Galapagos Marine Life

Galapagos Marine Life

Whales | Dolphins | Sharks | Rays | Fish | Eels

The Galapagos Islands and the surrounding waters represent one of the worlds most unique ecosystems and are rich areas of bio diversity. Recently granted UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site status, the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is the largest marine reserve in a developing country and the second largest marine reserve in the world.

The Galapagos Marine Reserve covers 133,000 square kilometres. This reserve, which lies a thousand kilometres from the Ecuadorian mainland was set up in 1998 to protect the waters around the Galapagos Islands and the many species of animals and fish that live there.

There are so many marine species in Galapagos because of the cold ocean currents that bring rich nutrients for food and the great variety of habitats, coral reefs, mangrove lagoons, rocky areas and sandy beaches. Many other species depend on the Galapagos marine life for their food, such as sea birds that eat fish and the marine iguanas that feed on algae growing on the bottom of the sea.

In certain areas in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, you can dive or snorkel and come into contact with amazing aquatic species which live underwater such as Whales, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, rays, manta rays, sword fish and turtles, just to name a few.

Cold, hot and warm marine currents come together here, generating a wide diversity of animal life, from small colourful fish to large mammals.

Take a look at some of the marine life that thrives in the oceans around the Galapagos Islands:

Whales Dolphins Sharks
Rays Fish Eels


In the warm season (from May to December), there is a good chance of seeing whale sharks particularly in the northern islands, they can also be observed in the central islands. In the cold season (December to May) the chance to see whale sharks is about 50 percent and you are more likely to see more rays like mantas, mobula and eagle rays, since they get together in schools to mate at this time of year.

Hammerhead sharks can be found throughout the Galapagos Archipelago all year round. The large schools of fish, sea turtles, sea lions, iguanas and penguins are also found during the whole year.

Dolphins and whales are warm blooded and they breathe air like other mammals do (including humans). Sharks and other fish are cold-blooded and do not breathe air. There are two groups of whales and dolphins that live in the waters around the Galapagos Islands:

Baleen whales
Toothed whales and dolphins

There are over 450 species of fish in the Galapagos Islands and about 17% of these are endemic (not found anywhere else in the world). There are 2 main groups of fish:

Fish that have skeletons made of cartilage (rays and sharks)
Fish that have bony skeletons

Green sea turtles are the only species of turtle that live in the Galapagos Islands, although the hawksbill turtles and leatherback turtles can sometimes be seen there.

Other types of marine life found in Galapagos include:

  • Crabs, shrimps and lobsters
  • Sea shells, sea slugs, squids and octopuses
  • Sea urchins, starfishes and sea cucumbers
  • Corals, anenomes and jellyfish
  • Sponges, seaweed, algae and worms