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A black eel with bright green stripes slithers blithely along the sandy bottom, weaving in and out of small rocks and patches of seaweed. Sea lions swim circles around you, playfully darting at your mask or nipping your fins. A marine iguana clings to a mossy green stone, gnawing off bits of algae and seaweed. A reef shark sidles up for a closer look and glowers at you for a moment before turning and disdainfully swimming away, as if you’re beneath notice. A school of surgeonfish passes by, chomping on coral and spitting out sand as they go.


Memorable snorkeling in the Galápagos is easy: if you’re near any island, chances are you can strap on a mask, jump into the water and you’ll see something amazing. The water is generally quite nice, although often cooler than you might expect. If you have an underwater camera, be sure to bring it—there are many species to watch and photograph, including numerous endemic ones, species that you’ll only see in the Galápagos.


The Devil’s Crown is a circle of craggy rocks that rise out of the sapphire waters off the north coast of Floreana Island. The jagged rocks—far too small to be considered islands in their own right—are home to blue-footed boobies, frigate birds and marine iguanas that seem to make their home on any warm, sunny rock in the islands. The premier snorkel spot in the Galápagos, the Devil’s Crown is a favorite haunt of numerous marine species, including a wide variety of fish, sea turtles, sharks, eels and rays. The swift currents can be treacherous for beginning swimmers, but if you’re up to it, don’t miss the chance to dive in.


Sea Lion Island or “Isla Lobos” is a long, narrow cay off of San Cristóbal Island that protects a small, tranquil bay. As you would expect, there is a large colony of sea lions there, frolicking in the water and lounging on the rocks. Perfect for beginners since the water is shallow, warm, never rough and full of bright things to see. The sea lions often play with swimmers, and there is a good chance you´ll see a sea turtle or ray.


A massive rocky island in the unmistakable shape of a sea turtle surges out of the water towards the sky off Española Island. Xarifa, more commonly known as “Turtle Rock,” is a good place to see white-tip reef sharks, sea turtles, rays, scorpionfish and other fish. Turtle Rock is good for all skill levels—although the currents can be tricky and the water is sometimes rough but the island always shelters part of the water, making the swimming easy.


Underwater, the Galápagos is every bit as magical as it is on the “enchanted islands” themselves. The majestic sharks, shy eels and dazzling bright colored fish never fail to impress: you can’t take them with you, but you’ll never forget them.

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