If you’re next vacation is bringing you to the Galapagos Islands for some rest and relaxation amidst one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring natural paradises on earth, then you shouldn’t miss out on some of its key attractions just because they happen to be underwater. Explore the undersea wonders of the Galapagos and come face-to-face with surreal marine life by snorkeling and scuba diving beneath the turquoise tides!
While both snorkeling and scuba diving will allow you to spend time below the surface, there are some important differences between the two activities that you’ll want to understand as you plan your trip. We’ll outline the major distinctions for you, as well as tell you some of the best places in the Galapagos to either snorkel or dive.
To snorkel, you’ll need goggles or a facemask and a mouthpiece that comes with an L- or J-shaped tube. With the tube, you can partially submerge your head underwater so that the tube remains above the surface, allowing you to breathe. If you want to go deeper than what the length of the tube will allow, you can simply take a deep breath and then dive underwater for as long as you can hold your breath; typical depths for a snorkel dive range from three to 13 feet. Once you surface from such a dive, however, you’ll need to clear the snorkel of water by exhaling sharply or tilting your head back. Snorkeling is best in bodies of warm, shallow water with weak currents and requires no prior training.
Scuba diving, on the other hand, requires instruction and maintaining stringent certifications to be able to dive or even rent equipment in the first place. This is because scuba allows you to reach much greater depths without holding your breath and relies on the use of a diving mask and pressurized gas tank to breathe, so divers must know how to properly use their equipment and conduct themselves underwater. The perks of scuba, of course, are that divers can go much farther and spend much more time below the surface compared to snorkeling, so there is much more to discover!
So, now that you know what the differences between snorkeling and scuba diving are, where should you stop in the Galapagos to try it for yourself?
Just off the coast of Floreana Island is the Devil’s Crown, named for the rocky spires of an ancient volcano that poke out from underwater, where snorkelers can explore an undersea garden of coral reefs inhabited by countless species of tropical fish as well as eels, rays, and sea turtles; you can also pay a visit to the nearby Champion Islet to snorkel alongside a colony of playful sea lions.
There’s also Kicker Rock, located northwest of San Cristobal Island, where you can snorkel inside the remains of an eroded volcanic cone to see marine birds, like blue-footed boobies or frigate birds, more tropical fish, or–if you go within the chasm between the rocks–white-tipped and Galapagos sharks!
For divers, North Seymour Island is only 30 minutes away Santa Cruz island and offers a number of opportunities for divers of all skill levels. Enjoy the scenic reefs and up-close encounters with fish, sea turtles, sea lions rays, eels, sharks, and several species of invertebrate sea creatures.
But, for the truly experienced and advanced, the Galapagos have a diver’s paradise in store: Darwin and Wolf Islands, located 100 miles northwest of Isabela Island, which have been recognized as some of the best dive sites anywhere in the world. Anywhere you dive around these islands, you will be awed by the spectacular marine life swirling all around you, from the hammerhead sharks that gently swim right up to you to the sea turtles and rays gliding through the waters and, if you’re lucky, the majestic whale sharks that will grab your attention and never let it go.
On your next vacation, don’t let your adventure end at the water’s edge. Grab some fins, a mask or a breathing tank and snorkel or dive your way to unforgettable memories in the Galapagos Islands!
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