The surrounding Galapagos waters are literally teeming with hundreds of species of marine life. One of the best and easiest ways to view some of these remarkable underwater creatures is by snorkeling. This activity is built into every cruise itinerary. What makes it all the more exciting is that, while visiting different islands and bays, visitors get a chance to interact with all sorts of brilliant fish. Let’s take a look at some of these fascinating inhabitants of this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Sergeant major fish are relatively small, thin, and oval fish. They are easy to spot because of the five distinctive blue-black vertical bars on their sides. In shallower sandy areas and over reefs they appear silvery gray with a tinge of yellow. They school in large cluster groups when feeding.
Generally, king angelfish grow to almost 14 in (35 cm) in length. The adults have brown or blue bodies depending on the light at the depth in which they’re found. Generally, juveniles undergo many color changes as they mature.
Like the name, patterns across the olive-scaled, medium hawkfish do certainly resemble hieroglyphs. In the Galapagos, these shy, predatory fish feed mostly on smaller fish and Sally Lightfoot crabs while growing to lengths of around 24 inches.
These reef inhabitants commonly congregate in schools. Brightly colored and small, they can sometimes be found to act as cleaner fish, feeding of scraps of algae found in the gills of bigger fish. They are also known to eat smaller fish, shrimp and bristle worms.
With a large dorsal fin that springs up when threatened by bigger fish, the orange side triggerfish wedges itself in crevices so that it can’t be yanked away by larger fish and eaten.
Schooling mainly along shallow reefs, the yellowtail surgeonfish feeds exclusively on sea algae. In the Galapagos, the yellowtail surgeonfish is mostly void of small black spots. Their bright tails are quite easily visible in the crystal clear waters of the Galapagos.
Having a pointed snout with two pairs of strong canines, the Mexican hogfish is a species of wrasse. They feed easily on crabs, sea urchins, and other shellfish. Interestingly, these sequential hermaphrodites start life female and later transition to males as a way to protect their egg-laying territories, often called leks.
Usually buried amid the sandy ocean floor, the stunning marble ray is hard to spot. However, it does come up occasionally to feed on crustaceans rambling along the bottom of the sea.
As the name implies these Eels have black and white stripping like zebras and are easy to spot when diving or snorkeling. They usually hide in rock crevices and point their heads out at intruders or for a bite to eat.
Quite common in the Galapagos Islands, whitetip reef sharks can be seen swimming freely in small groups or just resting along the ocean floor, amid a number of their cousins, including hammerhead and blacktip sharks, and the curious-looking Port Jackson shark.
These stealthy sea-dwellers certainly look like giant bats flying underwater. Manta rays can grow to 23 ft (7 m) in length! They feed exclusively on plankton.
Similar to Mexican hogfish, bluechin parrotfish are sequential hermaphrodites; they start out female and transition to male in the latter stages of life. These coral-eaters can usually be seen hugging the Galapagos coastline, crowding the islands’ various reefs.
One of the most distinctive fish you’ll see while snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands, the Moorish idol is believed to be a harbinger of happiness. These fish tend to eat coral and sponges. They are easy to spot thanks to the elegant black, yellow, and white bands that vertically grace their bodies, along with their short and pronounced snouts.
Growing to a length of about 12 in (30 cm), Pacific seahorses are elusive and serene creatures are hard to find, hiding amid the brown algae and black coral rocks. Female seahorses usually deposit their eggs into the male pouches where they are fertilized until they eventually hatch.
Concentric pufferfish are distinguishable by the broad white stripes along their otherwise dark brown backs. When cruising in a boat, one can often look over the side and spot these gentle swimmers gliding along just below the surface of the water. However, if you’re a predator, beware! As their name implies, these fish can puff up to ward off would-be conquerors. Their hard, toxic spines make them hard to swallow and generally avoided.
These strange-looking marvels of nature have rectangular heads with a single eye and one nostril at each end. The scalloped hammerhead shark is quite an attraction for many snorkelers and divers. They are abundant in the waters of the Galapagos Islands.
Pacific burrfish have a stunning appearance thanks to their stocky, round heads, wide mouths, and large protruding eyes. Their bodies are covered in hundreds of spots and feature small, angular protrusions. They normally feed on hard shelled invertebrates (crustaceans). And average about 22 in (50 cm) in length.