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Should you dive in Socorro or the Galápagos first? Which destination is best suited to your diving experience and expectations? We'll tell you everything you need to know to decide which of these incredible destinations is best for your next dive trip!
Both Socorro and the Galápagos are known for their rich biodiversity, and vibrant marine ecosystem, making them top choices for experienced divers from all over the world. Both offer incredible hammerhead sharks sightings. There are key differences though between them. The Galápagos offers a unique opportunity to see endemic species such as marine iguanas, while Socorro is famous for its giant manta rays. Accessibility and diving conditions also vary.
How To Get There: Socorro vs. the Galápagos
The Revillagigedo Archipelago in Mexico is a group of four volcanic islands that are situated in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 250 miles (400 km) southwest of the Baja California Peninsula. You can only reach the Archipelago with a liveaboard, leaving from San Jose del Cabo or Cabo San Lucas in Baja California. San Jose del Cabo has an international airport, which is easily reached from North America. It only takes a couple of hours or so to reach SJD airport from California or Texas. Once on the liveaboard, be prepared for a 24 to 36 hours navigation, which means a liveaboard trip usually last 9 nights, with 6 days of diving. It's forbidden to set foot on the islands, so it will be underwater exploration only.
The Galápagos Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean, about 600 miles (1000 km) off the coast of Ecuador. To reach the islands, fly from Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE). Flights depart daily from both cities and take around 2-3 hours to reach the islands. There are two airports in the Galápagos, one on Baltra Island (GPS) and the other on San Cristobal Island (SCY). International flights to Ecuador land in the evening, while flights to the Galápagos leave in the morning, so you'll need to spend a night in Guayaquil or Quito on your way in. Liveaboard trips in the Galápagos last 7 nights. They are shorter trips than the ones to Socorro. You'll dive for 6 days too, and all along the trip. The long crossings to and from Wolf and Darwin are done at night, and you'll do the same number of dives as in a liveaboard to Socorro, around 19 dives.
How Much Diving Experience Do You Need for Socorro vs. the Galápagos?
For Socorro, it's recommended that you have a minimum of 50 dives under your belt. Due to the strong currents and sometimes challenging diving conditions, Socorro is not a recommended destination for novice divers. Divers who are interested in diving in Socorro should have experience in deep diving, drift diving, and buoyancy control. Additionally, it's essential to be comfortable diving in cold water, as the water temperature can be cooler than other diving destinations, mostly in January and March. It's also recommended that divers have training in Nitrox diving, as the use of Nitrox can help reduce the risk of decompression sickness.
For the Galápagos, it's more or less the same, however, if you have less than 50 dives, and/or if you're not experienced enough in currents, then you can dive from the land. There are dive shops in Puerto Ayora that can take you to dive sites around the main island that will match your diving experience. However, if you'd like to see big schools of hammerheads, then you should embark on a liveaboard to go diving to Darwin and Wolf Islands. It's sometimes better to postpone this trip until you have enough experience than to go too early in your "diving career".
How Different are the Marine Life and Dive Sites in Socorro vs. the Galápagos?
Both destinations offer an incredible range of marine life, but there are some notable differences.
The Revillagigedo Archipelago is famous for its giant manta rays, which can grow up to 20 feet in wingspan. These majestic creatures are known to be friendly and curious around divers, making for an unforgettable encounter, sometimes lasting up to 30 minutes! Socorro Island is known for its schools of hammerheads too, its friendly dolphins (bottlenose, common, and spotted), and if you're lucky, humpback whales and whale sharks.
The Galápagos Islands are famous for their endemic species, such as the marine iguana and Galápagos penguin, and their large schools of hammerhead sharks that you can see around Darwin and Wolf islands. These islands can only be reached with a liveaboard. You can also see in the Galapagos some mola mola and some sea lions.
In Both destinations, you can see Galápagos sharks, silky and whitetip reef sharks, tuna and other pelagic fish, and sea turtles (green sea turtles and hawksbill).
The topography of the dive sites in both locations differs. Socorro is known for its seamounts and offshore pinnacles, while the Galápagos offers diverse dive sites such as walls, pinnacles, and currents, as well as unique underwater formations like arches and tunnels. Socorro Dive Sites offer more exploration overall than the Galápagos, in which the current is sometimes so strong (in Darwin and Wolf mostly) that the only way is to hang on a rock, and "watch the movie"!
Both destinations are protected areas, with strict regulations in place to preserve the marine ecosystem. The Galápagos have faced recently more significant conservation challenges, with issues such as overfishing just outside of the marine park limits.
Is It More Expensive To Dive in Socorro or the Galápagos?
Because of their remoteness, both destinations are premium. There are limited spots for each, and you may find some last-minute discounts for the Galápagos more often than for Socorro. However, last-minute means also that you'll have to buy a flight ticket which will often be more expensive.. so it's not always a deal.
Socorro liveaboards trips are for most of them in the same price range, roughly around $4,000 (about ... EUR) to which you need to add marine park fees which are around $450 (about ... EUR), and the usual (tips, Nitrox, dive equipment rental if needed).
Galápagos liveaboards differ in comfort and price. Count between $4,700 (about ... EUR) for a budget one to almost $7,500 (about ... EUR) for the most luxurious ones. There's no marine park fee, only a $100 (about ... EUR) national park fee you pay at the airport, and a $20 (about ... EUR) transit card. Then you need to add the usual too: Nitrox, dive equipment rental, and crew tips.
A note on the crew tips: it's recommended to give between 10-15% of the liveaboard cost per person. It may seem like a lot to some people, so factor this in the cost of your trip. Once you see the hard work the team is putting in, you'll understand.
Which One Shall I Dive First: Socorro or the Galápagos?
In summary, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether to dive into Socorro or the Galápagos first. Consider your priorities and preferences in terms of marine life, diving conditions, accessibility, and overall experience, and use those factors to help guide your decision!
If you'd like some personalized advice contact SeaCrush. SeaCrush can help you organize groups or individual trips to both destinations.
For more information on Socorro, read our article: What Gets Socorro On The Bucket List for So Many Divers? SeaCrush Pick for Socorro: : best-value liveaboard trip to Socorro (9 nights starting from ...)
To plan your trip to the Galápagos, read: Diving in the Galápagos: Everything You Need to Know!
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