Galapagos Underwater Aboard the MV Grace

I was curious to discover what I’d find in the waters surrounding the many islands that make up the Galapagos archipelago. Given that snorkelling and scuba diving is most often centred on coral reefs, I was excited to learn why the Galapagos had one of the best reputations on the planet for underwater life, even though the waters are not warm enough to sustain a reef, despite its location on the equator. But the Galapagos Islands completely exceeded all expectations.

Sunset Aboard the MV Grace

A standard day’s snorkelling involved up-close encounters with turtles, white and black tipped reef sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, spotted rays, Galapagos penguins, barracuda, sea iguanas and, of course, curious, cheeky and playful sea lions who were just as excited to see us as we were them. And this was all seen from floating on the surface, without the need for a tank of oxygen. Even those who had never snorkelled before, with the help of the patient and caring staff from our boat, were encouraged into the water and saw this incredible sea life for themselves.


Playful Galapagos Sea Lions
Manta Rays

However, with a tank on my back and a thick wetsuit, I drifted down to 30 metres beneath the surface to discover the waters below. And I was rewarded with schools of 40-50 rays slowly ‘flying’ past me, several kinds of turtles floating by in the surging currents, and then – the reason I’d dreamed of diving in the Galapagos – at least 50 lazily circling hammerhead sharks, a sight that has to be seen to understand the thrill!


Hammerhead Shark
Green Sea Turtle

However the highlight for me, and I think for everyone on our boat, would have to have been on the second last day. We’d just finished an amazing snorkel among giant manta rays and I didn’t think it possible that the day could get any better. But just as we were clambering out of the water and into the panga, our guide screamed at us “Everyone, back in the water! Get back in the water now!!” Perplexed, we jumped in as he explained “Dolphins! Behind you!” and a pod of at least 100 bottle-nosed dolphins swam curiously towards us. Since I was a small child, every year for my birthday all I wished for was a chance to swim with dolphins, but never did I imagine that I’d have the chance to play with so many wild, inquisitive dolphins that swam, twirled, leaped and squeaked at arm’s length from us for close to an hour. Words can’t describe a moment so magical, but it is safe to say the smiles didn’t leave our faces for the rest of the trip.


Sally Lightfoot Crab

Written by Hayley Crowden – Travel Specialist