If only Robinson Crusoe had a regulator and a tank… this destination will surprise you with lots to see below as well as above the water. Robinson Crusoe Island has all the ingredients for a real off-the-beaten-track dive trip. The tranquility of the place and kindness of its people are rarely found anymore and the views from the mountains and the variety of the marine life are spectacular. The Juan Fernandez archipelago gets it’s name from a Portuguese seaman who worked for the Royal Spanish Crown. He discovered the islands in 1574 and they became a favorite haven for pirates and buccaneers after crossing Cape Horn or South America’s tip at the Strait Magallanes. The islands are 667km from Valparaiso, Chile’s main port and coastal city and consist of three islands:
Robinson Crusoe Island, where you will find the only town with around 600 inhabitants (Cumberland Bay). Its rugged north side with cliffs are dominated by the central and massive mountains called el Yunque (the Anvil).
Santa Clara island, uninhabited and the smallest of the archipelago is very close to Robinson Crusoe. It consists of magnificent dry-land and only rabbits live here. It has a peak called Johow mountain.
The third island is called Alexander Selkirk. It is the most isolated with only 25 people living here who are all lobster-fishermen. The real Robinsons…. The highest peak is Los Inocentes mountain with imposing heights clearly reflecting its volcanic structure. It is surrounded by rocky beaches, cliffs and contains incredible flora. The islands were occupied by the French, the English, the Spaniards and later were declared by the Chileans who still own it today.
All islands have exotic and endemic vegetation. The flora and fauna are very important on land and underwater. Scientists from all over the world come to Robinson Crusoe to study the 38 types of ferns, native trees, the endemic hummingbird, the luma tree, the canelo, the chonta palm tree, the Juan Fernandez fur seal, and the Robinson’s lobster.
Sub-antarctic cold and warm subtropical currents encounter each other in the archipelago, creating an excellent feeding ground for an incredible variety of marine life, some of them endemic. But the islands itself are also a must see. Declared a national park in 1977 by UNESCO, they became a “World Reserve of the Biosphere.”
Best Diving Destinations in Robinson Crusoe Island
All our dives were done at spots around Robinson Crusoe island. All the best dives have a depth limit of no more than a 120ft.
The diving was excellent. The species we encountered were Juan Fernandez Firecrown, Tthe Juan Fernandez Fur seal which is an endemic (local) sea mammal, scorpionfish, butterfly fish, jackfish, big yellowtail tuna, mola mola, labrids, serranids, octopus, flounders, sea urchins, sea bass, black coral, groupers, actinie, anemone, pampanitos and many more. Unbelievable!
There are also Vidriola-Yellowtail, moray eels, many labrids, Pampanitos, Blenidae and the Juan Fernandez lobster.
If you want to take a day off from diving, you can enjoy the spectacular scenery on the islands. There are plenty of day trips to choose from such as an excursion to English port, where Alexander Selkirk lived. He was marooned all by himself for 4 years and 4 months between 1704-1708, and later inspired Daniel Defoe to write his famous novel: The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. We also did day trips to French port, the place where the French navigators stopped at the time of the pirates… great landscapes, endemic vegetation and incredible views.
When to Visit Robinson Crusoe Island
Remember, this destination is in the Southern Hemisphere with reverse seasons. The weather is cool, but not cold, it has a sub-tropical maritime and often rainy climate. The rainfall averages 1000mm per year. The rainy months are from May – September. We recommend you bring an anorak and a polar for the windy afternoons and comfortable hiking shoes to get around. Sun block and dark lenses are a must.
The water temperature goes up to 20ºC in summer (December – March). Best time of the year to visit is from December – March. You’ll need a 7mm wetsuit in winter and a 5mm in summer. Endemica can provide all the diving gear you need. In winter time temperatures rarely go down below 10ºC. In summer maximum temperature is about 27ºC. The archipelago is located outside the Humbolt current and is exposed to sub-antarctic (below) and sub-tropical (surface) currents. These rich currents explain the great visibility, temperature, lots of marine life and big schools of fish. Enjoy!
Getting to Robinson Crusoe Island
First fly into the International airport of Santiago. From there you’re in for quite a special trip! Endemica Expeditions will fly you to Robinson Crusoe on a 2 engine, 6 passenger Piper Navajo airplane, run by a well known company. It’s a 2.5 hour flight from Los Cerrillos airport in Santiago to the most southern tip at Robinson Crusoe’s air strip. Due to the capacity of the plane you are allowed to take only 15 kg luggage free of charge. Each additional kg. has a US $3 price tag.
Between October 1st and Easter there are 2 to 3 flights per week to the island. In December, January and February there are daily flights with periodic exceptions due to bad weather.
Upon this exciting arrival, they take you by car (or you can walk and stretch your legs!!) to Father’s Bay, where you’ll be taking a 1.5 hour boat trip to Cumberland Bay, at the north side of the island. You will be surprised by the gorgeous volcanic formations of this young (4 million year old) island….
There is an exotic option to go by sea from Santiago on a Chilean navy ship but unfortunately these ships don’t have a regular schedule so it is hard to plan.
Endemica arranges accommodation where you can choose between cabins for rent to an island-family-run hostel with great food and rooms, or a more fancy hosteria. Beware that there aren’t any banks or money exchange offices and only local cash is accepted as a method of payment. Dollars and checks are accepted only in very few places on the island and you can forget about using your credit card. There are only 4 bars and one disco for entertainment and there are small minimarkets around for basic supplies. The islands are supplied once a month by a merchant ship that provides the inhabitants of fuel and foods. So you’ll want to exchange dollars for local currency in Santiago.