When traveling to the Galapagos Islands, remember that activities to enjoy are not limited to the land. There are several great water activities in Galapagos that you can participate in. Whether you decide to boat around the island or take a closer look at the aquatic endemic species with some snorkeling, you’ll have a great time and discover what makes these remote islands so amazing. Keep in mind that the waters around the islands have been declared a Marine Reserve and have been also declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Certified divers can go deep in the water for up-close encounters with sharks and all types of marine life. Santa Cruz is well known for its amazing dive sites, all within a reasonable sailing time from town, where you can dive along with stunning scenery and wildlife. The depths range from 10 to 40 meters, so these dive excursions are only for certified divers who are looking for something more engaging. Although there are live-aboard options, daily dive trips remain the most popular to divers since that’s how you can combine wildlife land excursions with some scuba diving.
Most dives in Galapagos are experienced in light to moderate currents, so it’s not too challenging but, quite naturally, previous experience with currents is needed. The visibility is typically excellent with divers reporting 10 to 15 meters of clear viewing. Outstanding visibility is never guaranteed, as this could easily change in a few hours due to plankton blooms. This is a protected marine reserve, and itineraries change regularly as the operators strive to protect and preserve the region for future generations while still allowing visitors to move through the area today.
If you are not a scuba diver, yet, then water activities in Galapagos such as snorkeling will leave you in awe. The shallow waters here are home to naturally occurring stone tunnels that allow you to see unique animals. The tunnels are the remains of lava tubes, and they present visitors with a unique landscape that you’re not likely to encounter again. A limited number of boats can reach this western area, so you may need to sign up for a special tour to take advantage of this natural paradise.
The water is shallow enough that you can sometimes even see the seafloor from the boat. Things you can expect include rays, sea turtles, sea lions, and various fish. Galapagos is famous for the “big things in the water”, and not necessarily for the small colorful reef fish. Blue-footed boobies commonly visit the area, so you may also get to spend some time viewing these marvelous birds. Sometimes, you will hear the plunging in the water by witnessing a somewhat loud pop, and then a stream of bubbles returning to the surface, while a blackish torpedo makes its supersonic return to the surface. Really fun!
Snorkeling sites within the Marine Reserve can be accessed from the beach, as well as from small skiffs. Good swimming ability is required and snorkeling experience, although not mandatory, is always a plus for added comfort and enjoyment. The same regulations of the Galapagos National Park apply to all water activities in Galapagos.
You can rent kayaks in different parts of the inhabited islands, although it is always best to join a cruise that offers sea kayaking as one of their onboard activities. The water here is not typically calm all year round, and the wind is the number one factor that will determine how challenging a site may be. When you rent a kayak, ask for a waterproof bag to keep your valuables dry on the craft, or bring one from home if you already own one, although if you need to invest in one, it is not that expensive. You can paddle out away from beaches to see rays and sea turtles, and you can even follow the animals around a little to spend more time with them. Remember that the islands are a national park, and there are strict rules about touching the animals. You’re encouraged to watch them and take pictures, but you should stay a few feet away whenever possible.
Visitors are often surprised at how clean, different, and attractive the Galapagos beaches are. While some can be rocky, the white sand on Tortugas Bay on Santa Cruz Island makes it one of the most beautiful natural beaches on the planet. Other bizarre beaches are found at Rabida, Floreana, and San Cristobal Islands. In addition to enjoying the sun and water activities in Galapagos, you can also have some great encounters with marine iguanas and the other unique animals that call the islands their home. Even though you’ll take care not to touch the creatures, don’t be surprised if the animals touch you! Sea lions will be the best example here, as beaches are part of their wild habitat. With a limited number of natural predators and protection from humans, most species on the islands are not afraid.
There are several currents that intersect in the Galapagos region, and that makes for some great waves. This region has world-class surfing and is a destination for people trying to catch the perfect wave. Focus your trip on San Cristobal or Santa Cruz to enjoy North and South Pacific swells. The best time to go surfing in this area is December until May thanks to the warm swells from the north, although in the dry season, the cooler Humboldt Current that travels up from Chile and Peru will bring rewarding swells from July to October. You can expect to find average swells of 3 to 6 feet, but they can grow up to 15 feet in the right conditions. In addition to surfing, you can find locations that are great for body surfing!
One of the most popular spots for snorkeling is Punta Vicente Roca. While the fish here are impressive, it’s really the underwater landscape that attracts visitors. It features dramatic rock formations along with different colored layers. You may also be lucky enough to see groups of sea lions or Galapagos penguins moving through the area. A highlight here is usually sea turtles and even a flightless cormorant. Since the islands are all volcanic in origin, the underwater landscape is always attractive and it unfolds in different marine ecosystems.
Make the most out of your trip to the Galapagos by spending some time in the oceans and bays as well as the volcanoes and research center. An amazing world is waiting to be explored, and you can choose anything from riding a wave, to snorkeling, and why not even scuba diving deep below the water’s surface. The Galapagos Islands are for sure the best example of the best of both worlds!
Blog Reviewed by: Francisco Dousdebés
Image Credits: Francisco Dousdebés