combining diving and land excursions
It is possible to book a tour that combines diving with land visits but it much more difficult to do than most people realize because the Galapagos National Park does not allow naturalist yachts to offer diving on their cruises and the dive yachts only visit a few land areas.
The dive yachts all go to the islands of Darwin/Wolf. These islands are probably the two best dive sites in the world but they are very far to the North (120 miles from the nearest other island) and no land excursions have ever been allowed there. It takes approximately 15 - 20 hours of open ocean travel each way and the dive yachts will spend at least 3 days up there. If you will be satisfied with a lot of diving and only a few land visits, then you should consider signing up for a dive trip on one of the dive yachts. Note these tours are not appropriate for divers traveling with non-divers.
Naturalist yachts are NOT allowed to offer diving BUT a few of them will sub out diving to one of the local dive operators when the yacht is near one of the towns. There is always an extra fee for this and you will miss all the land excursions on this day. As a rule this is only possible one or two days during the week and they typically will not take you to a premium dive site because they need to stay close to the town. You are basically paying to participate in two activities on a single day where you can only do one. Plus missing the land excursions on one or two days defeats the purpose of taking naturalist trip in the first place.
The best way to see both the land and the diving is to do the diving during one part of the trip and then do the land visits during a different part of the trip. Here are your options for doing this:
You can do a naturalist trip either before or after a dive trip.
All live aboard dive trips are at least 7 nights long. Naturalist trips are between 3 and 14 nights long. Therefore it will require a minimum of 10 nights in Galapagos in order to complete the two tours. Divers who want to travel with non-divers may choose to do a dive trip either before or after a naturalist trip and have the non-divers participate on only the naturalist trip. This is by far the best choice but also it is the most expensive choice.
NOTE - Different yachts are in port on different days of the week and there are 2 airports in Galapagos. Therefore you must match the dive trip with the naturalist trip for both the day of the week and the port of embarkment so you can make the switch between the 2 yachts. Matching dive trips with naturalist trips should only be attempted by tour companies that have a complete understanding of Galapagos. You should not attempt to do this on your own.
You can add some diving either before or after a naturalist trip OR add a few days of land based naturalist tours either before or after a dive trip.
After a naturalist trip, it is possible to extend your stay in Galapagos, sleep in a hotel and go out with one of the local dive operators for a few dives. NOTE - you will NOT be diving at Darwin and Wolf.
After a dive trip, it is possible to extend your stay in Galapagos, sleep in a hotel and go out with one of the local day boat operators to visit some of the islands that are close to the town. This is not appropriate for divers traveling with non-divers.
SO in summary you have 4 choices:
*Do a dive trip with only a few land visits.
*Do a dive trip with a few land visits then add a few days in a hotel and do some land based naturalist visits.
Do a naturalist trip and either skip diving completely OR add a day or two of diving during the cruise OR extend your stay in Galapagos by staying at a hotel either before or after the cruise so you can add a few days of diving with a local dive operator in the town. (You will not dive at Darwin/Wolf)
Do back to back trips – one diving/one naturalist. You will get to dive Darwin/Wolf and you will get to see a lot of the land visitation sites so this is your best option if you really want to do the best diving and see the land.
*These trips are not appropriate for divers traveling with non-divers. You will get to dive at Darwin/Wolf – the two best dive sites in the world.