The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the world’s most unique wildlife, both on land and below her clear blue seas. In fact, every year, thousands of people from around the world converge on the Galapagos, enticed by the thought of watching sea lions play in the surf or frigate birds perform their courtship rituals.
But, for the traveler looking for something a little more exciting than giant tortoises or blue-footed boobies, the Galapagos still won’t disappoint. For this amazing adventure, you’re going to need a bigger boat: Get ready to swim with sharks!
The marine ecosystem of the Galapagos is actually home to several species of sharks, including the appropriately-named Galapagos shark, white-tipped sharks, hammerheads, and great spotted whale sharks, although the first three are the most common.
Galapagos sharks and white-tipped sharks, which resemble small Great White Sharks, live in the clear, shallow waters near the Galapagos Islands’ many undersea reefs. An average of seven feet long at maturity, these creatures have been known to approach humans with curiosity, so exercise caution!
Hammerheads, on the other hand, are much less bold than their fellow sharks and will not normally approach humans without provocation. What makes these shark so fascinating to behold is not only their size–they can grow to be 20 feet long–nor how close they will peacefully approach onlookers, but how they travel in schools. Most hammerheads will swim in packs of about four or five, although schools have been recorded to be as large as 100 or even 500! Imagine: A peaceful dive below the surface of the pristine Pacific tides reveals hundreds of sharks calmly swimming together all around you! It’s a unique experience that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
While sharks live in the Galapagos Islands year-round, because of ocean conditions, the best time to swim with these kings of the sea is generally considered to be between June and November. There are a number of places you can see the sharks, either snorkeling or diving, and while most sites are accessible to everyone, other areas require a fair amount of diving experience to be able to appreciate fully. We’ll give you the rundown on the best places in the Galapagos to get up close and personal with sharks.
Northwest of San Cristobal Island is Kicker Rock–known by Spanish-speaking locals as “Leon Dormido,” or the Sleeping Lion–is what remains of a volcanic lava cone that has long since been eroded by the seas. It can be a great site for those who want to go kayaking, bird watching for frigate birds and boobies, or dive with tropical fish. But, for those who are bold enough and not afraid to enter the chasm between the rocks, you can see sharks, mostly of the Galapagos and white-tipped variety.
At Gordon’s Rocks, off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, divers can see Galapagos sharks and white-tipped sharks, but the real draw of these rocks are the hammerheads that will swim right next to you.
Meaning “the collapse” in Spanish, no doubt referring to its undersea cliffs, “El Derrumbe” is one of the most challenging dive sites in the Galapagos. It is also one of the most remote, as it rests off the coast of Wolf Island, about 100 miles northwest of Isabela Island. The journey is well worth it, though, as any advanced divers who visit here can avail themselves of the chance to swim alongside hammerheads, great spotted whale sharks, Galapagos sharks, white-tipped sharks, and even some species of whales in the unique underwater environment.
So, if you want your next vacation to be one of a kind and to get your heart beating a little faster: suit up, dive in, and swim with the sharks in the Galapagos Islands, one of the last natural wonderlands in the world.