Lots of bucket lists in the dive world work down from the Galápagos. This big animal destination exceeds expectations with wagon trains of whale sharks that don't just pass, they circle around until you run low on air. Any dive can produce massive schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks, sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas, and other marquee stars of the sea. Most destinations stake their reputation on one of these kinds of interactions, the Galápagos revels in a three-ring circus of mega-fauna that makes up almost every dive experience. Of course, topside these islands off Ecuador are more than well known thanks to Darwin and his theory of evolution. You won't want to miss seeing the giant Galápagos tortoise, the boobies nesting on the beach, and the world's only marine iguanas. And, all of the animals evolved without fear of predator, so you can almost walk up and give them a kiss to thank them for the photographs and an experience that will lodge deeply in your memory.
When to go:
You can enjoy diving Brazil year-round. While the summer months of December through to February are the most popular for travelling, the dive season runs year round in most regions.
When to Get the Best Deals:
The best deals are usually outside the peak season. Visit during March through to November if you are looking for a good deal.
What to Pack:
2/3 or 5 mm wetsuit may be needed, insect repellent, sunscreen, water shoes or hiking shoes for trips into the forest or on the beaches, and lightweight material clothing is recommended. Most PADI Dive Shops offer full gear hire if needed. Major cities such as Rio and Sao Paulo have nice restaurants and bars, so a nicer outfit or two is also recommended.
As a vast country, water temperature varies however the average sea temperature for the south east of the country is around 25°C / 77°F with increases and decreases in winter and summer months.
For the South East and Rio the annual minimum temperature is 21 °C (70 °F), the average annual maximum temperature is 27 °C (81 °F).
Brazilian Real (BRL) is the official currency.
Valid passport; Visas do vary widely and some countries are exempt for tourist visits less than 90 days. Check with your local immigration office for visa requirements.
This should be included in your airfare, but check with your travel agent or airline.
Yellow Fever vaccination is required in some instances. Contact your local doctor regarding what is necessary.
What to Eat:
Brazilian cuisine is an amazing fusion of mainly European, African and Indigenous influences reflecting this country's history and multicultural population. The food will vary greatly, depending what part of Brazil you are in. Feijoada is considered by many as Brazil's national dish and is a bean stew mixed with a range of slow cooked meats. Brazilian BBQ is also popular, served with the national side of rice and black beans. Snacks which should be sampled include Coxinha (chicken croquette), Pao de Queijo (cheese bread) and Bridgardeiro (chocolate).
What to Drink:
Juices are popular throughout Brazil and the Açai juice is a national favorite. Original, Skol and Brahma are all local beers that can be sampled at the many bars and restaurants while you are travelling in Brazil. Cachaça is a liquor made from sugarcane juice and is the key ingredient of the world famous Caipirinha.
You will be spoilt for top side treasures. Ipanema Beach, Sugar Loaf Mountain and the Christ Statue are all must-visit locations in Rio. In Sao Paulo features include Paulista Avenue, Ibirapuera Park and Vila Madalena. A trip to Salvador or the Amazon will showcase the amazing culture of this vast country.
Customs and Culture:
A strong Portuguese as well as European, African and Indigenous influences can be seen throughout Brazilian culture. This varies significantly depending on which region of Brazil you are visiting.
Carnival is the world famous event that falls in either February or March each year all over Brazil including Rio and Salvador. Festa Junina (June Party), Rio's New Year's Celebrations and the Brazilian F1 are other popular events. The upcoming 2014 Football World Cup and 2016 Olympics are also major events for Brazil.
Electricity and Internet:
120 and 240 volts are in use. Outlets are usually both flat (North American) and round (European) plugs.
Drink the water?
Filtered or bottled water is recommended in most regions.
Portuguese is the official language. English and Spanish are also spoken in many popular tourist regions.
Amazing Marine Life
The only place in the world where iguanas take to the sea to feed.
Wily and secretive, the octopus is often found in holes and crannies of reefs.
The only place in the world where penguins occur on the equator.
This playful little cousin to the whales is usually found cavorting with a group (or pod) in open water, sometimes swimming alongside dive boats.
Bottom dweller with unique, almost lipstick red lips.
While the whale reference in its name refers to its mammoth size (up to 12 meters/40 feet), this spotted goliath is actually the world';s largest fish. Can be seen seasonally and in large aggregations.
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark:
Remarkable for their wide-bladed heads and quick maneuverability, these large sharks are breathtaking icons of the deep.
Despite its name, the shark is not endemic to the Galápagos, but is commonly seen here. It grows up to 3 meters/10 feet long, gray-brown above and white underneath, and feeds on sea lions and marine iguanas.
These playful and curious mammals cavort in the water, rest on the rocks, and occasionally get inquisitive about divers.
Top Dive Spots
This site is a volcanic crater 90 meters/300 feet across. At 27 meters/90 feet, you can find a colony of burrowing garden eels on the sandy bottom alongside hammerheads, stingrays, white-tip reef sharks, sea lions, moray eels, horse conches, sea turtles, rays, large jacks, groupers and snappers.
Marked by a distinctive stone arch above the water, this underwater plateau is teeming with life. Hammerhead sharks swim over the sandy areas, arriving to be cleaned by king angelfish. Schooling gringos, mackerels, snappers, rainbow runners, tuna, and jacks swarm above the plateau, while large moray eels, moorish idols, coronet fish, trumpetfish, parrotfish, scorpionfish, flounders, and octopus swim near the coral. Swimming out into the blue depths, divers may see dolphins, a whale shark, schools of hammerheads or a Galápagos shark.
Warmer water surrounds this island, allowing for reef life that won’t be seen elsewhere. Look for green-spotted morays, trumpet and coronet fishes, schooling jacks, rainbow runner, barracudas, tuna, big-eyed jacks, wahoo, bacalao, salemas, gold-rimmed surgeonfish, and turtles. On the wall itself, you’ll see tube corals, small sponges, and barnacles, as well as several species of large moray eels. Hammerhead sharks gather here, as well as occasional Galápagos sharks and eagle rays.
This extinct volcano is open to the sea on the south side, with the caldera forming a sheltered cove, Darwin Bay. Divers can explore either the inner or the outer wall of the volcano.
Diving at this active volcano, you will see fumaroles (steam vents) and new black lava. Look for cow-nosed rays, turtles, schooling hammerhead sharks, blue striped snappers, grunts, surgeonfish, spotted moray eels, scorpionfish, and red-lipped batfishes.
A favorite with photographers, this rock boasts spectacular endemic black corals, red-lipped batfish, Galápagos seahorses, frogfish, octopus, eagle and manta rays, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, fur seals, and Galápagos sea lions.
This tip of an active volcano exudes bubbles of hydrogen sulfide through the sandy bottom. Look for red and dog snappers, amber jacks, barracudas, tuna, groupers, scorpionfish, rays, eels, sea lions, scalloped hammerhead sharks, yellow-tailed surgeonfish, Galápagos grunts, and the occasional whale shark.
This bay is frequented by a transient colony of sea lions, and is a major nesting site for marine turtles.
Frequent sites include a large colony of Galápagos garden eels, sea turtles, sea lions, fur seals, golden eagle rays, yellowtail grunts, big-eye jacks, schools of snappers as well as frequent sightings of white-tip reef sharks, hammerhead sharks and Galápagos sharks.
The jagged points of this partially exposed extinct volcanic cone give the site its name. Inside the crater you’ll find a shallow pool with sandy slopes and numerous boulders, pinnacles, tunnels and caves. Look for playful sea lions, schools of large yellowtail snapper, barberfish and grunts, black-spot moray eels, hawkfish, filefish, king angelfish, creole fish, jacks, turtles, octopus, golden eagle rays, hammerhead sharks and white-tip reef sharks.