Diving in the Galapagos-Academy Bay
While most think of Academy Bay as a beginner’s site, there are actually at least 4 dive sites classified as “Academy Bay” sites and not all are for beginners.If you sign up for a Discovery Dive, chances are you will be taken to either Punta Estrada just outside the canal where white-tipped reef sharks rest in abundance or possibly to La Loberia, a small islet with a large colony of sea lions.
There’s not a whole lot of joy at either of these sites for the intermediate or advanced diver, but there are two other sites you should know about that fall under the Academy Bay generality: El Bajo and Punto Nunez Cliffs.
El Bajo is a submerged platform that has mini-walls and a ton of marine life. Large schools of reef fish, rays, white-tipped reef sharks and sea turtles are some of the possible sightings at El Bajo. Why this site would not be good for beginners is the bizarre surge that creates what I call a cradle effect when you are above the platform. You literally will be swayed back and forth, back and forth. I was out with some relatively advanced divers in June who, after a week of diving all over the Galapagos, thought the current and surge was stronger at El Bajo than anywhere else we went. And I thought that was the strongest I had felt current in the channel at Gordon Rocks out of quite a few dives there, so….
Punto Nunez Cliffs is beyond the Darwin Station side of Puerto Ayora along the…errr… cliffs. These are lava rock cliffs and under the water are lava tunnels which form wonderful caves to explore, often filled with resting white-tipped reef sharks, rays and other pelagic life. There, too, you will find plenty of reef fish, turtles, possibly eagle rays and more.
The nicest thing about diving at Academy Bay is that it is the ONLY Santa Cruz dive site where you can dive in either a morning or an afternoon and still have half the day free. If you want to get your wetsuit wet the minute you arrive, this is the only place where you can actually get in two dives in one afternoon due to its proximity to Puerto Ayora. If you’re short on time or short on days and want to maximize your time, these two sites are a good option.