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Galapagos Snorkeling

Galapagos snorkelling

Snorkeling in the Galapagos can be an extraordinary experience, and swimming at flippers' length from sea turtles, sharks, sea lions, manta rays, and dozens of other tropical fish is one of the most memorable experiences of visitors' itineraries. During the Galapagos summer (June-Dec.), however, the water temperature can get quite cold, and less-than-tropical air temperatures can make any sub-marine adventure uncomfortably chilling. Bring a wet salt if you're susceptible to the cold, or ask if there are any available for rent on your boat.

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The islands of South Plaza Island and Bartolome Island have especially good snorkel sites.


1. Do not touch the animals. Even a gentle caress can disturb the mucous coating that helps protects fish from disease. Do not feed the fish. If fed by humans, after a while they become dependent on handouts and lose the ability to forage. Also, they lose their natural wariness, which makes them easy prey for poachers.

2. Do not touch the coral. The tiny jelly-like polyps that live inside the hard calcium casing are fragile. One swipe of the hand can kill hundreds of them.

Galapagos snorkeles

Many popular shallow reefs have been decimated by careless swimmers who stand on them when they get tired. Swim gently and avoid kicking up a lot of sand when near a reef. The sediment can eventually smother the coral and block vital sunlight.

3. Wear a liberal coating of waterproof sunscreen on your back and the backs of your legs.

The thin film of water over you acts as a magnifier and because the water keeps your skin cool, you may not realize your skin is burning until it is too late. People who are especially sun-sensitive should wear a covering.

4. Keep an eye out for stinging organisms like jellyfish and fire coral.

5. Take off your jewelry. While barracuda attacks are almost unheard of, the toothy fish do seem to be attracted to shiny objects.

6. Shark spottings are rare on the shallow reefs that snorkelers frequent, but if you see a shark, do not panic. Most reef sharks are passive types, not man eaters, and they usually ignore swimmers. If one acts aggressively or pays undue attention to you, calmly and slowly leave the water.

7. Do not walk in shallow water near the reef; sea urchin spines can cause nasty puncture wounds to the bottom of your feet.

9. Shuffle your feet across the bottom as you wade through the shallow sandy areas on your way to and from the reef. Stingrays lying on the bottom will swim off if you bump into them but sometimes sting when they are stepped on. Unless you plan to do a "drift dive" where you start in one spot and let the current carry you to an exit point, it's usually best to swim into the current first and then let it carry you back at the end of your dive.

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