Malpelo Island is a remote and uninhabited island located in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. It is part of the Republic of Colombia and is situated approximately 500 kilometers (310 miles) west of the Colombian mainland. Malpelo Island was first discovered by the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro in 1513 during his expedition to the Pacific coast of South America. The island remained uninhabited for centuries due to its remote location and inhospitable conditions. With an extension of 857500 hectares, Malpelo is today its the 9th largest protected marine area of the world.
Here are some key points about Malpelo Island:
- Geography: Malpelo Island is a small, rocky island measuring about 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles) in length and 650 meters (2,130 feet) in width. It is of volcanic origin and rises steeply from the ocean floor. The highest point on the island reaches about 300 meters (980 feet) above sea level.
- UNESCO World Heritage Site: Malpelo Island was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006 due to its unique marine ecosystem and its importance for the conservation of marine biodiversity. The surrounding waters of the island are also protected as a marine sanctuary.
- Marine Biodiversity: The waters surrounding Malpelo Island are known for their exceptional biodiversity and abundance of marine life. The island is renowned as one of the best diving spots in the world, attracting experienced divers and scientists alike. The diverse ecosystem includes large schools of fish, sharks, rays, dolphins, and numerous other marine species.
- Shark Sanctuary: Malpelo Island is particularly famous for its shark population. It is considered one of the best places in the world to observe sharks in their natural habitat. Species such as the scalloped hammerhead shark, galapagos sharks, silky shark, and whale shark can be found in the waters around the island.
- Restricted Access: Due to its remote location and delicate ecosystem, access to Malpelo Island is strictly regulated. Only a limited number of scientific expeditions and authorized divers are allowed to visit the island each year. The Colombian government and environmental organizations work together to protect and preserve the island's unique environment.
- Historical Significance: Malpelo Island has a rich history, with several shipwrecks recorded in the area. The treacherous waters and jagged rocks surrounding the island have posed challenges for sailors throughout history.
- Research and Conservation Efforts: The isolation and pristine nature of Malpelo Island make it an ideal site for scientific research and conservation efforts. Various studies and monitoring programs are conducted to better understand and protect the island's marine ecosystem.
DIVING IN MALPELO ISLAND
Diving in Malpelo Island is a thrilling and unforgettable experience for scuba diving enthusiasts. Divers have to be aware that this deep reaching rock is exposed to many different oceanic currents and conditions change continously, if not by the minute! This also influences stronly underwater activity. You will never know what you are going to meet underwater and your trip may be absolutely spectacular or average, but from our own experience, many years diving in Malpelo, we know that she (Malpelo) has always a surprise ready for you.
Neverthless some general seasonal features are important to mention:
January and February may offer magnificiant Hammerhead sighting in shallow water, due to the colder water, if conditions are right. January to March are also the best changes to find the Ragged Tooth Sand Tiger Shark in Malpelo as the tend to visit shallower water during cold water season. The water gets steadly warmer in April and May, June are the best month to encounter bait balls in Malpelo island. August and September are fantastic month for Whale sharks, we can encounter them the entire year but particularly often between May and October. Large Silky groups close to the island have become rather rare the last years, but when encountering bait balls, the may gather in large amounts. We may encounter them from May to December.
Marine Life: Malpelo Island is renowned for its exceptional marine biodiversity. The waters surrounding the island are home to a vast array of marine species, including sharks, rays, dolpins and numerous fish species. Hammerhead sharks are particularly abundant in the area, and you can witness large schools of these majestic creatures during your dives. Malpelo Island is often referred to as the "shark capital of the world" due to the abundance of sharks found in its waters. Besides hammerhead sharks, you may also encounter other species such as silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, whitetip reef sharks, and occasionally even tiger sharks and whale sharks. Diving with these magnificent creatures is an incredible experience for shark enthusiasts.
Diving Conditions: The diving conditions around Malpelo Island can be challenging due to strong currents and occasionally rough seas. As a result, diving in Malpelo is typically recommended for experienced divers. It is important to have good buoyancy control and be comfortable in advanced diving conditions.
Dive Sites: There are several dive sites around Malpelo Island that offer unique underwater landscapes and encounters with marine life. Some popular dive sites include El Bajo, La Nevera, La Gringa, and Los Tres Mosqueteros. These sites feature steep walls, underwater pinnacles, and caves where you can explore and observe the diverse marine ecosystem.
Permit and Liveaboards: To dive in Malpelo Island, you need a special permit from the Colombian government, and diving is strictly regulated to preserve the fragile ecosystem. Most divers visit Malpelo Island on liveaboard trips, as it is the most convenient and common way to explore the area. Liveaboard trips typically depart from mainland Colombia or Panama and offer multiple dives over several days.