On the western coast of Santiago Island, the snorkeling at James Bay is great for observing large marine life. While snorkeling James Bay, you may encounter sea lions, Galapagos penguins, spotted stingrays, golden stingrays and Galapagos sharks.These calm, protected waters are roughly 25 feet deep with a sandy, rubble seafloor.
The snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands is well known for its marine life encounters. The entire area is part of the Galapagos Marine Reserve which consists of 13 large islands, 6 smaller islands and 42 islets. While snorkeling in Galapagos Islands, you may encounter diverse marine life including Galapagos penguins, sea turtles, sea lions, marine iguanas, stings rays, manta rays, eels, reef sharks, parrotfish, damselfish, yellow-bellied triggerfish and hawkfish.
The high season for the Galapagos Islands is typically June through August, along with some holidays, though most snorkelers do not consider this to be the best time of year for snorkeling in the Galapagos. The high season just refers to when it is most crowded due to summer vacations. From June through November, the water tends to be cooler necessitating wet suits and resulting in poor water clarity. The warmer waters from December through May offer better water clarity, with the highest clarity of 15m in December and early January.
Overall, the waters around the Galapagos Islands are also known to have strong currents and waves, and not recommended for beginner snorkelers or for children. With that said, the hotter months bring on a general calming of the seas. The warm, wet season from December through May have the calmest seas with February having the calmest sea. This season typically has beautiful mornings followed by short afternoon tropical showers.
The Galapagos Islands are not well known for shore accessed snorkeling dive sites, and it is difficult to get from island to island. Therefore, the best way to enjoy the diverse snorkeling opportunities throughout the Galapagos Marine Reserve is by live-aboard cruise boat tour. The Galapagos National Park that encompasses all the islands limits the maximum cruise ship size to 100 passengers and the smallest yachts typically have 14 minimum passengers. Some cruise tours focus on land sights, so make sure you select a cruise that focuses on the snorkeling sights.
To reach the Galapagos Island snorkeling from Ecuador, you will first need to get to either the Quito international airport in the mountains or the Guayaquil airport (GYE) along the coast. Both are accessible from the USA via Miami or Dallas, depending upon the day of the week and time of year. Most of the international flights arrive in the late afternoon, while the inter-island domestic flights depart early in the day. Therefore, you will need to plan to spend the night in either Quito or Guayaquil. Similarly, on the return, you will need to spend the night again since the inter-island flights arrive in the afternoon and the international flights depart early in the morning.
From Quito or Guayaquil, there are daily flights to either the main Galapagos airport at Isla Baltra on the north end of Santa Cruz or three-day-a-week to Isla San Cristobal airport via TAME Airline or Aerogal Airline. It is a 1.5 hour flight from Guayaquil or 4 hours from Quito. Upon arrival at the airport, all tourists must pay the Galapagos National Park arrival fee of $100USD in cash. Upon departure from Equador, there is an international departure tax from Guayaquil of $26USD cash or from Quito of $41USD cash (it might be included in your international airfare ticket).
The James Bay snorkeling is accessed by boat tour only.
Overall, James Bay is the 14th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 20 snorkeling dives in Galapagos Islands.