Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galapagos Islands are a treasure trove of unique terrestrial and marine species. Located 621 miles (1,000 km) from South America, the 19 volcanic islands of the Galapagos are surrounded by a marine preserve teeming with many species unique to the region. Take a look at the best snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands:
1. Fernandina Island
When you've finished exploring the lava fields at Punta Espinosa, it's time to hit the water! This is one of the best places to spot dolphins, orcas, humpback and pilot whales. Sea turtles and marine iguanas frequent the shallow, warmer waters close to land.
2. Isabela Island: Tagus Cove
Snorkeling at Tagus Cove is a singular experience, as the entire floor of the cove is covered with green algae, which attracts sea turtles, iguanas and other aquatic life. You may also encounter Galapagos penguins and the rare flightless cormorant.
3. Bartolomé Island
Pinnacle Rock is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Galapagos. Thrusting up from the edge of the ocean, it is known for sea turtles, Galapagos penguins--the second smallest, and the only penguin found north of the equator--and white tipped reef sharks. A sandy beach and sheltered cove provide the perfect place for a leisurely swim.
4. Santiago Island
Swim and snorkel with penguins, California sea lions and fur seals on Santiago Island. This is also one of the few shore-accessible snorkeling locations in the Galapagos.
5. San Cristobal Island
One of your arrival points in the Galapagos, the main attraction at not-to-be-missed Lobos Inlet is playful sea lions, who swim and frolic in the calm, isolated cove with a beautiful white sand bottom.
6. Sombrero Chino Island
The secluded coves around “Chinese Hat” Island create a perfect nursery for sea lion pups, and snorkeling with them is a treat you'll never forget. This is one of the few places you'll witness sea lions, Galapagos penguins, reef sharks and green sea turtles all in the same place.
7. North Seymour Island
Snorkel without a watercraft in these rich waters. Walk straight into the sea and view parrotfish, damselfish, hogfish, angelfish and box fish. This is also a great place to catch whitetip reef sharks napping on the sandy bottom.
8. Floreana Island
Snorkel inside Devil's Crown, the sunken cone of an extinct volcano. The prevailing current pulls you into and around the crown, one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos. Moray eels, coral, snappers, groupers, angelfish, yellowtail-grunts and many other species make this a unique experience.
9. Española Island
The southernmost island in the archipelago boasts many species you just won't see anywhere else. Gardner Bay, in particular, is an important nesting area for sea turtles, but you'll also see stingrays, whitetip sharks and many fish species.
10. Isabela Island-Punta Vicente Roca
An ancient volcano forms a protected bay in the northwest, and cold ocean currents ensure amazing snorkeling. The famous red-lipped batfish, frogfish, moonfish, hinge beak prawns and seahorses join turtles, sea lions and sharks to make this one of the most sought after dives in the Galapagos.
For more information on top Galapagos Islands snorkeling spots, check out the Galapagos Expedition: Darwin's Playground, Central & North or the Galapagos Expedition: Darwin's Playground, Far West expeditions.
Photos courtesy of Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism and International Expeditions.