tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz and possible visit to the town of Puerto Ayora. Dinner ashore.

Day 8: Galapagos Interpretation Centre (B)

AM: Beach visit to a location where sealions and marine iguanas are usually seen.

Visit to the Galapagos Interpretation Centre.

You will leave the boat and then be transferred to San Cristobal airport.

Galapagos Shark Research Insights & Photography Itinerary (2023, 2024 & 2025)

All of our liveaboard trips follow an itinerary agreed with the Galapagos National Park and are accompanied by a natural history guide trained by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The precise itinerary is subject to change without notice according to National Park requirements, prevailing weather conditions and the decision of the captain.

(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)

Day 1: Arrive Galapagos & afternoon check out dive (L,D)

You will be met upon arrival at Baltra Island airport in the Galapagos and be taken to the liveaboard yacht.

AQUA Galapagos Dive Liveaboard Yacht

Lunch and briefing

Afternoon check out dive at off the north east coast of Baltra Island (South Seymour).

AQUA-FIRMA Galapagos Dive Liveaboard Yacht upper deck

Day 2: Diving at Cape Marshall & the City of Mantas

Cape Marshall is on the northeastern side of Isabela Island's Wolf Volcano. The landscape is harsh lava, whilst the coast has many rock bays which are home to families of sealions, blue-footed boobies and the endemic flightless cormorant. The so-called City of Mantas is a site where Giant Mantas are a frequent sight, especially November to June. They come here to feed in plankton-rich waters. These are good waters, too, for seeing huge schools of tiny salema fish.

AQUA-FIRMA Galapagos Dive Liveaboard Yacht double cabinLower deck double cabin

AQUA-FIRMA Galapagos Dive Liveaboard Yacht upper deck twin cabin
Upper deck twin cabin

Day 3: Darwin Island

Darwin Island is simply one of the best dive sites on our planet. We would hope to see large schools of hammerhead sharks here, along with Galapagos sharks and huge female whale sharks. You will have the opportunity to dive up to 4 times here today.

The famous landmark of Darwin's Arch is now a pair of rock towers, since the connection between eroded and collapsed on 17th May, 2021.

Charles Darwin's Arch Galapagos Islands

Day 4: Darwin & Wolf Islands

You will begin with 2 dives at Darwin Island before proceeding for a further 2 dives at another of the world's greatest dive locations: Wolf Island. The cliffs at Wolf are not quite as steep as Darwin Island and there is a relatively protected bay you will moor at overnight.

Both sites can be fantastic for Hammerhead Sharks. Wolf Islands has some steep coastal reefs and rocky swim throughs, where white tip reef sharks can be found aplenty. Spotted Eagle Rays are another regular feature of dives here, as well as Whale Sharks.

Day 5: Wolf Island

Today you will be able to conduct up to 3 more dives at Wolf Island.

Day 6: Isabela & Fernandina Islands

AM: This morning you will dive at Vicente Roca Point in the far northwest of Isabela Island. The calmer waters of the coves here are well-protected against the ocean swell and are great places for diving & snorkeling amongst various species of shark, penguins, puffer fish and possibly seahorses.

PM: THe afternoon you will be at Cape Douglas off the coast of the Galapagos's most volcanically active island: Fernandina. Cape Douglas is often a good spot to be amongst Galapagos Penguins, Flightless Cormorants and Red-lipped Batfish.

Day 7: Cousin's Rock & the Santa Cruz Highlands

AM: Your last dives will be at a lovely dive site called Cousin's Rick. The site is characterized by steep walls and rock plates known as Planchonal, which are rich in endemic black corals and underwater sightings may include frogfish, fur seals, sea turtles, sea horses, and hopefully some sharks and rays.

PM: This afternoon you will have a chance to walk amongst the lush southern side of Santa Cruz Island. There will be opportunities to see an photograph Giant Tortoises and explore some of Santa Cruz's low altitude cloud forest amongst its eroding volcanoes. 

Day 8: Baltra

You will be escorted back to Baltra airport, or assisted with your onwards travels through the Galapagos.

Dates

Enquire / Book 06 - 13 Sep 2021 - US$ 5,840

Starts / ends Baltra

Enquire / Book 08 - 15 Aug 2022 - from US$ 5,990

led by Whale Shark Researcher, Photographer & Founder of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, Dr Simon Pierce
Starts / ends San Cristobal

Enquire / Book 27 Jun - 04 Jul 2023 - US$ 4,790

led by Whale Shark Researcher, Photographer & Principal Scientist of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, Dr Chris Rohner
Starts / ends Baltra
add $200 for mid or upper deck cabin

Enquire / Book 25 Jun - 02 Jul 2024 - US$ 4,890

led by Whale Shark Researcher, Photographer & Principal Scientist of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, Dr Chris Rohner
Starts / ends Baltra
add $200 for mid or upper deck cabin

Enquire / Book 24 Jun - 01 Jul 2025 - US$ 5,190

led by Whale Shark Researcher, Photographer & Principal Scientist of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, Dr Chris Rohner
Starts / ends Baltra
add $200 for mid or upper deck cabin

Please contact us for flights and hotel package & ideas for additional travel in the Galapagos, Ecuador and Peru.

Local charges payable onboard:
Fuel surcharge (US$150 for Sept 2021 & Aug 2022 departures)
Hyperbaric chamber fee: $35 pp
NITROX $150 for the week

Single supplements
If you are willing to share a cabin onboard then there is no single supplement for the liveaboard.
For a cabin to yourself add 85%.

Our prices include
Galapagos diving liveaboard as indicated
Shore excursions and zodiac activities
All meals onboard vessels
Coffee, tea and water
An English speaking naturalist guide will be onboard, trained by the Charles Darwin Station and licensed by the National Park.
Donations towards furthering the research & conservation aims of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, of which Dr Simon Pierce is Principal Scientist
A year's membership of the Galapagos Conservation Trust

Our prices exclude
Diving equipment rental
Flights
Arrangements in Quito or Guayaquil (please contact us for flights and hotel package)
Galapagos National Park entrance fee - $100** per person to be paid in cash at the airport in Galápagos
INGALA Galapagos Immigration fee (US$20**)
Hyperbaric chamber fee of $35
Fuel surcharge ($150**)
Tips
Travel insurance
(**correct at time of writing)

Galapagos Whale Shark Research - Ultrasounds & First Ever Blood Samples

The Collapse of Darwin

  • Hammerhead Shark swims close in the Galapagos - Underwater photograph by Dr Simon Pierce
  • Galapagos sealion mum and calf - photo: Dr Simon Pierce MMF / Aqua-Firma
  • Galapagos Scuba Diving with Whale Shark
  • Swimming with Sealions in the Galapagos underwater photography by marine biologist Dr Simon Pierce
  • Blue Footed Booby off the coast of Isabela Island in the Galapagos birdwatching photography by Ralph Pannell Aqua-Firma
  • Land Iguana on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos Islands wildlife photography Dr Simon Pierce
  • Galapagos Giant Tortoise in the Santa Cruz Highlands
  • Flightless Cormorant in the Galapagos Islands wildlife photography byDr Simon Pierce MMF / Aqua-Firma

Trip Reviews from the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos

Galapagos Island Guide

  • Dr Simon Pierce, Research Host & Founder of Marine Megafauna Foundation
  • Research Host, Dr Chris Rohner, with 3-D Whale Shark measuring equipment
  • Marine Iguana underwater in the Galapagos Islands scuba photography by Dr Simon Pierce MMF / Aqua-Firma
  • Whale Shark amongst schooling fish Galapagos dive liveaboard Dr Simon Pierce
  • Scuba Diving with Dolphins Galapagos Islands Dr Simon Pierce Aqua-Firma dive liveaboard
  • Galapagos White Tip Sharks scuba diving underwater photography by Erik Jan Rijkhorst
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