Immerse yourself in the stunning marine life of the Galapagos Islands when you snorkel on a Galapagos cruise. One of the main activities on any Galapagos cruise itinerary is snorkeling, and even the short 4-5 day cruises try to offer at least a few opportunities to snorkel in the fascinating underwater world of the Galapagos. Longer cruises might offer as many as one or two snorkeling opportunities per day.
You’re certainly welcome to bring your own gear if you feel more comfortable using that, but almost all cruise operators offer the snorkeling equipment – including short-sleeve wetsuits, flippers, masks, and snorkels – as part of the cruise. You should still confirm that this is included with your operator before booking.
Do I need a lot of snorkeling experience?
Unlike scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands – which requires prior experience – the Galapagos Islands are a great place for first-time snorkelers to “get their flippers wet.” As long as you’re comfortable swimming or floating, snorkeling is a great experience. The wetsuits, masks, and flippers help you stay afloat, while the snorkel lets you keep your head in the water and still breathe. Even if you choose to just float on the surface, you will see the Galapagos Islands from a whole new perspective as schools of fish and other marine life swims right under you. As long as you stay floating on the surface, and have your snorkel out of the water and blown free of water, you will always have air to breathe.
If you’ve snorkeled before or considered yourself a stronger swimmer, you might be able to explore even more of the Galapagos Islands by diving a bit deeper. This requires you to take a deep breath and use your arms and flippers to swim down below the water’s surface. You can stay below water as long as you can hold your breath, but make sure to remember that every second you go deeper is time you should also give yourself to make it back to the surface. Once you reach the surface, forcefully blow the water out of your snorkel so you don’t swallow any seawater.
If you are able to swim down away from the surface of the water, you will see even more of the incredible marine life, getting up close to the pelagic species that rest closer to the seafloor. Just remember – you are an outsider in a wild habitat, so keep your distance from anything you can’t identify or that could be dangerous, because if an animal feels threatened it will defend itself, which could result in injury.
If you are an avid snorkeler or diver, you will be amazed by the sites that you encounter under the water’s surface in the Galapagos Islands – cleaning stations for sharks and sea turtles, beautiful submarine rock formations, and more fish than you can count. You might even find some secret rocky nooks and coral crannies hiding deep below the water that is home to full communities of life. Many who have snorkeled across the greatest reefs in the world hold the Galapagos Islands among the best places to snorkel.
What can I expect to see while snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands?
At the convergence of three major currents and located right over an active volcanic hotspot, there seems to be no end to the amount of life that flourishes here, and most of it is marine life! One of the best reasons to take a cruise rather than a land-based tour is because each new day takes you to a brand new habitat where you will see native and endemic marine life that might only exist at that one site. Each night, your guide will brief you on what you might encounter the next day, so make sure to pay attention so that you recognize everything when you see it.
Some of the highlights you’ll see when snorkeling are:
- Hammerhead sharks at cleaning stations
- White and Black-tipped Reef sharks
- Mola mola (sunfish)
- Marine iguanas feeding
- Penguins, cormorants, and seabirds diving to catch fish
- Playful sea lions
- Sea turtles
- Chocolate chip starfish
- Sea cucumber
Top 10 Sites to Snorkel in the Galapagos Islands
- Punta Espinosa (Fernandina Island): Sea turtles, Sea lions, Penguins, Whales, Dolphins, Marine Iguanas, Flightless cormorants.
- Tagus Cove (Isabela Island): Seahorses, sea turtles, marine iguanas, and seabirds who all feed on the verdant bed of algae here.
- Prince Philip’s Steps (Genovesa): Hammerhead sharks, manta rays, large fish.
- Devil’s Crown (Floreana Island): Corals, rock formations, sea urchins, wrasses, yellow-tailed grunts, amberjacks, groupers, snappers, moray eels, scorpionfish.
- Pinnacle Rock (Bartolome Island): Green sea turtles, penguins, sea lions.
- Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island): Seahorses, hinged beak prawns, red-lipped batfish, moonfish, frogfish.
- James Bay (Santiago Island): Sea lions, sea turtles, golden rays, spotted rays, penguins.
- North Seymour Island: Reef sharks, damselfish, hogfish, boxfish, black-boxed rays, parrotfish, sea lions, angelfish.
- Lobos Islet (San Cristobal Island): The most playful and friendly sea lions in the Galapagos.
- Chinese Hat Islet: Galapagos penguins, sea lions, green sea turtles, reef sharks.
What else will you do on a Galapagos cruise?
If you’re on a yacht, there’s a good chance that your cruise director or guide will allow you to snorkel during any free time when the boat is anchored. You’ll also have ample opportunities to trek across lava plains, to the top of volcanoes, and through arid landscapes where large land iguanas and the famous blue-footed boobies can be spotted in abundance. Plus you will probably visit a tortoise ranch, hike through lava tunnels, and stop by a tortoise and iguana breeding and conservation center. You might also have chances to swim, snorkel, or just relax on the beach. Do note that unless you’re on a diving liveaboard cruise, you will not have opportunities to scuba dive.