Liveaboard Diving in Darwin Island

What to expect on a Darwin Island Liveaboard

Named after the famous evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin, Darwin Island and Darwin's arch are the most Northerly and most remote outcrops of Galapagos. They sit 40 km/ miles North of Wolf Island and they both sit on the same mid-ocean ridge that makes the bottom topography and current streams so special around the islands. Darwin is incredibly small with only 1 km/ 0.5 mile above water.

When you are there, the island feels very remote and special with your only company being the Galapagos National Park patrol and research boats. Land visits to Darwin and Darwin's Arch are not allowed and only a very few liveaboard dive boats visit here. The underwater life is spectacular with an unbelievable number of hammerhead sharks, tuna, silkies, turtles and chances to see tiger and whale sharks.

On the island and the arch you can see red footed boobies, vampire finch and fur seals. The waters around the island are highly protected due to the number of sharks and other large pelagics at risk from illegal fishing. Darwin Island is also a common location for the Galapagos National Park to tag hammerheads and whale sharks which are passing on the ocean currents.

 

Daily Schedule

Morning

The day will start early with two morning dives with breakfast in between. After the briefing you will be dropped by panga tender in the area around Darwin's arch. All the dives will be done around the arch and where you are dropped will depend very much on the surface conditions and the current.

With high swell and very strong currents Darwin's arch is not for the faint hearted but it is absolutely stunning. The waters are thick with sharks, rays, tuna and during the whale shark season this is your best chance to dive with the giants. Dives normally last round 50-60 minutes and the aquatic show is so spectacular you might find the time seems to go very quickly.

Afternoon

If conditions permit you will have another two dives at Darwin. After lunch everyone will be straight down to the dive deck itching to get back in the water. Although there is technically only one dive site at Darwin you will find that the different routes taken by the guides will give you a new experience each time. The pangas will drop you at a different side of the arch and pick you up after your safety stop which with this many sharks and pelagics will no doubt be in the blue.

Evening

In the evening if the conditions are very good the boat might anchor in the shelter of the island but more likely it will return to Wolf Island for the night. If you sit up on the deck, there will be a chance to see dolphins and sea birds or you can enjoy looking over your endless shark videos instead!

Darwin Island Underwater

Darwin Island is one of those places where you could literally see anything! All the aquatic life you would feel lucky to encounter anywhere else is here in abundance. The current channels around Darwin are like a pelagic highway at rush hour. The rock reef and plateau at Darwin are a viewing platform to see endless schools of sharks and rays of all sizes. Hammerhead juveniles are particularly curious and the chances are good of a close encounter. Down on the sandy bottom is your chance to see hammerhead pups. They are carefully guarded by larger hammerheads and will shy away if approached.

Galapagos sharks are also around and who knew there could be so many turtles in the one place. During the season you have a good chance of seeing whale sharks and tiger sharks here so keep a keen eye out for those spots and stripes. As if all that wasn’t enough you can also meet passing dolphins, sea lions and even the occasional orca whale. Be aware the first sign of orcas is the sudden disappearance of all the other aquatic life. Most of the dives are between 10 and 25 meters making Nitrox essential to make the most of your time with the sharks.

Top Tips for Darwin Island

  • The conditions at Darwin are rough so be prepared for a negative entry from the panga.
  • Gloves are an absolute necessity, the current here his phenomenal and the barnacles are sharp.
  • Your 3-minute safety stop should be in the blue if at all possible, it is your chance to really get in the thick of the shark schools and maybe spot a whale shark too.
  • Stay close to your buddy and the group the current here is not to be underestimated and it is easy to get distracted by the marine life. You may even have to wedge yourself into the rocks to stop from drifting.

Getting to Darwin Island

Most Galapagos liveaboards stop at Wolf before sailing on to Darwin although this depends on sea conditions. Darwin is very exposed to the elements but liveaboards can shelter behind the island at anchor. The sail is only 40 km but it can be a spectacular journey if you keep an eye out to sea. Pods of dolphins and sometimes breaching rays along with numerous sea bird can be seen from the deck. Divers will always be dropped at Darwin's arch by panga tender and it can be a wild ride with high swell and wind waves the norm.


Darwin Island Diving Reviews

  • 8.9 Fabulous
  • 46 Verified Reviews
  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • M W
  • United Kingdom United Kingdom

Amazing to be surrounded by hammerheads and see the whale sharks

Diving Darwin Island in September on the Nortada

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Yunmi H
  • South Korea South Korea

Fantastic, All kinds sharks, whale sharks, hammer heads, silkys, black tips etcetc

Diving Darwin Island in September on the Galapagos Aggressor III

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Sophie B
  • United Kingdom United Kingdom

Excellent - the best I have ever experienced

Diving Darwin Island in July on the Galapagos Sky

  • 9.2 Superb
  • Natsumi U
  • Japan Japan

Wonderful! We saw so many whale sharks and currents were mild.

Diving Darwin Island in August on the Galapagos Master

  • 7.6 Good
  • Eric F
  • Switzerland Switzerland

World top class diving, fishy, 4-6 Whale-shark sightings at every dive, plenty of Hammer-Heads, school of large sizes fishes...

Diving Darwin Island in August on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 8.0 Very good
  • Yee Hon C
  • Malaysia Malaysia

I can see how amazing diving here would be, but given we were here for only 1.5/2 days, we didn't get a much varied dives but I still loved the challenge diving at the Arch, and the activities here are just a whole other world altogether.

Diving Darwin Island in June on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 8.4 Very good
  • Amanda C
  • United States United States

It was good, lots of hammerhead sharks. Very strong current. Not as good as at Wolf.

Diving Darwin Island in June on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 8.4 Very good
  • Melanie H
  • New Zealand New Zealand

This place was incredible for hammerheads. They came super close at the cleaning station. Each one had maybe ten or eleven angel were heaps of turtles sleeping and the horxbille turtles. There was only one dive site, the Darwin arch. We dived five dives here in one day. Epic. Hammerheadville. One dive, we did a safety stop and could hear dolphins. When we were on the dingy back we saw them and that’s when we saw dolphins. The guides told us to put our fins on and swim! So we swam with dolphins twice! And we saw them on the safety stop on the last dive. Awesome! We also see octopus, mobular Rays, turtle cleaning, silky rays, hammerhead rush hour.

Diving Darwin Island in April on the Nortada

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Sylvie S
  • France France

Amazing! Schools of hammerheads, balls of trevallies, silkies, Galapagos and whale sharks. So many dolphins seen from the boat.

Diving Darwin Island in April on the Galapagos Master

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • John G
  • United States United States

Very good. Lots of hammerheads. Large garden eels (more like snakes). Water pretty warm in Feb. Did same dive sites at least twice.

Diving Darwin Island in February on the Nortada

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Ingo L
  • Germany Germany

Best divespot on this trip

Diving Darwin Island in April on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Ulrike W
  • Austria Austria

great canal, masses of sharks, nice drift dives

Diving Darwin Island in February on the Nortada

  • 9.2 Superb
  • Patick W
  • United States United States

Great. Schools of hammerheads, lots of dolphins, green turtles. Schools of 5-stripe bass, big eyed jacks and blue-stripped snappers. Lots of yellow-tail surgeon fish, guinea-fowl puffers, green sea turtles, and parrot-fish.

Diving Darwin Island in February on the Nortada

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Andreas S
  • Switzerland Switzerland

The best diving ever with a bunch of gigantic Whale Sharks, many Hammerheads and Galapagos Sharks.

Diving Darwin Island in November on the Galapagos Master

  • 7.2 Good
  • Charmaine H
  • Australia Australia

Whale sharks! (early November)

Diving Darwin Island in November on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Anette S
  • Norway Norway

Best diving spot ever. A lot of life.

Diving Darwin Island in October on the Nortada

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • DENIS C
  • France France

fabulous each time we saw whale sharks

Diving Darwin Island in October on the Galapagos Aggressor III

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Geoff C
  • Australia Australia

I can't put into words how good diving with whale sharks was. We saw a whale shark, and everything everybody was taught about diving went out the window! I just hope I'm lucky enough to experience it again.

Diving Darwin Island in July on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 8.0 Very good
  • masato O
  • Japan Japan

I saw every big sharks in this point. Especially, hammer head .

Diving Darwin Island in August on the Galapagos Aggressor III

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • SEULKY K
  • South Korea South Korea

Very very very very strong current. It was fun :-) I could see big whale shark also here!

Diving Darwin Island in June on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 8.4 Very good
  • Gary W
  • United States United States

Superb, the Darwin Arch is worth the trip alone

Diving Darwin Island in March on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Steven W
  • United States United States

Spectacular - the huge schools of hammerheads and Galapagos sharks were an out-of-this-world sight!

Diving Darwin Island in February on the Galapagos Aggressor III

  • 8.4 Very good
  • Igor T
  • United States United States

When we were there, there was almost no current, and very few fish; so we decided to come back to Wolf instead and do more dives there.

Diving Darwin Island in February on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 8.0 Very good
  • Pelle L
  • Sweden Sweden

Hammerheads and dolphins, few dives with ok visibility.

Diving Darwin Island in January on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Laura R
  • United States United States

Same as Wolf. Just beyond imagination!

Diving Darwin Island in December on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 9.2 Superb
  • Thomas R
  • Germany Germany

same, incredible diving with many sharks

Diving Darwin Island in December on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • cathleen B
  • United States United States

exquisite, simply the best, over to the top amazing, no words or pics could ever do it justice!!

Diving Darwin Island in September on the Galapagos Aggressor III

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • JAEKYUNG K
  • South Korea South Korea

excellent. u can see whalesharks almost every dives and almost more than once. sometimes u can see dolphins swimming through while your safety stop. dont stop looking around even on your safety stop.

Diving Darwin Island in September on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Jennifer R
  • United States United States

Once in a lifetime. Hundreds of hammerheads, galapagos sharks, 200 lb tuna, schools of jacks, and 2 whale sharks!!

Diving Darwin Island in August on the Galapagos Sky

  • 8.4 Very good
  • Rene B
  • Ecuador Ecuador

Above expectations, this was the best dives. We were wowed.

Diving Darwin Island in August on the Humboldt Explorer

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Judy O
  • New Zealand New Zealand

tbe best amazing brilliant.. whale sharks on 4/7 dives strong currents, negative entries hundreds and hundreds of schooling hammerheads, also silkies, galapagos sharks

Diving Darwin Island in August on the Galapagos Sky

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Jane S
  • United States United States

Spectacular with a full day of diving with whale sharks!

Diving Darwin Island in August on the Humbolt Explorer

  • 7.2 Good
  • Saypraseuth M
  • France France

Challenging but rewarding (cold water and very stong current). We saw big schools of hammerheads.

Diving Darwin Island in July on the Astrea Liveaboard

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Oliver G
  • Germany Germany

outstanding - best on the planet

Diving Darwin Island in July on the Galapagos Master