Home to marine life found nowhere else in the world, the Galápagos archipelago is a legendary snorkeling destination. This chain of 19 islands and dozens of islets situated in the Pacific Ocean, about 600 miles west of South America, existed mostly untouched for millions of year. Due to a lack of natural predators, the wildlife in the Galápagos is extremely tame, with no fear of humans. Around the islands, you will snorkel with sea turtles, penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas, whitetip reef sharks, rays, and a whole host of reef fish.
Excellent snorkeling spots can be found all over the islands. Almost all of them are located in the Galápagos National Park, which covers 97% of the land areas of the archipelago. Access to the Park is regulated and you will need a permit ($100 per adult) and an authorized guide to snorkel in the area.
A few sites, located at the edge of the National Park, can be snorkeled without a guide, especially in San Cristóbal and Isabela. To reach almost all the other world-class snorkeling spots the Galápagos has to offer, you will then have two options.
The first is to take part to day boat tours to uninhabited islands and islets in the archipelago. These tours are departing from the three inhabited islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, and Isabela. The cost of most day tours ranges between $100 and $300 per person, including a guide. You will stop on several sites (up to 3 snorkeling spots can be visited on the same day), sometimes on two different islands.
The second option is to visit the Galápagos on an expedition-style cruise. There are approximately 80 live-aboard vessels in the waters around the Galápagos Islands. They offer 4 to 15-days all-inclusive itineraries, meaning you can visit many islands, including remote ones with unique wildlife viewing opportunities. You will snorkel almost every day, sometimes on the most untouched spots of the archipelago. A wide selection of cruises is available, from budget to luxury. Discounts are frequently available for last-minute bookings.
The Galápagos Islands are not a coral reef snorkeling destination, even if the islands are also home to young (and not very colorful) coral colonies. Instead, you will enjoy snorkeling with big animals, in particular the marine iguana, the Galápagos sea lion, and the Galápagos penguin (the 3 most famous endemic species of the archipelago you will encounter in the water). Green sea turtles, eagle rays, manta rays, and whitetip reef sharks are also common on many snorkeling spots around the islands, as well as hundreds of fish and invertebrate species, including angelfish, sea horses, octopuses, and starfish.
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