Before arriving in Galapagos, I knew there would be some snorkeling involved but to be honest I wasn’t that excited for it because I had never seemed to be able to find a snorkel mask that fit my perhaps smaller than average head/face. So instead I just wanted to buy normal goggles and go without the tube to be able to see best. We totally forgot to buy goggles beforehand and so instead, after me trying my best to put off the inevitable, we ended up hiring some equipment and set off for our first snorkel in the Galapagos Islands. Once I put the mask on, I never turned back (Batman voice).
Snorkeling in the Galapagos is nothing like any other snorkel destination I’ve been to. Swimming with sea turtles has always been something I’ve wanted to do and on our first snorkel we managed to see two, I got out of the water and was ecstatic, telling fellow snorkelers what we saw, they didn’t seem to care. By the end of the trip I understood why. Entering the water in Galapagos, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a turtle. It became like “whatever you saw a turtle? Big deal.” Nah kidding, I still got so excited every time. They are so graceful in the water and some were huuuuuuuge, like the same length as me! We also saw many other types of marine wildlife so this post hopefully helps you find them too.
1. Las Tijeretas
Las Tijeretas gets number one spot for us not only because this is the only place where we got to swim with sea lions but also because it is absolutely free! Las Tijeretas is on San Cristobal Island, it is about a 2km walk from town, took us about 20-30mins. There are miradors (lookouts) over the bay and you can also see Kicker Rock in the distance. But the main attraction of this location for us was the snorkeling. Here we swam with sea turtles, marine iguanas and for half an hour, sea lions!! This was a once in a lifetime experience. They were jumping and doing flips out of the water and underneath, would swim super fast up to our faces to the point where we thought they were going to ram into us just before swerving out of the way. Seeing the way they move underwater was just stunning. Also seeing a marine iguana swim under water was something I never thought I would see. It was like something out of Godzilla, seriously.
We had heard/read very good things about La Loberia, also on San Cristobal, where apparently a lot of people have swam with sea lions however when we went the tide was out and not one sea lion was in the water so unfortunately we can’t comment on this location.
2. Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido)
Kicker Rock aka Leon Dormido is probably the most popular tour from San Cristobal Island and for good reason! We decided to go as part of the Tour 360 which goes to different locations around the island. Kicker Rock is not only one of the best spots to snorkel but the rock itself looks very cool out of the water.
When we started snorkeling, we weren’t too impressed whilst swimming between the two rocks. There were some fish and I saw a small shark from very far away. However once we got to the other side, things started to get exciting. First I saw a turtle which was still very new and exciting for me. Then the guide yells out “eagle ray!” I swam over and saw three eagle rays gliding together so peacefully as their “wings” moved in sync. The day before I had said I wanted to see one and Harry said he thought it wouldn’t be likely to happen so it wasn’t even on my radar to look out for them, Following them along with their spotted backs I was just in awe and I think I was squealing through my tube. All of a sudden after adjusting my eyes to the water I saw a shadow moving and quickly realised the shape had the outline of a hammer, yes it was a Hammerhead shark!!! Before I had the chance to even really register it, it was gone but as I came up to tell Harry, he was already looking my way saying he had just seen two himself. And this is why Kicker Rock gets number two spot.
Pinzon is a tour we hadn’t even heard of before arriving in Santa Cruz but Patty our guesthouse owner told us that if we were interested in seeing marine wildlife, which we were, then this would be the tour to do. We would be snorkeling in three different locations which we thought guaranteed seeing some cool shit and it did not disappoint. We were feeling a bit worried as San Cristobal had pretty much ticked off every amazing animal we wanted to see so our expectations were high.
Harry was on the prowl for sharks. His need was partially satisfied when we got to the first location and saw an entire school of White-Tipped sharks laying on the sand however he wanted moving sharks, yes he is picky! The second location honestly wasn’t anything special, we saw a lot of fish, like thousands all swimming in one direction then changing. Also a weird jelly fish thing that was see through but pink at the same time. Finally we got to the third location and from the boat could see sting rays and turtles, we thought this was a good sign. We went into a light stream of water where Harry started following the first shark and then saw shadows coming from ahead which turned out to be 6 or more Black-tipped sharks. We continued to swim with them for a few minutes before being distracted by a giant 1.5 metre wide Marbled Ray which was swimming below. Also saw a baby eagle ray in the shallows. Pinzon is not one of the most popular tours in Galapagos, but for us, it was right up there with high numbers in different marine animals.
Two locations I would like to mention purely because we experienced some single wicked moments at these places are Los Tunneles and Tintoreras which are both tours taken from Isabela. Both of these locations provided spectacular sea turtle viewing. In Tintoreras we stumbled up about 15 sea turtles just laying on the sand all together and getting their shells cleaned by little fish. It was like “woh, there’s two turtles laying together, hang on there’s another three, wait there’s like ten!” We also saw a very rare sea horse here.
Los Tunneles also had a “wow this is so cool” moment when we ran into giant sea turtles. I stumbled into one that swam underneath me and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Their shells were about a metre wide and 1.5m in length, I swear one swam next to me and we were the same length. They were just amazing to see.
For more information regarding prices of these activities, see my post about what we spent in Galapagos.
What’s your favourite snorkeling destination? We’re thinking Hawaii!