Liveaboard Diving in Malpelo Island
WHAT TO EXPECT ON A MALPELO ISLAND LIVEABOARD
Malpelo Island liveaboards will visit this very special small island in the East Pacific Ocean, located about 500 km west of the Colombian mainland. Malpelo Island actually belongs to Colombia, but is accessed by select Panama liveaboards. It's a sinister looking rock formation that rises from the bottomless depths of the Pacific Ocean. This dive site is the main objective of all our Liveaboard Cruises due to its wild and spectacular marine environment with a reputation of abundant schooling sharks and big marine animals.
The west coast of both North & South America is washed by two oceanic currents: the California Current from the North and the Humboldt Current from the South, added to that a bunch of other streams, which makes the west coast a classic upwelling zone. Sea conditions can make entries and exits from your liveaboard challenging at times. Currents can be strong, making drift diving the best option on some of the sites. Occasionally the crossings can get a little bumpy; however the diving at Malpelo makes it more than worth while.
Visibility ranges between 10 meters and 35 meters. Occasionally, there can be upwellings full of plankton that bring a lot of fish but at the same time reduce visibility. Water temperatures range between 16C and 24C on the surface.
In 2006 Malpelo Island was declared by UNESCO as a natural World Heritage Site and the Malpelo Foundation only allows one Malpelo liveaboard dive cruise, with a maximum of 25 divers, to be present at the island at one time as there are only 2 principal moorings for larger vessels located at the island.
MALPELO ISLAND UNDERWATER
Liveaboard diving in Malpelo Island will give divers the chance to dive with an exhilarating amount of sharks and big fish. The two highlights of this dive site are the schools of hammerheads (up to 300) at mix with silky sharks which forms colossal shark schools, and the large number of free swimming moray eels. Aside of that you can see a variety of other shark species, like the Galapagos shark, whale shark and white tip shark, together with huge schools of other big fish species, angelfish, creole fish, jackfish, tuna, sailfish and even at times whalesharks, humpback whales and blue whales.
DIVESITES OF MALPELO ISLAND
The Cathedral This pinnacle has a tunnel passing through it from a sandy bottom at 18 meters, almost reaching the surface on the opposite side. The walls of the tunnel are covered in corals and sponges. The tunnel's interior is full with many varieties of fish and white tips, eels, grunts, snappers, eagle rays, tunas.
The Twins Two long pinnacles that grow almost parallel up to 9 meters from the surface, form canyons that schools of hammerheads and eagle rays like to swim through. You can see many scorpion fish together with eels on the shallower parts of these pinnacles.
The Freezer Hence the cooler waters at this side of Malpelo Island, it's also called The Freezer. Part of this wall is covered by hard corals while in other places it is easy to recognize its volcanic nature. Huge schools of hammerheads as well as other pelagic species are attracted to this site. Here you can see silkies, mantas, eagle rays, whale shark, tunas, jacks and eels.
La Gringa This is the biggest rock on the south side of Malpelo. Here is also a cave that passes through part of this pinnacle between 40 and 24 meters. From here, with good visibility, it is possible to see three seamounts. A great school of big eye jacks inhabit the exposed side of this rock. Here you can encounter groups of hammerheads and sometimes Galapagos sharks also visit this area. Further more there are jacks, tunas, eagle rays and scorpionfish.
TOP TIPS FOR DIVERS
Due to unpredictable weather conditions, diving south of Panama on a liveaboard is a little tricky and can be challenging and therefore more suitable for experienced divers. Most Liveaboard Safaris to Malpelo request a minimum divers experience level of Advanced open water diver with a minimum required of 30 logged dives.
When Eastern Pacific diving nitrox is a must. The more spectacular the diving, the longer you want to stay under. Also, you need to stay very conservative in Malpelo because there is no “nearest” decompression chamber.