Snorkeling the Galapagos: Four Amazing Species You Won’t See Anywhere Else
The Galapagos Islands are best known for the distinctive wildlife found on their shores, and the impact animals such as the Galapagos Tortoise and Galapagos Finches had on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Significantly less discussed are the remarkable wonders to be found in the surrounding waters.
The Galapagos Islands are blessed with extraordinary marine biodiversity! Nutrient-rich water runs off from the rain forests of Papua New Guinea, travels east across the Pacific Ocean, and is churned up by the warm California current from the north and the cooling Humbodlt Current from the south. And since many of the volcanic islands do not offer enough nutrients on land, some of the Galapagos’ most intriguing species have adapted to live off the bounty to be found in its waters.
Here are four favorites you’re fairly likely to see while snorkeling the Galapagos on your cruise with International Expeditions:
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The flightless cormorant is among the most rare bird species in the world, with around 900 individuals living on the Galapagos Islands in 2009.
It’s an odd bird, with black and brown feathers, turquoise eyes, low growling voices, and wings about 1/3 the size that would be required in order for the bird to fly. Their feathers aren’t waterproof, so they spend a lot of time drying their short, stubby appendages in the sun.
But while they may not be able to fly, in the water they’re like feathered rockets, using their webbed feet and powerful legs to dive down to the bottom of the ocean in search of fish, eels and other small prey.
The Galapagos may be the only place in the world you can snorkel with penguins, and the Galapagos penguin is the only penguin known to live north of the equator. They’re also extremely rare and endangered, with less than 1,000 breeding pairs left.
They cool themselves off via thermoregulation, stretching out their flippers, hunching forward to keep the sun from shining on their feet, and panting to cool themselves. They can typically be found right by the water, relishing frequent dips in the surprisingly cold water.
Galapagos Sea Lions
These sea lions may officially be on the IUCN endangered species list, but they’re ubiquitous in the Galapagos. You can find them almost everywhere– in public parks, on the San Cristobal docks, and on every beach of every island.
Galapagos sea lions seem awkward and clumsy on land, with a lurching side-to-side gait, loud barks and an array of odd bodily noises. But once they reach the water, they transform into something magical, like elegant ballet dancers of the oceanic world.
They also prove eminently playful and curious. With their huge eyes, cute faces and funny flippers, the sea lions’ charms prove impossible to resist.
Marine iguanas look like little miniature Godzillas, hissing and sneezing (in order to expel excess salt from their nasal glands) and tending to clutter en masse like kittens.
Marine iguanas love congregating on the lava-strewn shores, where they can rapidly absorb heat from the sun to warm their bodies after a swim. They vary greatly from island to island in terms of size and color, from the teal green-tinged adult males on Española to the brick red colors of the subspecies on Fernandina.
Their flattened tails and spiky dorsal fins make them a wonder to behold in the water. It’s bizarre to be snorkeling and see a 4-foot long lizard feeding on algae 25 feet below you, then shimmying their prehistoric-looking bodies to swim to the surface for air.
But their crusty cuteness and their puppy-like penchant for being constantly underfoot ultimately proves endearing.
See These Creatures and MORE!
Inspired to explore the famed Galapagos Islands and snorkel among curious wildlife? International Expeditions offers year-round Galapagos cruises along with land-based options in the islands. Check out IE’s incredible Galapagos tours and money-saving travel specials.