Beginners and experienced snorkelers alike will quickly fall in love with snorkelling in Galapagos. The Marine Reserve showcases numerous unusual coloured fish species, enormous sea turtles, and harmless sharks. And sharing the water with playful sea lions is, of course, an unforgettable experience.
The only place on the planet more enchanting than the islands of the Galapagos, is below the surface of the waters that surround them.
Here, in the myriad shades of blue of the Pacific Ocean, live sharks, snake eels, sea turtles, mantas, amberjacks, and barracudas as well as tropical fish, multi-coloured sponges, moray eel, octopus, and more – sharply focused in the crystalline waters. Divers often report playing with curious sea lion pups, watching a marine iguana on a mission, and the heart-stopping thrill of being surrounded by hammerheads. This is a universe all of its own, unsurpassable to divers in variety and abundance of marine wildlife.
As per the rules of the Galapagos National Park, there are only two ways to scuba dive in the archipelago:
Take a live-aboard diving cruise – normally a week-long itinerary for very experienced divers. Three dives per day with no land visits permitted.
Stay at a hotel on one of the inhabited islands and do day dives off a small yacht.
So, if you prefer the life aquatic, the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is your ideal diving base, either for a few days of diving, or to combine before or after an expedition cruise.
If your companion or companions aren’t into diving like you are, the creatures to discover, kayaks to paddle, bikes to ride and attractive pool make the Finch Bay the best option.
The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel offers PADI-designed programs to allow guests to experience the thrill of scuba diving in a safe and fun environment while enjoying the best the Galapagos has to offer. A comprehensive underwater experience for adventurous divers who want to take home unforgettable memories, the diving programs include most dive sites within the Central Islands.
SCUBA DIVING DETAILS
DIVE SITES (NUMBER OF DIVES PER SITE):
Santa Fe (2), North Seymour (2), Daphne Minor (2), Mosquera Islet (2), Gordon Rocks (2), Cousins Rock(2), Floreana (2).
NOTE: DIVE SITES MAY BE CHANGED DUE TO SEA CONDITIONS, AVAILABILITY, NATIONAL PARK RESTRICTIONS OR SAFETY REQUIREMENTS.
Barracuda, tropical fish, the pelagic big fish, octopus, etc.
Crabs, oysters and starfish
Endemic fish: scorpionfish, hieroglyphic hawkfish, cardinalfish… and many more!
NOTE: MARINE LIFE ENCOUNTERS CANNOT BE GUARANTEED.
We outsource the SCUBA operation to specialists. Following is the schedule of the yachts which our partners operate for day-dives. Schedules can change, so please consult us. Please bring your SCUBA diving license. Our partners will provide you with all required equipment.
Gordon*** / North Mosquera
Seymour Channel / Daphne
Bartolome / Cousin
Seymour Channel / North Mosquera
Seymour Northeast / Gordon***
Bartolome / Cousin
South Mosquera / Seymour Channel
Seymour Northeast / Punta Carrion
Punta Carrion / Gordon***
South Mosquera / Daphne
Seymour Channel / Gordon***
*** MINIMUM OF 25 LOGGED DIVES OR THE EVALUATIONS OF OUR GUIDES
Paddling around the waters of the Marine Reserve is a great way both to get some exercise and spot unique endemic wildlife. Birds rest on the cliffs that form the edges of the islands. Sea lions and their pups lie meters away on the beaches.
What better place to enjoy your pastime of biking than on Santa Cruz Island: Beautiful views, little traffic and unique animals on either side of the path. Easy downhill paths lead to walks to the beach accompanied by birdwatching opportunities. A great family activity!
When you live and work in a natural paradise such as the Galapagos Islands, there are many things to consider. But when you work at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – one of the world’s leading GREEN hotels – you know things are done differently. We strive to be a leading example of sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices not only for the people of the Galapagos, but for our guests as well. This month, we went deeper into what sustainable Galapagos food ought to be like and even welcomed the visit of a very interesting guest. Read on to learn more about what’s cooking at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
Investigation & Sustainable Galapagos Food
Our team at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel dedicates itself to numerous different projects in order to protect the amazing environment of the islands. One of these is our sustainable Galapagos food project, which sees us continuously investigating the diversity of local produce and ways of encouraging farmers to grow more sustainably. At the Finch Bay, we try to buy local as much as possible in order to lower our environmental footprint. We also send our teams out to investigate the fruits and vegetables that are grown on the inhabited islands. We even talk to fishermen and learn about their fishing techniques, along with the species of fish, crustaceans and/or mollusks that they catch. Once we’ve gathered all this knowledge, we bring it back to our kitchen and put it all into our creative efforts that help develop our menu that represents the best of Galapagos food and Ecuadorian cuisine. We know that we can only grow as a restaurant and a company so long as our community grows with us.
As part of our ongoing efforts to leave less of a carbon footprint, we have even created our own organic vegetable garden. The “Chakrita,” as we call it, is home to a varied selection of flowers and herbs that we use in all our recipes, either as garnish or the main ingredients. To have all these amazing and fresh greens at our disposal allows us to develop our creativity, which is a crucial component in allowing our “crazy” chef minds to continuously grow.
During my time here, I have seen a growing interest and curiosity from our guests, cooks, and chefs, about all things organic and local, especially when they come directly from the islands. It’s something we look forward to working on constantly!
A Visit From a Gastronomic Icon
Last month we were fortunate enough to receive a visit from famous chef Juan Luis Fernandez and his girlfriend Dolce Nida, owners of the restaurant “LÚ Cocina y Alma” in Jerez, Spain. They stayed at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, during which time they cooked with us, experimenting with our ingredients and updating our understanding of cooking techniques. Juan Luis, also known as JuanLu, spent several years working at the famous “Aponiente” restaurant (3 Michelin stars), where he himself learned the latest gastronomical techniques for preparing seafood in the best way possible.
After spending a day looking for the best ingredients and sharing our expertise with JuanLu and Dolce, we were delighted to share our kitchen with them. They couldn’t have been more generous! They taught us about the techniques they use at their restaurant, and we even got to learn about new cooking methods that we can apply to our own recipes and products here at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
We Are All Cooks
I love how the world of food and cooking has no frontiers or barriers. In life, we are all cooks! However, when you are a chef, and so long as you cook with passion, it doesn’t matter where you are – you always have to give it your best! At the Finch Bay, we give each meal and plate our best, every single day, so that our friends and guests learn and fall in love with our products, our country, our people and our cuisine.
My team and I, we never get bored: We are always improving and looking forward to coming up with new and magnificent flavors, using all the wonderful natural ingredients that the Galapagos Islands has to offer us.
Join us on our journey! We love to cook, we live to cook and we cook to live!
The Galapagos Islands have something for everyone! Explorers, adventurers, curious travelers and even those who are just looking to relax and unwind (or a combination of both!) will fall in love with this magical place. The archipelago has it all, and the way you decide to discover it is entirely up to you! Whether it be aboard a Galapagos expedition vessel or a land-based option, you can rest assured you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime! For a land-based option, head to the only beachfront hotel on Santa Cruz Island – Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – and unravel the mysteries of the islands with your friends and family! If you are looking to explore the amazing highlands of Santa Cruz and do some sports while engaging in a fun and safe activity, then biking in the Galapagos Islands is the activity for you! Read up and ride on!
Biking in the Galapagos Islands: How to do it?
Biking is an activity available at the Finch Bay upon request. Depending on how much time you’ll be spending in the archipelago, you can make this activity either a full-day or a half-day activity. Biking in the Galapagos presents a unique opportunity to discover the highlands and enjoy some amazing views of Santa Cruz Island, in our case. Once you book the activity, we take care of everything else!
Bikes and helmets will be waiting for you at the dock. Our Naturalist Guide will be in charge of the activity, and a car and driver will take you all the way up to Bellavista – the highlands’ biggest town and where your adventure begins. Once there, we’ll bike down to the beautiful beach of El Garrapatero, so remember to put on your swimming suit at the hotel before leaving, as there are no changing rooms at the beach! The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel will provide you with water and a beach towel for you to take with you in your backpack!
When do we go biking in the Galapagos?
We leave in the morning at 9 a.m., giving us time to enjoy the Finch Bay’s delicious breakfast buffet. Load up on pancakes, omelettes, fresh fruit, coffee and other local delicacies and get ready to roll!
Once your car drops you off at Bellavista, you will gear up and, following your guide’s instructions and briefing, you will begin your biking journey in Galapagos! Enjoy the view, feel the refreshing wind in your face, let endorphins flow as you pedal to the beach, and anticipate an invigorating dip in the Pacific Ocean! That’s the proper way to end a biking trip in the Galapagos Islands! You will hang out at El Garrapatero for about an hour or an hour-and-a-half. Afterward, you’ll hop in the car and head back for lunch. Whether you choose to eat in the town of Puerto Ayora or back at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is entirely up to you!
How physically demanding is biking in the Galapagos? Is it safe?
Our biking activity is designed to be enjoyed to the fullest by both young and old guests. The whole activity takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete. We drive you up to Bellavista, and from there all you do is bike down towards the coast. We pedal on a flat asphalt road that descends to El Garrapatero beach. We take safety very seriously, which is why, before beginning the activity, your Naturalist Guide will brief you on all safety measures. We will remind you to keep to your right at all times (to let eventual cars pass by), and to wear a helmet. We also have knee pads for anyone who might want a little extra protection.
Your Guide will accompany you during the entire trip. While biking, he or she will sometimes be at the front of the group and sometimes at the rear, making sure that everyone is doing OK. If, for whatever reason, you feel a little tired or unwell, our driver will pick you up as our car will be following the group all the way from a safe distance, ready to assist anyone who should require it. You will be pedaling for about an hour downhill. How fast or slow you go is totally up to you. In the Galapagos – as you will see – there is no need to hurry! You don’t have to be the fittest person in order to partake in this activity, which is why we always recommend biking in the Galapagos to families traveling with children, or couples and groups that want to discover the islands in a different way!
Traveler’s tip: Remember to wear sunscreen at all times, as the sun on the equator is really strong! Also: keep your eyes open while you bike, as Galapagos giant tortoises are frequently seen crossing the road or ambling alongside it!
Other Biking Options
If you are looking to find an amazing view of Santa Cruz Island, we recommend that you visit Cerro Mesa. This viewpoint that’s located atop a crater is the perfect spot for photos. On a very clear day you can see all the way to Itabaca Chanel! Just like with our Bellavista-El Garrapatero biking excursion, a driver and Naturalist Guide will pick you up in town and drive you up to the viewpoint. From there, you will bike down to El Garrapatero beach.
If you opt for a full day option on either of our Bike Tours, lunch will be included at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. On our Bellavista-El Garrapatero full-day tour, you will also visit El Manzanillo, a Galapagos giant tortoise reserve where you will be able to get close and personal with these gentle giants!
You also have the option to explore Santa Cruz Island on a bike on your own. Let us know and will make all the arrangements!
Are you up for it? Let us know in the comments below!
There are different ways in which to explore the magnificent Galapagos Islands. When it comes down to planning, travelers usually base their decisions on budget, time or specific interests. Be it through a Galapagos expedition vessel or a land-based option, there’s no doubt you will be amazed by the wonderful world you will encounter in the archipelago. The unique and tame wildlife, the rare vegetation, the hospitality of its people (yes, for those of you who didn’t know, 3% of the Galapagos are inhabited), they all add up to a one-of-a-kind experience. When choosing a land-based option, make sure you go for the one that will transform a regular vacation into an unforgettable one. It’s all about the details, service, and exploration choices!
Day Tour or Bay Tour in the Galapagos?
A beach-front hotel in a secluded location, like Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel on Santa Cruz Island, is the perfect place from which to discover the Enchanted Islands. Once there, visitors are highly encouraged to try to visit some of the archipelago’s most beautiful beaches and its most iconic neighbouring isles in order to get a more in-depth understanding of this wholly unique place. To do so, you will find two highly popular options that are in Puerto Ayora: a Day Tour or a Bay Tour. Read on to learn the difference between a Day tour or a Bay Tour in the Galapagos and choose the one that will make the most of your time in this unique destination!
Bay Tours are usually operated by small motor boats that do not have permitsfor disembarking on the uninhabited islands that make up the Galapagos National Park. This means they only visit the surrounding beaches of Puerto Ayora and passengers are only allowed to snorkel around the boat in open water. Bay Tours also don’t include a Naturalist Guide as part of their trips and it’s usually the boat’s owner and “chauffeur” that are in charge of everything, from explanations to safety. Most of the time, Bay Tours don’t include snorkeling equipment and they may or may not include a box lunch, depending on the package visitors decide to go for. The boats are usually small and have no indoor space or air conditioning to help cool down from the intense Galapagos sun.
A Bay Tour, as its name implies, focuses on observing Santa Cruz’s coastline and bays without disembarking at National Park Visitor Sites (remember that inhabited areas are not considered part of the Galapagos National Park). On a Bay Tour, passengers would have the chance to observe some of the Galapagos BIG15 and other wildlife from a distance, but no close-up observation and understanding of their behaviors is possible or even explained. As mentioned before, Bay Tours in Galapagos do anchor in specific places, but only out in open water to let their guests swim and practice snorkeling directly beside the boat. As safety measures, Bay Tours are required to provide their passengers with life jackets.
A Day Tour is the other option that you can choose for exploring the archipelago if you decide on opting for a land-based excursion. Day tours are provided by yachts that do have permission to disembark at iconic islands – North Seymour, Bartolome, South Plaza and Santa Fe – and are done in the company of a professionally-trained Naturalist Guide. It’s an excellent way to experience the Galapagos National Park and the uninhabited islands. If you want to have the best coverage of Galapagos BIG15 iconic species and see a plethora of wildlife in its natural habitat (without the disturbance of human civilization!) a Galapagos Day Tour is the way to go. Witness blue-footed boobies nesting or doing their silly courtship dance, walk by huge colonies of frigatebirds and Galapagos sea lions, or observe marine iguanas basking under the equatorial sun. A true and fulfilling Galapagos experience comes from being able to observe these beautiful creatures up close.
It’s also important to note that Galapagos Day Tours on yachts, as is the case with the Finch Bay’s own Sea Lion Yacht, usually take care of everything for those onboard. Not only are all safety measures considered, but also lunch and snorkeling masks are included. On our Sea Lion Yacht, a delicious buffet-style lunch awaits guests that are coming back from swimming, hiking or snorkeling. This lunch is prepared fresh and on board by the yacht’s own cook. If you require a special meal or have dietary restrictions, be sure to let us know at the Hotel’s reception – we’ll be more than happy to accommodate our culinary fare to your specific needs. The Sea Lion also has an indoor, air-conditioned space where guests can sit comfortably and an open, covered deck from which to observe the amazing Galapagos landscapes!
Aboard the Sea Lion Yacht, a 5-member crew is at your disposal, making sure you are safe and comfortable at all times. Our Naturalist Guide briefs the group prior to disembarking at a specific island or before partaking in any activity. That way, they talk the group through all safety procedures as well as informing them on what they are about to see: animal and plant species, geology and history. Each island has its own particularities that make it unique and special. Without a doubt, they are all worth a visit, which makes a Galapagos Day Tour a superb choice!
NOTE: According to the National Park’s latest count, there are only 11 yachts authorized for Day Tours on the island of Puerto Ayora, so make sure you don’t have the wool pulled over your eyes!
Snorkeling in Galapagos is sure to be one of the most magical experiences you’ll have during your time in the archipelago. The biggest reason why? Because of the vast amount of fauna you’ll have surrounding you, almost as if you’d summoned them for yourself! Being a source of curiosity for other creatures is almost like a superpower unto itself, such that with just a little bit of patience and fearlessness, snorkelling in Galapagos will have creatures swimming within arms-length of your snorkelling mask, ogling your presence to try and “figure you out.” It’s an incredibly fun experience, which is why we recommend making it a core part of your Galapagos experience while staying at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel! Read-on and get stoked by finding out what animals you’ll get to swim with while snorkelling in Galapagos!
Both majestic and lethargic in their demeanour, sea turtles are a treat to swim beside while snorkelling in Galapagos. Their slow and ridiculously laid-back style of movement underwater makes them an easy target for us human to get up close to (but remember, not too close!) and snap a beautiful picture of their worn and wise-looking shells and long flippers.
Perhaps one of the most playful creatures of the sea when it comes to snorkelling in Galapagos, sea lions truly are a spectacle to revel in and even become a part of (when they’re curious enough)! These adept swimmers won’t hesitate to get incredibly close to you to check you out! They’re quick and skilful with their movement and will swim at you full speed before doing an underwater “somersault” of sorts and swimming away reluctantly. They’re even curious enough to nibble at your flippers if you let them! Extra cute points for swimming next to a Galapagos sea lion pup (just watch out, as the mothers of these pups are highly protective)!
Bold, rugged and beautiful in their own right, snorkelling in Galapagos with these “imps of darkness” (as Darwin himself saw it fit to call them) is a pretty cool experience. Bonus points if you get to see them feasting on their main diet – nutritious algae that cling to the rocky shores in Galapagos waters. Their giant claws and tenacious grip are a sight to behold. If you’re hanging out in shallow waters, you can even walk beside one as they slither like snakes just below the surface of the water, with their heads poking out like miniature dogs. Getting next to them while snorkelling in the Galapagos means you officially have the bragging rights to say you swam with the only species of iguana that can swim in the world!
Slick and daunting with their greyscales and pointed fins, sharks seen while snorkelling in Galapagos are incredibly deceptive in the sense that they erroneously portray a dangerous image. Fun fact: they’re super docile! Sharks, in fact, are highly misunderstood creatures and are actually much less threatening than many people believe. The importance of sharks in Galapagos, too, is highly overseen. While snorkelling in Galapagos, you’ll get to swim over a school of white-tip sharks and silky sharks.
Snorkeling in Galapagos with Penguins
Flapping, zipping and propelling themselves around underwater like superfast mini-submarines, Galapagos penguins are one of the rarest species of penguins given they’re the only ones to live north of the equator! In Galapagos, the relatively colder waters are what allow them to thrive in this unique environment. Note: These can only be seen on the western side of Galapagos, available via Western Islands Galapagos itineraries.
The Santa Cruz Fish Market is a lively place in Puerto Ayora, and it’s not all that far from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – the only beach-front property on the island. Walking there makes for a pleasant and amusing stroll along the bay in Puerto Ayora, and guests often have their senses stimulated by a number of things throughout the walk. Stop for a refreshing cocktail or cold beer, and look around the city’s many souvenir shops to find a perfect gift to take back home. Everyone is sure to find it’s easy to melt into the Galapagos Island life. From the number of rays that glide underwater to soaking up the laid back island vibes that surround the town, guests are sure to enjoy the walk and get a special treat that’s located not all that far from the Charles Darwin Research Station.
When guests arrive at the Santa Cruz Fish Market, it’s often the case that newcomers don’t just hang around to get a look and what’s being cleaned and sold – they often stay for the spectacle surrounding it.
The Santa Cruz Fish Market: Fresh from the Sea
There is no fresher fish than the one that’s caught in the morning and cooked in the afternoon. Living on an island has this exact advantage. Because of the Galapagos’ location on the equator, where both the Cromwell and Humboldt currents meet, seafood is as diverse as it is delicious. Always abiding by the strict Galapagos National Park regulations on when and where to fish, artisanal fishermen go out every morning and afternoon to catch some of the islanders’ most common and favorite fish. At the Santa Cruz Fish Market, you will find beautiful yellow-thin tunas (bonito), groupers (bacalao), and endemic fish such as camotillo, scorpion fish (brujo), and red snapper (pargo).
And come the lobster season, you will find two species of this crustacean served everywhere, the smaller-sized slipper lobster and the famous red-lobster. Restaurants are located just minutes away from the Santa Cruz Fish Market and these prepare the fish with their very own recipes every day. Try the Finch Bay’s fresh red snapper in a reduction of Andean mushrooms or its famous grilled tuna seared with a sesame crust. Your mouth is sure to start watering the moment you look at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel’s restaurant menu!
The Action Surrounding the Santa Cruz Fish Market
Frequent fans of this informal attraction at Puerto Ayora are the pelicans that waddle all over the counters and the sea lions that poke their heads up beside the sellers, sniffing at the coveted treasures that they’re slicing up. Among this audience: the random iguana just hanging out on the side, passively watching the whole thing unfold – again giving guests the chance to visually see how such a diverse number of species manage to peacefully co-exist with each other and us, humans!
If you decide to go for a morning stroll down Puerto Ayora’s boardwalk, make sure to stop and admire this scene that truly depicts “organized chaos,” and have your camera ready to capture a sneaky pelican trying to steal a fish!
When you hear about the Galapagos Islands, various images come to mind. Charles Darwin’s name appears written in elegant cursive handwriting. Perhaps an exploding volcano is heard in the distance, and you picture a sort of flying-reptile hybrid with blue feet, a turtle shell, and black scales. If the latter is the case, you are probably a little bit confused as to who the inhabitants of these islands are. But if visiting the Galapagos is on your bucket list (and if it isn’t we can’t insist enough that you do include it), you’ll probably want to learn a little bit more about this magical place. There are many ways in which this archipelago can be visited, either by land or sea – or a combination of both (which is our personal recommendation) – and wildlife adventures are simply a part of everyday Galapagos routine. So in order to get you even more excited about what this exotic place has to offer, let us introduce you to our three favorite Galapagos species that you will not find anywhere else in the world: Galapagos giant tortoises, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies (all BIG15 species).
Imagine waking up to a view of a white-sand beach, mangroves, and the Pacific Ocean. That is just a normal day in Santa Cruz’s only beach-front hotel at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. Now, add about a hundred finches flying around while scoping out the day’s breakfast. Not far from your room, a black iguana calmly walks towards the sea. In fact, right in front of the hotel, in a small patch of sand that’s protected by ropes, these same iguanas have their nest. This endemic species of the islands – once given the humorous name “imps of darkness” by the one and only Charles Darwin – is an example of how land iguanas adapted themselves to the harsh conditions of the archipelago many thousands of years ago. They are the only reptile that finds nourishment in the sea, diving up to 9 meters underwater to find it. They have a supersized supraorbital gland that helps them release the excess salt from their blood flow. This is why you’ll constantly see them doing something that looks similar to sneezing or spitting and a lot of white liquid coming out of their nostrils. It looks disgusting, but it’s just salt.
Galapagos Giant Tortoises
During your stay on the island of Santa Cruz, you will have the ability to come into close contact with these very gentle giants. Be it while visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station’s Breeding Programme, or up in one of the highland farms (where they actually roam around freely), you will almost automatically fall in love with their ease. They are the largest tortoise species in the world and can live up to 100 years. To recognize specific species of Galapagos giant tortoise, you only need to notice the shape of their shell, as it varies from island to island. Even though their numbers were dangerously reduced due to hunting by pirates in the 17th century and then whalers in the 18th century, they are now slowly recovering thanks to breeding programs and the eradication of invasive species, such as rats, feral cats, and dogs. Take your time to appreciate these amazing animals in their natural habitat and try to follow its example by taking things calmly.
This colorful bird is an everyday sighting in the archipelago and a local favorite. Not only because of the beautiful blue hue of their feet and beak but also because of their funny movements on land and amazing flying and hunting abilities. It’s common to see it during excursions or just casually sitting at docks. This bird is known for its comical mating ritual in which it puts on a full show to impress the female by displaying its feet in front of her. It’s known that the more turquoise the hue of the feet is, the more successful it will be in finding a mate. The blue color is actually an indication of how well-nourished the male is. Blue-footed boobies are also known for their diving technique, plunging into the water like torpedoes, which is why their nostrils are fused and they breathe through their mouth.
If you dream of immersing yourself in nature in its purest form, the Galapagos is the place to go.