Whales & Dolphins
Ocean-dwelling mammals that enchant and delight
What you need to know about the Whales & Dolphins
Cetaceans are the group of marine mammals to which Whales and Dolphins belong. There are two clear groups of whales - the Baleen whales and the Toothed whales.
The Baleen whales, such as the Humpback whale or Bryde’s whale, have hair-like structures in their mouths that they use to filter food from the water. Baleen whales are also renowned for their extraordinarily large tongues! These help move trapped food, assist in swallowing, and enable them to squeeze excess water from their mouths.
The Toothed whales such as orcas and dolphins feed on larger prey like fish and other marine mammals. They tend to be noticeably smaller than the Baleen whales, growing to around 43ft (13m). The Sperm Whale is the only toothed whale that grows longer than this.
To help with the identification of the Baleen and Toothed whales you will need to look out for the spout of warm, moist air which is expelled from their blowholes as they swim near the surface of the water. Your Galapatours cruise naturalist guide will point out that Baleens have two blowholes while Toothed whales have only one.
These stunning mammals are found mostly on the west of the Archipelago, partiularly in the Bolivar Channel between Isabela and Fernandina islands but also towards the south of the Galápagos. Some 24 species of cetaceans have been recorded in the waters around Galápagos, and the number of species peaks during the Humboldt season.
Whales & Dolphins: Interesting facts
Often found in the channel between Isabela and Fernandina Islands known as "Canal Bolivar"
There is a small resident population of Orcas in the west of the Galápagos
Bottlenose Dolphins are renowned for "riding the bow" of Galápagos cruise ships
Galápagos was one of the prime hunting grounds for Spermwhales
Whales & Dolphins: Pictures from our travelers
Spots where the Whales & Dolphins can be observed
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
North Islet / La Banana
North Islet is a small outcrop just off the north coast of Wolf, and because of the wall's shape it's known to locals as "the banana"!
This is a stunning sheer wall with caverns, tunnels and other wonderful rock formations. Depth here ranges from 30 to 120ft and the visibility is usually excellent, varying from 40 to 80ft depending on season. There is always a moderate to heavy current here.
A superb site for spotting Galápagos sharks, hammerheads, manta rays, green turtles and a wide range of fantastic Galápagos marine life.
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.
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.
Vicente Rock Point
Galapatours clients regularly rate Vicente Rock Point as one of the best snorkeling and SCUBA diving sites in Galápagos, or perhaps even in the world! There is no landing here, and snorkeling is done directly from the boats. The scenery around the Point is stunning - the remains of two ancient volcanoes made this formation, and the cliffs and caves around the bay provide an amazing backdrop.
The bay is well sheltered from ocean swells, making it ideal for snorkelers of any experience. The cold-water currents bring a rich stock of food to these waters, and the bay around Vicente Rock Point is often home to feeding frenzies, with groups of whales, dolphins, Galápagos Sea Lions, tuna, Blue-footed Boobies and other marine birds all feeding together, making for spectacular sights.
Many boats also take visitors on a panga ride along the shore, offering the chance to explore some of the caves and to encounter some of the other species such as Galápagos Flightless Cormorants and a small colony of Galápagos Fur Seals.