A rule of thumb for a Galapagos Islands land trip or a cruise is that snorkeling will be part of the experience. The Galapagos Marine Reserve is home to an extraordinary variety of creatures. Sharks, whales, a cornucopia of colorful reef fish, sea lions and turtles, marine iguanas and penguins swim beneath the sea.
While not an activity that is as complicated as diving, there are a few things to remember that will help when jumping in and taking on the day in the water.
BEFORE YOU GO
For beginners, finding your way in the clear waters of the archipelago means swimming. It’s not a marathon sport, but spending time in your local pool or at your favorite beach before getting on the plane is a good way to get ready. Trying out snorkeling gear, swimming a few laps, and understanding the logistics involved take away some of the worries, and makes the adventure of exploring the tropical sea more fun.
CURRENTS AND CLIMATE
The open waters of the Galapagos Islands sometimes have strong currents. Sites like Kicker Rock and the Devil’s Crown can be challenging for first-time snorkelers. The upside is that marine life is incredible. Hammerhead sharks, rays, and sometimes dolphins are companions when under the sea.
The two seasons of the islands bring different creatures to the waters and changes in temperature. From January to June the ocean is warmer, and from July until December cooler currents bring creatures from far and wide to the reserve.
Snorkeling gear isn’t complicated. A mask, a snorkel, fins, and sometimes a wetsuit are the only things needed. Guides are well versed in helping you figure out how the equipment works, and after a few times out it becomes less of an adjustment. Many boats provide or rent snorkeling equipment and most Galapagos land tours have gear available as well. Some opt to bring their own mask and snorkel but generally speaking this is a personal preference and not a reflection on the quality of the equipment.
Common sense and awareness are the keys to safety when snorkeling in the Galapagos. Ask your guide for help if not sure about equipment, if the waters look too rough to skip the activity for the time being and find another spot that is more tranquil, and don’t be shy about getting back in the boat if tired.
Guides go with clients on all snorkeling trips, and back up staff is typically close at hand to help out in a pinch.
Things to be aware of are the animals that are found in the ocean. White-tipped reef sharks rest during the day in shallow waters, and sometimes are hard to spot against the backdrop of the ocean floor. Sea lions are curious and will come within inches before veering off and coming back again. Jellyfish aren’t a major issue, but wearing a wetsuit can help to prevent stings if venturing too close.
• January through June Water Temperature – High 70s to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
• July through December Water Temperature- 70s throughout most of the islands down to about 60
degrees Fahrenheit on the west side of Isabela.
• Popular Snorkeling Sites
- Devil’s Crown-Floreana Island
- Kicker Rock-San Cristobal Island
- Los Tuneles-Isabela Island
- Pinnacle Rock-Bartholomew Island
- Las Grietas-Santa Cruz Island.