The underwater wonders of Galapagos are consistently present and active throughout they year, inviting visitors from around the world to come and discover them. It doesn’t really matter where in the archipelago one decides to go (or what itinerary you choose), for there will always be something new and ready to impress our guests, as was the case this time!
The warmer temperature of the water during the hot season is a natural phenomenon that is always welcome by swimmers, snorkelers and divers. Simply put: it’s less cumbersome to swim and experience Galapagos without all those extra layers that often come with using a wetsuit.
It’s also during this time of the year in particular that the quantity of nutrients found in the water are far less abundant. Consequently, it’s not uncommon to see a diminished level of underwater activity during this period, especially with respect to the bigger creatures (note: on land, it’s an entirely different story). In Galapagos, however, nature is always finding a way to surprise us and even contradict its own seasonal patterns, sometimes.
On this special occasion, despite us being right in the midst of the hot season, we managed to get a ridiculously nice surprise that involved a bunch of big and unexpected appearances in terms of the underwater wonders of Galapagos – quite a rare sight to see during this time of year!
It all happened while we were sailing on our Northern Galapagos Islands itinerary aboard the Santa Cruz II Galapagos cruise. This itinerary happens to offer the greatest amount of opportunities for our guests to partake in the snorkeling activities available in Galapagos. There are two chances to snorkel on Tuesday, another two chances on Wednesday and, depending on the expedition leader, maybe even two more chances for snorkeling on Thursday. This makes for a grand total of 6 potential snorkeling excursions on a 5-day Galapagos itinerary! But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to snorkel – there’s plenty of more activities available when you travel aboard a multi-guided vessel in Galapagos!
Also: thanks to the presence of heat during this time of year, its extra nice to have multiple opportunities to take a dip in the water! We were equally delighted and amazed to report that, during our water-based excursions, we got a couple of really nice snorkeling sessions. For not only did we get to swim with the regular kind of fish that we usually see all the time, but also with some rather awesome and highly unexpected visitors!
The first group of unexpected creatures that we encountered were a couple of pretty big manta rays. The first one we saw must’ve been around 9-feet (~3 meters) long from fin-to-fin, and it was just unreal to see it sooo ridiculously close to us!
Right after this first ray, there came another ray that we all thought was the same species except that this second one was all black. The following day, we weren’t as lucky when it came to seeing things underwater, so we all piled into the panga a little disappointed. But, the Galapagos never disappoints! Right as we were about to head back, we were suddenly surprised by a group of dolphins that were playing alongside the panga and putting on a nice show for all of us to enjoy!
The third and most impressing specimen we got see towards the end of this itinerary was some kind of shark. Some said that it was just a black-tip shark, but others speculated that it was a bigger, more reclusive species of Galapagos shark. Regardless of the species, it was amazing to get to swim with all these great creatures in some of the deeper areas of the Galapagos.
The Santa Cruz II visits Punta Vicente Roca on its Western Galapagos Islands itinerary, and the day begins with a relaxing tour along the coast, wherein guests soak in the nice views while comfortably seated aboard the panga. Sometimes we see more marine life than others, but this time was spectacular, as there were plenty of different bird species soaring across the skies. It’s always nice to have an option available that allows our guests to see a ton of wildlife without having to exert themselves in any way – definitively a welcome change of pace when compared to the more active excursions that we offer throughout the Enchanted Islands.
One of the most predominant species of marine life that we saw this day was the elusive Galapagos Fur Seal. It was relatively easy to spot them basking along the rocks that dotted the coastline.
Over at one particular spot we were lucky enough to find a nice big group of them. There were plenty of adults relaxing on higher ground but the little ones managed to steal the show. There was a group of them whimsically playing on the rocks right by the water line. They were so out there in the open that we were actually able to get really close to them and had the opportunity to take some amazing photos of these “surface-level” underwater wonders of Galapagos. Being so close to them also made us feel as if we were a part of their game!
After the inflatable panga ride, our next activity of the day was open water snorkeling where we discovered that there was once again plenty of movement underwater. From big schools of fish to bigger and more unusual visitors, our guests and guides were both equally delighted. What’s more? We got a chance to not only see but swim alongside Galapagos penguins that happened to be out fishing in a small group! A flightless cormorant and about forty green (that’s right: forty!) green sea turtles were all swimming along shallow waters, too! It was a humbling yet amazing experience to be so close to so many of the underwater wonders of Galapagos! The most remarkable thing we got to see on this snorkeling adventure, however, was once again another giant manta ray that was there for a brief yet magical moment where it enchanted us with its magnificent underwater flight.