Expedition Journal: The Underwater Wonders of Galapagos aboard the Santa Cruz II

The underwater wonders of Galapagos are consistently present and active throughout the year, inviting visitors from around the world to come and discover them. It doesn’t really matter where in the archipelago one decides to go (or what itinerary you choose), for there will always be something new and ready to impress our guests, as was the case this time!

The “Traditional” Theory

Snorkeling In Galapagos During The Hot Season.
Nevertheless, Wetsuits Are A Great Option For Keeping You Warm And Will Actually Provide You With A Lot Of Buoyancy.

The warmer temperature of the water during the hot season is a natural phenomenon that is always welcome by swimmers, snorkelers, and divers. Simply put: it’s less cumbersome to swim and experience Galapagos without all those extra layers that often come with using a wetsuit.

It’s also during this time of the year in particular that the number of nutrients found in the water are far less abundant. Consequently, it’s not uncommon to see a diminished level of underwater activity during this period, especially with respect to the bigger creatures (note: on land, it’s an entirely different story). In Galapagos, however, nature is always finding a way to surprise us and even contradict its own seasonal patterns, sometimes.

On this special occasion, despite us being right in the midst of the hot season, we managed to get a ridiculously nice surprise that involved a bunch of big and unexpected appearances in terms of the underwater wonders of Galapagos – quite a rare sight to see during this time of year!

The Real Deal

It all happened while we were sailing aboard the Santa Cruz II Galapagos cruise. This itinerary happens to offer the greatest amount of opportunities for our guests to partake in the snorkeling activities available in Galapagos. There are two chances to snorkel on Tuesday, another two chances on Wednesday, and, depending on the expedition leader, maybe even two more chances for snorkeling on Thursday. This makes for a grand total of 6 potential snorkeling excursions on a 5-day Galapagos itinerary! But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to snorkel – there’s plenty of more activities available when you travel aboard a multi-guided vessel in Galapagos!

Also: thanks to the presence of heat during this time of year, it’s extra nice to have multiple opportunities to take a dip in the water! We were equally delighted and amazed to report that, during our water-based excursions, we got a couple of really nice snorkeling sessions. For not only did we get to swim with the regular kind of fish that we usually see all the time, but also with some rather awesome and highly unexpected visitors!

The Underwater Wonders of Galapagos

Sea animals of the Galapagos are just as marvelous as those in the Islands! Get ready for an adventure underwater!

The first group of unexpected creatures that we encountered were a couple of pretty big manta rays. The first one we saw must’ve been around 9-feet (~3 meters) long from fin-to-fin, and it was just unreal to see it so ridiculously close to us!


The third and most impressive specimen we got see towards the end of this itinerary was some kind of shark. Some said that it was just a black-tip shark, but others speculated that it was a bigger, more reclusive species of Galapagos shark. Regardless of the species, it was amazing to get to swim with all these great creatures in some of the deeper areas of the Galapagos.


A Galapagos Shark Encounter.
Our Guests Often Have A Chance To Swim With Sharks.

Another Day in the Life Aquatic at Punta Vicente Roca

The Santa Cruz II also visits Punta Vicente Roca and the day begins with a relaxing tour along the coast, wherein guests soak in the nice views while comfortably seated aboard the panga. Sometimes we see more marine life than others, but this time was spectacular, as there were plenty of different bird species soaring across the skies. It’s always nice to have an option available that allows our guests to see a ton of wildlife without having to exert themselves in any way – definitively a welcome change of pace when compared to the more active excursions that we offer throughout the Enchanted Islands.

Step into liquid

One of the most predominant species of marine life that we saw this day was the elusive Galapagos Fur Seal. It was relatively easy to spot them basking along the rocks that dotted the coastline.

Galapagos Fur Seal Pups Resting On The Rocks.
A Group Of Galapagos Fur Seal Pups Playing And Basking Under The Sun.

Over at one particular spot we were lucky enough to find a nice big group of them. There were plenty of adults relaxing on higher ground but the little ones managed to steal the show. There was a group of them whimsically playing on the rocks right by the waterline. They were so out there in the open that we were actually able to get really close to them and had the opportunity to take some amazing photos of these “surface-level” underwater wonders of Galapagos. Being so close to them also made us feel as if we were a part of their game!

Galapagos Fur Seal Pup On The Rocks.
Fur Seal Pups Love Basking Under The Sun, While Our Guests Enjoy The Wonderful Scenery.


After the inflatable panga ride, our next activity of the day was open water snorkeling where we discovered that there was once again plenty of movement underwater. From big schools of fish to bigger and more unusual visitors, our guests and guides were both equally delighted. What’s more? We got a chance to not only see but swim alongside Galapagos penguins that happened to be out fishing in a small group! A flightless cormorant and about forty green (that’s right: forty!) green sea turtles were all swimming along shallow waters, too! It was a humbling yet amazing experience to be so close to so many of the underwater wonders of Galapagos! The most remarkable thing we got to see on this snorkeling adventure, however, was once again another giant manta ray that was there for a brief yet magical moment where it enchanted us with its magnificent underwater flight.

Updated:May 9, 2023

Published:April 25, 2018


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Santa Cruz II is a replacement for the much-loved Santa Cruz, which plied the waters of the Galapagos for 36 years. It is not a new ship; it was built in 2002 and sailed as Mare Australis under the Australis cruise brand, operating expedition cruises around Cape Horn and to Antarctica. Metropolitan Touring bought the ship in 2015 and completely refurbished it, launching it as Santa Cruz II in October 2015.

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