Galapagos Sting Rays
The beautiful, elegant and majestic rays of the Galápagos
What you need to know about the Galapagos Sting Rays
There are several species of rays that are commonly seen in the waters around the Galápagos islands. You can often see rays swimming in the clear water when you are kayaking, snorkeling or traveling by panga on an excursion. If you are on a diving cruise then you will be able to get really close to these elegant creatures. In the Galápagos, Rays can often be seen from the cliffs at South Plaza Island or even from the beach shore on Rabida Island or in a silent lagoon surrounded by a mangrove forest. There are several varieties that are resident in the archipelago:
Golden Rays are so-named because of their golden-coloured tops, but they can also be recognized by their blunt head and long, whip-like tails. They can vary in size but most are between 3 and 4 feet across from wingtip to wingtip. Golden Rays are often seen in the Galápagos diving sites swimming alone, but they can also be found swim in large schools in quiet, shallow lagoons. The best place to see schools of golden rays is at Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz island.
Spotted Eagle Rays have pointed heads and long tails with a spiny tip. Their most notable attribute is the white spots that cover their otherwise black top. In the Galápagos, Spotted Eagle Rays are also commonly sighted in large schools in smaller lagoons like Black Turtle Cove. You can also sometimes see them if your are snorkeling off the coast of Floreana Island.
Stingrays are common in the shallow beach areas and sandy-bottomed depths throughout the Galápagos. These grey rays have a long, narrow tail which ends in a nasty stinger that gives the fish its name. They vary in size and shape quite a lot, and some can grow to have a 5ft wingspan. Stingrays can often be spotted lurking on the seabed of the shallower snorkeling sites, and sometimes amongst the surf of Post Office Bay on Floreana Island.
Galapagos Sting Rays: Interesting facts
Rays are most closely related to sharks.
Rays bodies contain no bones. Their skeleton is made up entirely of cartilage
A stingray's venom is so poisonous that even a dead stingray's tail can kill a human.
Feed on bottom dwelers like equinoderms (like sea cucumbers) and crustaceans,
Galapagos Sting Rays: Pictures from our travelers
Spots where the Galapagos Sting Rays can be observed
Albany Rock is a small crescent-shaped outcrop just off the northwest coast of Santiago Island.
The dive at Albany has a maximum depth of around 100ft and visibility here is from 40 – 70 feet, depending on time of year. There's a moderate current that shifts from north to south with the tides, and also some moderate surge.
This is a great dive site to swim with Galápagos Sea Lions who often come and say hello. There are a host of tropical fish to be seen here, as well as species such as manta and stingrays, Galápagos green turtles and several species of sharks. The rocky bottom and geological formations provide a great habitat for a wide variety of marine life and make for enjoyable exploring under water.
A walk on Bartholomew
Bartholomew (known as Bartolomé locally) is the most popular excursion for Galápagos visitors, and its iconic scenery is the most photographed in the whole archipelago.
To start your walk on this island you will land in the small bay opposite the famous Pinnacle Rock. You then start the climb to the 375ft peak of Bartholomew. You’ll travel along a half mile trail that includes a series of wooden steps that have been built by the National Park Service to protect the ground here from erosion caused by tourists hiking to the summit.
When you arrive at the top of island the spectacular views will have made your efforts worthwhile. Your Galapatours expert guide will point out all the landmarks you will see from here - Pinnacle Rock itself, jutting skywards. The huge black lava flows of Sullivan Bay. The islands of Daphne Major and Daphne Minor.
On the way back down, you will be able to recognise the different volcanic formations evident on the island, such as tuff cones and volcanic spatter. You'll also see some remarkable examples of the Galápagos' ability to highlight the adaptation of species. For example the bushes that all look dead are actually very much alive, with leaves covered with special grey hairs that help to reflect the harsh sun and reduce moisture loss for the plants.
Back at the beach there is excellent snorkeling, thanks to the underwater caves and rocks in the area. You will see various sharks, rays and tropical fish. You may also see Galápagos Penguins swimming with you!
A walk on North Seymour
North Seymour was formed at the same time as neighboring Baltra Island, and by the same process - an uplifting of undersea lava. This small, flat island has hiking trails throughout, allowing you to explore the arid landscape and to meet the seabirds that call North Seymour home.
North Seymour was the site of one of the earliest conservation experiments in the Galápagos. In 1934 a group of Galápagos Land Iguanas were moved there by Captain Hanckock. They have since thrivedthrived, and there are now well over 2,500 of them on the island and more than 3,000 on the neighbouring Baltra island.
The biggest attraction of North Seymour is its large colony of Blue-Footed Boobies and its Frigatebirds. These popular Galápagos species are often found together because the Frigatebirds rely on the Boobies’ fishing prowess. The Frigatebirds actively steal the Boobies catch to feed themselves!
There is also a population of Marine Iguanas and Galápagos Sea Lions are frequently spotted. The snorkeling here is also very good, with plenty of marine life to see including rays and reef sharks.
A walk on Rabida Island
Rabida is a small, steeply-sloped island with red-sand shores, and was originally called Jervis. Despite its small size, Rabida has one of the highest concentrations of volcanic features in the Galápagos, and it's thanks to the iron-rich lava deposits that its sands and soils are so red.
After a wet landing on the northern coast you will often see Galápagos Sea Lions and marine iguanas around the beach, especially near the sheltered caves in hot weather. Just behind the beach is a nesting site for brown pelicans, who use the saltbush as cover. Rabida is one of the best spots in the archipelago to observe pelicans. Sometimes flamingos can also be seen in the lagoon here.
There is a short hiking trail that leads further inland through Opuntias where there are good opportunities to see land birds like Darwin's finches, Galápagos Doves and Galápagos Mockingbirds.
After your trip inland you can then have a relaxing swim and enjoy some snorkeling, which is very good in the clear waters off the beach. While you swim, you'll be able to see Blue-Footed Boobies taking off over your head from their cliff-top roosts.
A walk on Santa Fe
Santa Fe is a small, flat island right in the center of the Galápagos archipelago, and is thought to be one of the oldest volcanoes here. Dating of the rocks below the water estimates they were formed almost 4 million years ago.
Santa Fe had its own breed of Giant Tortoise that became extinct at some point in the 1800s due to being hunted for meat. There are two species that are unique to the island still present here - the Santa Fe Land Iguana, and the Santa Fe Rice Rat.
There is one visitor site on Santa Fe, and you will have a panga ride to a wet landing on the beach at Barrington Bay on the island's north coast. From here there are two hiking trails. One is a short loop close to the beach that takes you into an Opuntia forest filled with these massive cactus. This is the best opportunity to see the Santa Fe land iguanas and also other species such as Galápagos Hawks.
The second trail is a tougher proposition as it climbs quite steeply to the top of a cliff from where you will enjoy stunning views over the island's unspoilt interior.
Back on the beach you can join the Galápagos Sea Lions who often play in the waves and you can enjoy some wonderful snorkeling in the clear blue-green waters here.
A walk on South Plaza
Whilst her twin, North Plaza, is closed to visitors, South Plaza is one of the best visitor sites in the Galápagos thanks to the large number of species present on her small area.
The Plazas were formed as the result of a geological uplift, and because this was uneven they both have cliffs on their south sides and low lying shores on their northern coasts.
The most noticeable (and noisiest) of South Plaza's residents are her Galápagos Sea Lions, who have a large colony here. Less obvious are her land iguanas (the smallest in the islands), many marine iguanas and large numbers and varieties of seabirds.
Inland is a mix of scrubby vegetation and giant opuntia cactus forest, providing food for the iguanas. As you follow the circular hiking trail you will come to the summit of the cliffs here where you'll be among countless nesting seabirds.
The name "Bachas Beach" (or "Las Bachas" in Spanish) actually comes from a mispronunciation! After the second world war, American forces stationed on Santa Cruz abandoned some of their barges there - "bachas" was the nearest some of the locals could get to pronouncing the English word, and the name has stuck. You can still see the remains of one of the floating docks the soldiers set up on one of the two beaches that make up Las Bachas Beach.
This beach is covered in white coral sand, and it's a major nesting site for Galápagos green turtles. There's also a lagoon just behind the sand which often hosts flamingos, ducks and migratory birds. You can also often find marine iguanas feeding on the rocky outcrops near the tide line.
The main beach is perfect for swimming, being very sheltered from the ocean swells, and is a very pleasant spot to cool off and to indulge in some snorkeling.
Black Turtle Cove
The only way into Black Turtle cove is by panga (motorised dinghy). This "secret" corner of the Galápagos feels like your own personal hideout, and once the panga motor is shut off you're surrounded only with the gentle sounds of nature as you drift through the mangroves.
Rich with wildlife, you'll often see Galápagos green turtles feeding, or even mating, in the calm water, as well as different shark species and Galápagos rays.
This is a very different visitor site, showing another side to the Galápagos away from the noise of surf on the beaches and barking sea lions.
Sited on the northwest coast of Santiago Island, Buccaneer Cove wasn't named as a romantic fancy, but because it actually was used extensively by pirates, privateers, buccaneers and whalers to set anchor and head ashore.
Of all the Galápagos Islands, Santiago was most frequently used as a stop over as it provided easy access to fresh water, wood, and meat. Used since the 1600s as a staging point, the easy-to-catch Giant Tortoises that lived here became a useful source of protein for the sailors. There was a more strenuous journey required up to the highlands in search of water, but the sheltered cove made this a better location than some of the more open coast elsewhere.
Today the steep cliffs above the cove are filled with nesting seabirds, wheeling in the air above the deep red sands of the beach. This is a good site for snorkeling or to stroll along the beach drinking in the sights and sounds of the Galápagos, and you will often find yourself sharing the sand and rocks with sea lions or Galápagos Fur Seals.
A dive in Cape Douglas off the west coast of Isabela Island is a fantastic opportunity to see a wide array of marine life, both above and below the surface of the water.
As you prepare for your dive you can see Galápagos Flightless Cormorants, Galápagos Penguins and Galápagos Marine Iguanas - all species you cannot see anywhere else in the world except this archipelago.
As you enter the water, you may have the opportunity to admire the powerful swimming ability of the marine iguanas as the bigger males feed on the rocks deeper under the surface.
Other species you may see in the water include Red-lipped Batfish, Horn Sharks and Mola Mola, and sometimes Baleen Whales are seen here gliding through the water.
If you have particular species that you are keen to see, contact one of our Galápagos experts today who can help you choose an itinerary that will best meet your requirements.
Cape (or Cabo) Marshall is a good wall dive on the northeastern coast of Isabela. Depths here can be as much as 130ft and the visibility is anywhere from 20 to 70ft depending on the time of year.
Because of the geography of the site the current here is always moderate to heavy, and this is always done as a drift dive following the coast. There's little surge here, though and you'll have a mix of wall and reef diving.
Cape Marshall is a great location for giant manta rays and a wide variety of pelagic fish, and hammerhead sharks are a common sight. Galapatours visitors have also reported encounters with large schools of barracuda and sea lions who come along to join in with your dive!
Carrion Point on the eastern coast of Santa Cruz protrudes into the ocean, creating a sheltered cove which is a superb place to snorkel.
There's no landing here, you can simply dive into the water from your boat. The sheltered waters are crystal clear and you will see a wide range of marine wildlife, including Galápagos rays, sharks, and innumerable tropical fish.
A panga ride along the coast here will also allow your Galapatours guide to tell you more about the bird species and about the ecology of this part of Santa Cruz in general.
Carrion Point Dive Site
Carrion Point is often used as a dive site before the long trip north to Wolf and Darwin Islands, so you may have your first "proper" Galápagos dive here.
The site is typical of the Galápagos, with rocky slopes and a boulder-strewn reef with only ocasional patches of sand. The habitat is very rich here, and you are likely to encounter a wide range of tropical fish, as well as hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, manta rays, as well as the ever-curious Galápagos Sea Lions.
Champion Islet is considered one of the best snorkeling sites in the entire archipelago. This small island was originally named after a famous whaler, Andrew Champion, and in its beautiful waters you can see Galápagos Sea Lions, Green Turtles, Hammerheads, Rays, and many colorful reef fish.
Champion Islet isn't only for those who seek out marine life. On shore you can find Galápagos Penguins, Blue-Footed Boobies and Frigatebirds to name but a few. One very special resident is the Floreana Mockingbird. This species is extremely rare, with only an estimated 100 individuals left - of which only 30-40 of them are left on this island. It is unknown how much longer this fragile species can survive.
Chinese Hat ("Sombrero Chino" to locals) is an islet set just a short distance off the southeastern coast of Santiago. The small channel between Chinese Hat and mainland Santiago is fairly deep yet sheltered, and the water here is a glistening turquoise.
The islet gets its name because if you approach from the north, you will see that this small volcanic cone does indeed look like the traditional bamboo or rice hat. Viewed from above on a satellite image, however, you will see that this islet is actually more of an oval shape.
There is a short hiking trail on Chinese Hat that runs along the western coast of the islet. This is a harsh landscape of volcanic rubble and lava formations, a very atmospheric reminder of the fiery origins of the Galápagos.
Along the cost of both Chinese Hat and the opposite Santiago shore you are likely to see Galápagos Sea Lions and Galápagos Penguins, either basking in the sun or seeking shade to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Overhead, you might catch a glimpse of the magnificent Galápagos Hawk.
The stand-out reason for a visit to Chinese Hat however is to snorkel in that turquoise channel. Here you can see various species of sharks, rays, and a variety of tropical fish. Not all Galápagos boats can visit, and permits are only given to a select few boats and guides. Here at Galapatours we offer itineraries on all of these specially selected boats, so if a visit to Chinese Hat is important to you, speak to one of our Galápagos experts today to help choose the perfect itinerary.
Cormorant Point is on the northern tip of Floreana, and you'll land on a beach that sits between two volcanic cones. The sand on one of the beaches here has a noticeably olive-green color. This is due to a much higher than usual concentration of olivine crystals in the sand. Another beach is made up mainly of coral sand and is almost a brilliant white in comparison.
This Galápagos site has a large lagoon which is favored by flamingos, their pink coloring contrasting with the green sand. There is some good snorkeling here, and you can often spot rays in the shallows. There is a one mile hike available that takes you to higher ground and provides great views over the lagoon, and to both beaches on either side of the Point.
This is a famous site thanks to the wide variety of marine life you can encounter in just one dive, but it is for moderate to advanced divers only. Depths range from 10 to 90ft, with visibility between 30 and 60ft depending on the season. Currents here are moderate, and surges will be experienced in the shallows.
In the water you'll encounter sloping rock plate formations and a fantastic wall that drops far down out of sight. These rocky formations are home to seahorses, Galápagos black coral, octopus, a wide range of tropical fish and Galápagos sharks and hammerheads.
When you add to this the friendly sea lions who almost always come to play with divers and the elegant green turtles that cruise past, this dive site really does have it all.
This islet off the coast of Isabela is a popular diving site thanks to the variety of species that you can see in the waters here. In or on the water you are likely to encounter a range of shark species, Galápagos sea lions, stingrays, green sea turtles, cormorants, penguins, manta rays, and many more.
Also visible in these habitats are sponges and corals, and if you are lucky even sea horses, shaped just like the island of Isabela herself!
If you have any particular species that you are keen to see on your dive, contact one of our Galápagos experts today and we can advise on the best dive itinerary to suit your requirements.
Daphne Major (or Mayor) is a barren, tree-less island that is the remains of an extinct tuff cone whose rim rises some 400ft above sea level.
A trip around this island by boat offers the opportunity for some excellent snorkeling as well as observing the many seabirds that hunt in the area.
While snorkeling near Daphne Major you will be able to see many species of tropical fish, as well as rays, green turtles, shark species and more.
Like her big sister Daphne Major, Daphne Minor is a barren, treeless extinct remains of a tuff cone. There are no visitor sites on Daphne Minor, but a panga ride along her shores will give the opportunity for some snorkeling.
Here is where Daphne Minor shows her true colors - literally. An unusually large amount of smaller underwater organisms live on the rocky undersea walls of the island, creating a real multi-colored environment amongst the black and grey rocks.
Other creatures often seen here include seahorses, Galápagos sharks, rays and green turtles.
Darwin Bay is a must-visit site for birdwatchers. Starting with a landing on a beautiful white coral beach you are able to follow an easy half-mile trail that will take you through bird-filled mangroves. Species that can be seen on this part of the trail include Nazca Boobies, Galápagos red-footed Boobies, and Swallow-Tailed gulls.
As the path continues you will find tidal pools - favourite spots for Galápagos Sea Lions to lazily swim and play. At the path's end you will come to the top of a cliff which will reward you with a spectacular view.
Huge schools of hammers and Galápagos sharks, whale sharks, Mantas: Darwin's Towers (formerly: Darwin's Arch) is arguably one of the world's best diving sites.
Located just off the southeast tip of Darwin Island, the islet of Darwin's Towers (formerly known as Darwin's Arch, but the arch collapsed in 2021) is a fantastic marine wonderland. The main attractions are the whale sharks and hammerhead sharks that often gather here. But there are many other species you can find - green turtles, majestic manta rays, dolphins, large schools of fish, and other species of sharks are all frequent encounters.
We have met divers with over 1000 logged dives that still called it the single best diving site of their life! If you have any particular species that you are keen to see on your dive, contact one of our Galápagos experts today, and we can advise on the best dive itinerary to suit your requirements.
Once a volcanic crater, the Devil's Crown is now what remains of the eroded crater. The wind and waves have breached the east and west walls, leaving just the northern and southern crater edges showing above the water. Over thousands of years a coral reef has grown in the submerged center, creating one of the best snorkeling sites on the entire Galápagos.
Exposed to currents, snorkeling in the Devil's Crown isn't a sedentary experience, and the surges can be quite thrilling! The marine life you will see is unparalleled, with colorful reef fish, sharks, rays and more. If your itinerary includes a stop here, you really must get into the water as it's an experience not to be missed.
Diving spot in front of Pinzon
Pinzon is named after the brothers who captained the famous ships Pinta and Nina that sailed with Christopher Columbus on his voyage of discovery to the New World. This small island is surrounded by deep waters, and this has meant that its species have been isolated from the rest of the Galápagos for millennia. However this is also what makes it a great dive site.
For diving beginners the conditions are ideal in the tranquil bay, where you will be joined by friendly sea lions and elegant green turtles. You will be able to see a wide variety of tropical fish, included Red-Lipped Batfish.
For more experienced divers there is a deep drop-off wall where you are more likely to encounter a variety of shark species, manta and stingrays, lobster and even sea horses.
Dragon Hill is the site of a success story in the history of Galápagos conservation. In 1975 almost the entire population of land iguanas in this part of northeast Santa Cruz was wiped out by packs of feral dogs. The Charles Darwin Research Center swung into action with an emergency breeding and rearing program for land iguanas. The program was extremely successful, and the last captive-bred land iguana was released from the breeding center onto Dragon Hill in 1991. Iguanas continue to be released here every 3 or 4 years from other breeding centers in the Galápagos to ensure the continued success of the Dragon Hill Iguanas.
As well as being the landing site to visit the Hill, the rocky shoreline here is a great snorkeling site where you can swim with green turtles, sharks and rays. A trail leads inland past two saltwater lagoons which often play host to flamingos. As you continue to circle Dragon Hill on the trail you'll be able to see land iguanas in the wild, and you can find their burrows all along the path.
As well as the land iguanas, the area around Dragon Hill is full of other species including Darwin's Finches, Galápagos Mockingbirds, and the native Opuntia cactus. This is one of the longer walking trails, and your Galapatours guide will recommend you use good footwear, especially as the trail can be uneven in places and gets slippery and muddy after wet weather.
The islet of Eden is the remains of a volcanic "tuff cone" - a type of volcanic feature formed when molten lava comes into contact with cold sea water with explosive results. Eden is just off the northwestern coast of Santa Cruz and is usually circumnavigated by panga.
There is an abundance of wildlife here, on land, in the air and in the water. Among other seabirds, you'll see Blue-Footed Boobies diving to catch their prey. Snorkeling from your boat, you're likely to see Galápagos green turtles, rays, and sharks in the clear, shallow waters, particularly if you are close to the mangroves on the shoreline.
There's no landing site here, but your Galapatours guide will sail you around the island, pointing out sites of interest, and letting you know the very best places to go into the water.
Puerto Egas (Port Egas) is a sheltered landing site at the southern end of James Bay on the northwestern coast of Santiago. This landing site is the trailhead for two hiking paths.
The first trail runs along the coast to visit the so-called "Fur Seal Grottos". The Galápagos Fur Seals like to seek shade from the equatorial sun, and they prefer rocky shores with caves or other nooks and crannies in which they can keep cool. The grottos here are perfect for them, and the tidal pools are also popular with Galápagos Marine Iguanas who can be seen feeding in and around them.
The second trail from Egas Port heads inland to the "Salt Mine Volcano". This hike is just under 2 miles long and takes you to the rim of a salt mine crater. This "mine" is actually a small volcanic cone that is filled with a salt water lagoon that dries up in the dry season. At several points in the 20th century individuals or companies attempted to mine salt from it, but without commercial success. The name of your landing site is after the owner of the last company to try salt mining here, Hector Egas.
The lagoon is often home to Galápagos flamingos and other birds, and the wonderful Galápagos Hawk can often be seen circling above this area.
On the eastern coast of Isabela, the wide and sheltered Elizabeth Bay is a haven for wildlife. With areas of mangrove on the shore that contrast with the surrounding lava fields, and a myriad of small islets and rocky reefs, this is a particularly rich area for wildlife.
Accessible only by panga (small motorised dinghy), exploring Elizabeth Bay will provide you with an opportunity to get up close and personal with many of Isabela's species. During your 2 hour boat ride around Elizabeth Bay you can see rays, sharks, green sea turtles, Galápagos penguins, pelicans, and plenty of Galápagos Sea Lions. Nearer to the shores and mangroves you'll see Galápagos Flightless Cormorants and marine iguanas.
Galapatours guests regularly tell us that Elizabeth Bay is one of their favourite Galápagos excursions and visitor sites.
Located on the eastern tip of Marchena Island, Punta Espejo is known for pelagics and dolphin encounters. Other common species that you'll be able to encounter on a dive session in Espejo point are hammerheads, turtles, rays and moray eels.
THe maximum depth is 24 meters with visibility ranging from 9 – 18 meters (30 – 60 feet). Current comes from the Southeast and are moderate to strong. Heavy surge with large swells can be encountered and diving near the coast is to be avoided.
Fernandina Island has never been colonised by any non-native species, and this makes it ones of the world's most pristine island ecosystems. Coupled with its young age (Fernandina was only formed a few hundred thousand years ago) this makes a visit to this Galápagos island very special indeed.
At Espinosa Point on the northeastern shore of Fernandina the vista is dominated by "La Cumbre", the volcano whose lava fields formed the island. A visit to Espinosa Point is high on many people's list thanks to the number of iconic unique Galápagos species you will see here. As well as the noisy and fun-loving Galápagos Sea Lions, Espinosa Point is a great place to see Marine Iguanas, the wonderful Galápagos Penguins and the unique and endangered Galápagos Flightless Cormorant. If you are very lucky and keep your eyes skyward you may also catch sight of a Galápagos Hawk circling overhead looking for its next meal.
Espumilla Beach is located at the northern end of James Bay, a large bay on the northwestern coast of Santiago. This is a pretty beach that is fringed with lush green forests.
The beach itself is home to marine iguanas who feed among the rocks at either end of the beach, and it is a good place to snorkel, with visitors often reporting sightings of sharks, rays and octopus. This is also a nesting site for Galápagos green turtles.
There is an inland hiking trail here that takes visitors past a seasonal lagoon that's often bright green thanks to the algae in the water. Here you can find Galápagos flamingos and pin-tail ducks. The trail then loops through the arid zone, where you can see further bird species including Galápagos Hawks that often circle overhead.
This is one of the only places in the whole Galápagos where night diving is allowed. Fondeadero means "anchoring site", and it's well names - this is the perfect place for a night dive as it's protected from the winds and currents. This makes it possible to enjoy night diving, and to witness a whole new side to Galápagos' undersea world.
Highlights to a night dive here include the chance of seeing the see glow gently with an eerie light, thanks to the bioluminescence of tiny plankton in the water when conditions are right. You've also got an excellent chance of being joined by Galápagos Fur Seals on your dives here.
Gardner Bay is a wonderfully sheltered area on the eastern shore of Espanola Island. It boasts one of the best beaches in the Galápagos, with superb white sand. There is nowhere better on the archipelago to simply sit back, relax, and take in the marvels of the wildlife around you.
The beach here is home to a large colony of Galápagos Sea Lions, who seem to love sunbathing on the beach as much as we humans do! As well as the fun-loving Sea Lions you can also find Galápagos Mockingbirds here. These birds are full of curiosity, and have been known to come and investigate bootlaces, camera straps and other equipment!
The wonderful Galápagos Green Sea Turtle can also often be seen in the shallows here, and along with a large variety of colorful reef fish, this makes Gardner Bay a great place to swim and snorkel.
Isla Lobos Dive Site
One of the best spots in Galápagos to observe sea lion pups, trumpet fish and blue footed boobies.
Lobos Island is named after the colony of Galápagos Sea Lions that live here, but they aren't the only native Galápagos species that calls this narrow island home. In the water, you will find Fur Seals fishing Blue-Footed Boobies, Trumpet Fish, Green Turtles, Rays and white-tip reef sharks. With a bit of luck, you might also spot marine iguanas, although they are not hugely common here!
Kicker Rock (or Leon Dormido, "sleeping lion", locally) is an iconic feature of Galápagos geology, and is one of the most popular photograph opportunities in the archipelago.
Kicker Rock is the remains of a volcanic "tuff cone". Tuff cones are formed when hot magma meets cold seawater, and the resulting explosion forms the rocky structure seen today. Over countless years erosion has caused a split, opening a narrow channel that small boats can sail completely through, and offering an amazing view as you sail around this 490ft tall monolith!
As you navigate around the rock you will see Galápagos Blue-Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, and Frigatebirds as they launch themselves from their roosts in the cliffs high above.
Marine life here is plentiful, and you may spot hammerhead sharks, green turtles and a whole variety of tropical fish, particularly if your boat includes a snorkeling stop here as some do.
On the western coast of Floreana, La Loberia is a delightful beach that locals and visitors alike come to for it's lovely ambiance. Along the shore are over half a mile of paths through the National Park, some over the rocks and some on the sandy beaches.
The main attraction at La Loberia is the bustling colony of Galápagos Sea Lions who live here. As well as these noisy and fun creatures you will often see Galápagos Marine Iguanas on the rocky water line, and from height you'll probably spot Galápagos Green Turtles swimming in the rocky bays that are all along this coast.
Las Tintoreras are a group of small islets just a few hundred metres from the shores at Villamil, only accessible by kayak or panga. The network of Tintoreras forms a patchwork over the stunning turquoise waters of the bay, and this natural shelter is a haven for wildlife.
At low tides, one shallow lagoon is famous for offering amazing views of sharks swimming near the surface - the water clarity is such that they often look like they are floating in air! Other species that call Las Tintoreras home include Galápagos marine iguanas and friendly (and noisy) Galápagos Sea Lions.
Depending on tide conditions and time of year, it may be possible to snorkel here. If this is important to you, speak to one of our Galápagos experts who can advise you on the best itineraries to choose to meet your requirements.
Lobos Island is named after the colony of Galápagos Sea Lions that live here, but they aren't the only native Galápagos species that calls this narrow island home. You can see Galápagos Fur Seals basking here, and there is a nesting colony of Blue-Footed Boobies that come to Lobos each year to raise their chicks.
There are one or two short hiking trails that lead into the center of the island, and this is always a peaceful place to visit. Galapatours visitors tell us it's one of their favorite visitor sites to just sit and soak up the Galápagos atmosphere.
Back on the beach, the swimming and snorkeling is wonderful, and thanks to the island's position close to the main shore of San Cristobal, the channel between them is sheltered and the turquoise water is crystal clear. This is a Galapatours favorite spot, so speak to one of our Galápagos specialists if you want help choosing an itinerary that includes a visit to this special place.
Main Darwin Island
Darwin Island (originally named Culpepper Island) was renamed in honor of the famous naturalist. It is considered by many to be one of the best underwater habitats anywhere on earth.
Darwin is the most northerly island in the Galápagos, and is over 100 miles northwest of Isabela. Together with its neighbour Wolf Island, it is the most remote part of the archipelago.
Renowned for the large schools of hammerhead sharks that gather here (for reasons scientists still don't fully understand), Darwin and Wolf are tips of huge long-extinct undersea volcanoes that grew up over half a mile from the seafloor below.
You will enjoy spectacular diving here, and among the species you are likely to encounter are hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, rays, green turtles, and a myriad of tropical reef fish. If you have any particular species that you are keen to see on your dive, contact one of our Galápagos experts today and we can advise on the best dive itinerary to suit your requirements.
Mangle Point (known as Punta Mangle locally) is one of the newer visitor sites that have been authorized by the Galápagos National Park, and this one is excellent for snorkeling.
Mangle Point is on the eastern side of Fernandina and is a natural inlet which forms a sheltered area that's filled with wildlife, both under the water and on the coast. There's no landing here, and you will be snorkeling direct from your boat.
Among the species that you are likely to see are Galápagos rays, sea lions, green turtles, and sharks. As you drift along by the mangroves you can also see flightless cormorants, pelicans, Darwin's Finches, and many more species that your Galapatours expert guide will identify to you.
Moreno Point (known locally as Punta Moreno) is a short journey from Elizabeth Bay on the west coast of Isabela Island. You will take a panga ride which will give you great views of the striking rocky shoreline before you make your landing.
Here you will see the eerie site of a huge lava field leading up to the distant Cero Azul volcano. Hiking through this alien landscape you will come across several tidal lagoons, pools and mangroves - all of which provide an oasis for a range of wildlife, particularly bird species. In the larger tidal pools you may see green turtles or sharks, the clear waters giving you a unique opportunity to view them from on land!
On your journey back to the boats from your 1.2 mile hike you're likely to see Galápagos Penguins on the rocky shores as well a range of birds including herons and Galápagos Flamingos. This is a favorite excursion as it combines the opportunity to see coastal species with a hike through stunning landscapes.
Mosquera Diving Point
Mosquera, like may similar islets in the Galápagos, was formed by a volcanic uprising. The islet Mosquera that emerges from the sea between Seymour and Baltra island. A sandy bottom at 15-18 meters is scattered with curious garden eels and pelagic species as well as an underwater wall flowing downwards from the shallows into the deep. Keep an eye out for hammer head sharks and the garden eels that pop their heads out of the ground and disappear down their burrow as you approach! Also found in the area are black tip and white tip reef sharks, sea lions, turtles, barracudas, sting rays, eagle rays, mobula rays, Galápagos eels and a variety of reef fish and invertebrates.
Mosquera is home to one of the largest populations of Galápagos Sea Lions on the archipelago, and you will be able to watch their playful antics and admire their sense of relaxation as they sunbathe on the beach. There have been occasional sightings of Orca (Killer Whales) in the waters off Mosquera Island, probably attracted by the large number of Galápagos Sea Lions on which they prey.
Over the centuries it also attracted corals, and along with the rocks that form the islet this helped to capture the sand from the currents that flow between Baltra Island and North Seymour Island.
Mosquera Islet has a depth range between 6 – 27 meters (20 – 90 feet). Visibility averages 12 – 15 meters (40 – 50 feet). Surge and current is usually moderate to strong.
Accessible only by panga, the tiny Osborn Islet is a great place for snorkeling and swimming. Large schools of colorful tropical fish are often found in the waters around Osborn, and it's common to see Angel Fish and Parrot Fish among many others.
Galapatours visitors also report seeing manta rays gliding through the waters here, as well as a variety of sharks and even Galápagos Sea Lions have been known to come and swim with us!
Post Office Bay
Floreana, like several of the Galápagos Islands, has a history of whaling. During voyages of many months, whaling ships would call here to replenish stocks of food and water, and the sailors were often keen to send news to loved ones that they were still safe. A tradition grew up here where sailors would leave a letter addressed home, hopeful that a ship heading back to port would pick it up and deliver it for them. This tradition of leaving letters and cards, and picking up others addressed to your home port meant that the location of this letter drop became known as "Post Office Bay".
Decades later, the unofficial Floreana post office is still very active - why not leave a card of your own, or see if you could take one back to your home town for someone else?! As well as this charming tradition, Post Office Bay boasts a pleasant beach, and there is a short hiking trail down to a cave, which is actually a lava tube that runs down to the sea.
You will also have the opportunity to take a Panga through some of the nearby coves and mangroves from which you could see sharks, rays, and sea lions swimming around you.
The bustling town in Puerto Ayora is central to almost everything in Galápagos. Although it is the biggest town on the Galápagos Islands it not its capital (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in San Crístobal is). Here, you will find local merchants loading and unloading their ship, you can catch a water-taxi ride to Playa Alemanes / Las Grietas and the beautiful hotels Angermeyer Waterfront Inn and Finch Bay! Also, it is the meeting point for a few cruises that start from here.
You be almost certain that you find a few sea lions relaxing on the benches of the pier, which are actually though for tourists to sit on. But, as you will learn in Galápagos, sea lions don't give much about these rules.
This small, pretty beach is across the other side of the island from the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and it can be accessed by a walking trail from the road that runs past La Galapaguera at Cerro Colorado.
With its white sand and turquoise water, Puerto Chino is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Pacific Ocean. It's good to swim and snorkel here, and if you do, you may see Galápagos green turtles and stingrays. Sea Lions also sometimes bask on the rocks beside the beach, and you can often see Blue-Footed Boobies.
Here at Galapatours, this is one of our favorite spots as it's out of the way and takes a little effort to get to - but that effort is rewarded with a wonderful location, perfect for a relaxing sunbathe or snorkeling adventure.
The vast majority of Isabela's human population live in Puerto Villamil, which still holds onto its traditional fishing port charm. Indeed many of Galapatours visitors tell us they think it's the prettiest village in the whole archipelago.
The main reason for this is that Villamil had little impact from tourism until the 1990s, the residents quietly making their living from fishing and farming. Then in 1996 a small runway was opened for flights for light aircraft operating inter-island flights. There are now 13 hotels and 18 bars and restaurants in town, compared to only 1 and 2 respectively in 1980! Despite this, the town still enjoys a relaxed and authentic atmosphere.
Villamil enjoys a beautiful long beach, which is picture-book tropics - palm trees line it's bright white coral sand. Behind the beach are several saltwater lagoons which are home to pink flamingos, pintail ducks and several other species. There are several visitor sites that can be the subject of excursions from town on foot, by minibus or panga.
Marchena is the largest of the northern Galápagos Islands, but with no land-based visitor sites it is rarely seen by anyone - even scientists and National Park Wardens are very infrequent visitors.
The main attraction here is the snorkeling off Marchena's coast. The deep, clear waters and calmer seas here make exploring this undersea world a magical experience.
There is a huge variety of tropical fish at Punta Mejia, and when you go into the water accompanied by your Galapatours expert guide you are also likely to see rays, a variety of sharks, and green sea turtles to name but a few.
Only available since 2012, this site is rarely visited by divers and is recognized for wonderful encounters with six different species of shark, manta & eagle rays, sea lions, moray eels, lobsters, and a prolific population of “tropicals”.
For divers, Roca Blanca is one of our top "secret sites" - it's a mecca for sea life, rather like the Arch at Darwin Island. Located on the southeast coast of Isabela Island, this site promises some of the very best diving the central islands has to offer. Waters in this part of Galápagos are cooler and more nutrient rich than the areas of Wolf and Darwin. This increases the diversity and intensity of marine life.
Most unusually, the dive site at Roca Blanca also sometimes provides you with the remarkable opportunity to encounter enormous "bait balls" with marauding billfish in action. This is truly spectactular Galápagos diving!
Shark Bay at Wolf Island is an underwater visitor point well known as being among THE best dive sites in Galápagos to see Hammerheads and Galápagos Sharks. Whale sharks have alse been encountered here, as well as a huge range of fish, rays, turtles, marine mammals and many more iconic Galápagos creatures.
Sullivan Bay is on the eastern coast of Santiago Island. This visitor site is all about the geology and volcanic origins of the Galápagos, and although there is little wildlife here, the eerie landscape that was formed only 150 years ago has a real beauty all of its own.
On the hiking trail you will walk along lava that bubbled up from the ground, flowed and solidified in the second half of the 18th century. We recommend good sturdy shoes for walking in these lava fields. The landscape here is eerie and apparently barren - some of our Galapatours guests liken it to a "lunar landscape".
As the trail moves inland, the textures and colors change as you encounter much older lava fields. Here you can start to see signs of nature beginning to colonize this "new land". The small green plants that have started to grow in the cracks and crevices are called Mollugo.
Your Galapatours expert guide will be able to explain more about the volcanic processes that formed Santiago and all the Galápagos Islands, as well as how species begin to colonize the bare landscape.
Translated, this is "Frigatebird Hill", and it's well named! This is a place where both endemic species of frigatebird, the Great Frigatebird and the Magnificent Frigatebird, share a colony.
The hill itself offers a wonderful view of Wreck Bay to the south and to Kicker Rock to the west, but it also provides the perfect opportunity for your Galapatours guide to tell you more about the two species of frigatebird to be found in Galápagos, and how you can tell them apart. There's also a range of native plant species here.
The beach at the bottom of the hill is a nice place to relax, and the waters here are safe for swimming and snorkeling - perfect for cooling off after your climb!
Tortuga Bay Beach
Tortuga Bay Beach is a delightful 1 mile walk from Puerto Ayora and is one of the prettiest beaches on the Galápagos.
As you walk the trail to the beach you cross through an area of arid vegetation which is filled with bird life, and your Galapatours expert naturalist guide will help you to identify many species here, which include the famous Darwin's Finches.
Once you reach the beach you will see a glorious tropical scene - white coral sands and breaking turquoise waves. You can often see surfers here, and they are a clue that those waves hide strong currents and tides, and you need to be careful if you choose to swim. A better option might be to continue along to the second part of Tortuga Bay Beach which is the other side of the headland. This beach opens onto a small bay that's almost completely sheltered from the swell and makes a wonderfully calm place for swimming or snorkeling.
This little bay is fringed with Galápagos mangroves which are a haven for bird and marine life. In the waters you may see rays and small sharks, and marine iguanas on the rocky headland.
Tortuga Beach and Tortuga Bay make a wonderful place that's not only great for relaxing and soaking up the sun, but also for exploring more of the Galápagos' unique wildlife and habitats.
The brilliant white coral sand beach at Witch Hill ("Brujo Hill") is, in our opinion, one of the very best in the Galápagos. The hill itself is the remains of a volcanic "tuff cone" - one made up of compacted volcanic ash and debris. This was one of the first sites where Charles Darwin made landfall on his famous journey here on HMS Beagle.
This is a wonderful place to see many Galápagos species, both in the sea and on the land and in the air. Among the creatures you are likely to see on a visit to Brujo Hill are Galápagos Sea Lions, marine iguanas, pelicans, and Galápagos Blue-Footed Boobies. It's possible to walk right along the beach at a leisurely pace, taking in everything around you.
We really recommend you snorkel here, and if you do you'll be rewarded with likely sightings of Galápagos rays, green sea turtles, sponge coral and a wide range of beautiful fish. If you aren't a swimmer, then a panga ride will still let you see plenty of wildlife thanks to the crystal clear waters off this stunning beach.