Ecuador is a sealife lover’s paradise, packed with species found nowhere else on Earth. Don’t expect to find coral reefs here, however. Instead the area features heavy current and nutrient rich waters that attract major pelagic action.
The majority of divers head straight for the Galapagos Islands. The waters surrounding this group of deep-sea, volcanic islands form a protected marine reserve where virtually no commercial fishing has occurred in the last five decades. This fact combined with the area’s deep sea upwellings create one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in the world. Divers can take advantage of everything this region has to offer on a liveaboard trip. These boats have the ability to travel to the northern dive sites, such as those around Darwin Island, Wolf Island and Punta Vicente Roca, which are too far from inhabited islands to be visited in a single day. Learning about Darwin’s concept of natural selection while gazing at large shoals of hammerheads and the awkwardly graceful mola mola is a once in a lifetime experience.
For those who wish to dive in Ecuador without the cost of traveling to the Galapagos, Machalilla National Park is known as the ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’ and features some of the same endemic species found in the famous archipelago. The national park, which is the only coastal national park in Ecuador, incorporates fog forest, dry forest, small islands and two larger islands, Salango and the small Isla de la Plata. Large groups of giant manta rays, whales and dolphins are commonly seen here during the right season. Unfortunately, the same level of protection has not been given to Machalilla National Park as has been seen in the Galapagos. Overfishing, pollution, poaching and deforestation are common problems in the region.
With as much to discover under the water as there is above, it’s no wonder than most divers dream of exploring underwater Ecuador at least once in their lifetime.