The Galapagos Islands often tops award list as the best diving destination and are about 600 miles from South America. There are 18 main islands, with 3 smaller ones and over 100 islets (rock formations).
Some of the islands were created by tectonic plate movement, however, most are volcanic in creation and are still active. Diving in the area is for strong divers. The conditions can be very harsh at times and currents can become very dangerous. Advance open water training is a requirement plus a number of dives including cold water diving.
Dive operators will perform an orientation/check out dive prior to going to the general sites. Those not able to show mastery at the level required will not be allowed to dive. The Humboldt Current sweeps past the island bringing with it cold nutrient rich waters. Large pelagic species follow the current as not only a highway of sorts but also because it is a rich feeding grounds. The Marine life is varied and 25% of it is only found here. 97% of the islands are a National park and a marine reserve.
Entrance into the park is strictly controlled. Divers must remain together in a group and dive guides must not only be diver professionals they must also be trained and licensed marine guides. There are seven Liveaboards that travel around the islands. They generally follow a three day and four day schedules that can be combined into a seven day trip. There is no shore diving in the area, you will however see the term land based diving. This is used to identify daily dive boats. There are 62 dive sites around the islands and dive operators have to reserve where they will be diving. Those sites designated as being used by the land based are not availability to the Liveaboards. Many divers will add a couple of days to their planning and dive from a land base before going to a Liveaboard.