Red-lipped Bat fish @ Galapagos

Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – Western Islands

This is the second of a three-part series about the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites, to help you plan your dream vacation.

Multi-day cruises heading into the Western part of the Galapagos Islands include the archipelago’s youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, on the itinerary. Some of the highest-ranking snorkeling sites are on the coasts of these two islands. Other sites on Isabela can be reached by day cruise from the island’s main port, Puerto Villamil.

A few snorkeling destinations in the Central part of the archipelago, like James Bay (Santiago Island) and Prince Phillip’s Steps (Genovesa) are included in multi-day cruise itineraries. These are covered in the first part of this series,.

The western sector of the Galapagos Islands is home to land and sea animals you will see in no other part of the archipelago: flightless cormorants, Port Jackson sharks – and strange creatures like frogfish, moonfish and red-lipped batfish. Penguins are much more common in these cold waters. And, of course, you can expect to swim with the ever-popular sea lions, marine iguanas and sea turtles. Here it is also more common to see dolphins and whales during their migrations through the Galapagos.

 

Las Tintoreras (Isabela Island)

This islet is located 15 minutes by boat from Puerto Villamil. After hiking around the islote to see white-tipped sharks, sea lions, marine iguanas and other fauna, visitors are allowed to snorkel off-shore where sharks, rays, sea lions, multi-colored fish and other marine denizens can be observed.

Accessibility: Day cruise, Multi-day Cruise

 

Lava Tunnels (Isabela Island)

Locally called Los Túneles, these lava tunnels were formed when magma reached the sea. Today, these arches and other strange rock formations are home to penguins, sea turtles, sea lions and white-tipped sharks – as well as rays, sea horses and rainbows of tropical fish. Above the shimmering water, you’ll see blue-footed boobies, Sally Lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas.

Accessibility: Day cruise

 

Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island)

Located on the northwestern corner of the island, this sunken volcano forms two protected, turquoise coves. Bizarre beings lurk beneath the surface: red-lipped batfish, moonfish, frogfish and hinge-beak prawns. Also keep an eye out for the rare Port Jackson shark. Sea turtles and sea horses are common. This is another of Galapagos’ prized snorkeling sites, and one of the coldest.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

 

Tagus Cove (Isabela Island)

Underwater, Tagus Cove is carpeted with green algae where marine iguanas and sea turtles graze. Rare creatures are seen here, including flightless cormorants, penguins and Port Jackson sharks. This is among the top places to snorkel in the Galapagos Islands.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

 

Punta Espinosa (Fernandina Island)

On the other side of the Bolivar Channel across from Tagus Cove, is Punta Espinosa on the west coast of Fernandina Island. Swimming marine iguanas and sea turtles are common sights, as are Galapagos Penguins and flightless cormorants. In season, dolphins, humpback whales, orcas can be spotted in the channel.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

 

The last of this three-part series the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites will focus on ones you can reach by land.

 

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Photo credit: Rein Ketelaars

Frigate Birds, Galapagos Islands

New Galapagos Entry Requirements

The Galapagos Islands government has issued new entry regulations for both foreign and national tourists. These new requirements went into effect on June 5, 2017.

Visitors to the Galapagos Islands will now need to show the following when obtaining their tourist card at the Gobierno Especial del Régimen de Galápagos counters at the Quito and Guayaquil airports:

  • Round trip air fare.
  • Hotel and/or cruise reservation for the days they will be in the Galapagos Islands, from the time of arrival to departure from the islands.
  • If the tourist will be staying in the home of a Galapagos resident, a letter of invitation from the resident.

Once these documents have been presented, then the tourist can obtain the Galapagos tourist card which still costs $20US and is paid in cash.

An on-line registration form, which will save visitors time, is in the works. Check with your tour operator to see if you will have to supply this information, or if the tour agency will provide this service to their customers. Independent travelers should have copies of their air tickets and reservations printed off.

It is important that, before departing from the mainland, do-it-alone travelers make all hotel reservations on all the habitable islands where they will be spending the night. These include Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana islands.

Have you travelled to Galapagos since the new regulations came into effect? Share your experience with other travellers in the comments below.

 

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Photo credit: Sophie Robson

Galapagos

Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – Eastern and Central Islands

This is the first of a three-part series about the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites, to help you plan your dream vacation.

The Galapagos Islands are renowned for its unique land animals – but a whole world of amazing creatures awaits you below the waves. Snorkeling is one way even novices can explore Galapagos’ underwater world.

To help you plan your Galapagos cruise, here are the top places to go snorkeling in the Eastern and Central sectors of the Islands. Some can be visited on day cruises, and others only with multi-day cruises.

Isla Lobos (San Cristobal Island)

As its name indicates, the main attraction of this protected cove is the large sea lion colony. These creatures, especially the young, love to leap and dive around the humans who visit their corner of the Galapagos, which has clear and tranquil waters.

Accessibility: Multi-day Cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Eastern

Kicker Rock (San Cristobal Island)

You’ll get your kicks at Kicker Rock. Within this narrow channel, you can see a startling variety of marine life, from rays to white-tipped sharks, from sea turtles to sea lions. With a bit of luck, dolphins and sharks (hammerheads and the endemic Galapagos) may swim by.

Accessibility: Day cruise; Multi-day Cruise (check itinerary to see if snorkeling is included)

Tour Region: Eastern

Gardner Bay (Española Island)

The clear, blue waters of Gardner Bay on Española, the southernmost Galapagos Island, is home to sting rays and colorful parrotfish, as well as sea lions, sea turtles and white-tipped reef sharks. From April to December, waved albatross are seen on the shores.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Eastern / Southern

Chinese Hat Islet (Santa Cruz Island)

Here you’ll delight in the array of iconic Galapagos sea residents, including sea lions, green sea turtles, penguins and white-tipped sharks.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

Tour Region: Central

North Seymour Island

With little current around this island and low cliffs, this is a favorite snorkeling destination. White-tipped sharks are common, as are a rainbow of fish like parrotfish, hogfish, king angelfish and damselfish. Also on the agenda are rays and sea lions.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Central

Devil’s Crown (Floreana Island)

Within this wave-worn, ancient volcanic cone beneath the waves lies a coral reef where you will observe sea urchins, moray eels and many species of fish, including the beautiful scorpionfish. Schools of spotted eagle and golden rays are also present, as are sea lions and green sea turtles. On the rim of the crater jutting above the water are blue- and red-footed boobies. This is one of the Galapagos Islands’ most treasured snorkeling spots. Accessible by panga (dinghy); current can be strong.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Southern

Pinnacle Rock (Bartholomew Island)

Bartolomé Island’s Pinnacle Rock is a common stop for cruises. On this stone obelisk’s beach sea turtles nest and sea lions rest. Beneath the waters is a jagged-rock labyrinth where colorful fish and white-tipped sharks live. This is also a great place to spot penguins.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Western

James Bay (Santiago Island)

This site delights on land and in the sea. On the shore lounge sea fur lions and sea lions. Offshore are penguins and vibrantly colored fish. Depending on the season, golden and spotted rays may also be present. Beginning snorkelers will enjoy this calm and shallow bay. Access is from the shore.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Western

Prince Phillip’s Steps (Genovesa Island)

On the southwestern side of Genovesa (Tower Island) is a submerged volcanic caldera in whose deeper waters reside hammerhead sharks and huge manta rays. On the eastern side of this island is Prince Phillip’s Steps, with more great snorkeling featuring large tropical fish like angelfish, parrotfish and unicorn fish.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Western

 

The next part of this series will explore the best snorkeling sites in the western part of the Galapagos Islands archipelago.

 

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Photo credit: pantxorama