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Gardner Island is a wild islet close to Española, the southernmost island of Galápagos. It is one of the best spots of the archipelago to view sea lions using only your fins, mask, and snorkel. Playful, curious, and friendly they do not hesitate to engage swimmers, enticing them to join their gripping underwater ballets. A snorkeling excursion filled with emotions, this is a must-do event, if you take a trip to the archipelago!
Gardner Island is located a few hundred meters north of Española Island and faces Gardner Bay. Just like Española, Gardner Island is uninhabited and accessible only by day boat cruise/trip from San Cristóbal (about $200-$250 per person), or via multi-day naturalist cruises. A lot of these cruises include stops at Española in their itineraries. Make sure when booking your trip or cruise that snorkeling stops are included.
Drop offs are made directly from the boat.
The snorkeling area permitted by the National Park includes a little bay located on the west coast of the island. The seabed is rocky (↕2-5m/6.5-16ft), filled with algae, sponges, and corals, and is of little interest for snorkeling. However, Gardner Island is an outstanding site to watch Galápagos sea lions, which are its main attraction. While snorkeling, you’ll soon come face-to-face with some sea lions, including young and very playful males. The latter do not hesitate to get close to snorkelers, swimming around them or nibbling their fins as if to invite them to spin along. Curious, they often come and pose in front of you, just a few centimeters away from your mask, as if intrigued by the colorful gear. These face-to-face encounters with these curious creatures are an unforgettable experience, which will certainly be among your most beautiful snorkeling memories.
It is forbidden to touch animals in the entire Galápagos archipelago both on land or at sea. Sea lions are no exception, although they are sometimes the ones who seek contact. On top of being forbidden, physical interactions can cause damage to the species and be potentially dangerous (chance of an animal bite). By being sheltered, the bay is mostly calm and offers great underwater visibility, although this may vary depending on weather and currents.
Gardner Island is uninhabited and entirely protected by the National Park. It is forbidden to disembark there. Day-trips to Española Island include lunch, fruits, and refreshments served on board.
These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
San Cristóbal Island
Sheltered bay with sea turtles and reef fish
Level: Free shore access
Rocky cliffs with sharks, turtles and schools of fish
Santa Cruz Island
Sandy beach with sea turtles, sharks and reef fish
Rocky seabed with sharks, turtles and many fish
Rocky lagoon with turtles, rays, sea lions and penguins
Rocky drop off with starfish, turtles, sharks and penguins