The Galapagos is known for its remarkable variety of species, including sharks. The Galapagos Islands offer an excellent environment for shark species because of the distinctive meeting of cold currents and warm tropical water temperatures. While travelling on Galapagos, my goal was to see as many sharks as I can.
While 32 distinct types of sharks have been identified in the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands, it’s important to note that this does not imply extreme danger. With precautions and expert guidance, snorkeling and diving while in the company of sharks is a safe and delightful experience.
We have listed below some of the shark species that you may encounter during your trip to the Galapagos Islands. But first, we should know if sharks in Galapagos are dangerous.
Are Sharks in Galapagos Islands Dangerous?
Recent news about a shark attack in Galapagos caused worry among travelers. This kind of incident is extremely rare, and shark attacks in the waters around the Galapagos Islands have not resulted in any fatalities. However, it is wise to use caution when interacting with sharks. Sharks are naturally curious and might come closer to check things out.
It’s important to give sharks their space and not do anything that might scare or upset them. If you’re snorkeling or diving, always have a guide to ensure safety. They can tell if a shark is feeling uncomfortable. Make sure to always follow your guide’s instructions and reminders.
One of the interesting species in the Galapagos is the Galapagos Shark. It is one of the most common shark species in the seas around the Galapagos archipelago. They are the largest of the Requiem Shark family’s prominent members.
Despite their intimidating look and size, Galapagos sharks are rarely aggressive, preferring to engage in curiosity and engagement with humans. The IUCN Red List classifies them as Least Concern, with an unknown population trajectory.
You can spot Galapagos sharks on a live-aboard Galapagos dive cruise or Santa Cruz Island dive day tours. Definite sightings cannot be assured, but we were lucky to see a few during our dive tour.
Most groups of Galapagos sharks can be seen near Darwin and Wolf Islands, which are located in the extreme north of the archipelago. These islands are accessible exclusively via specialized dive cruises. I witness Galapagos shark during our 360 Tour at San Cristobal, you will have big chances to spot these.
While they might potentially threaten humans, there has never been a deadly attack by Galapagos sharks on the islands. However, it’s wise to take some precautions when diving with them. Galapagos sharks are curious but usually not hostile.
It’s essential to watch out for signs of them getting upset, like their back arching, head lifting, or swimming in a zigzag pattern. Most importantly, divers should give them enough space and treat them with proper consideration.
Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks
Hammerhead sharks are pretty common sightings in the Galapagos. The most common is the scalloped hammerhead shark, distinguished by its unique “hammer” head which stands out even more due to the scalloped front edge of its head. I saw them at Kicker Rock but there were pretty deep. For a better view, it’s best to scuba dive. I saw them from the top while snorkeling at Kicker Rock.
These sharks have a sleek gray-bronze color and typically weigh around 80 to 100 kilograms and reach 2.5 to 3 meters long.
They like to hang out in the water along underwater cliffs, rocky banks, and rough coral reefs. The largest groups of scalloped hammerhead sharks are usually sighted near Wolf Island and Darwin Island.
Young scalloped hammerhead sharks can also be spotted at Floreana’s Post Office Bay as well as Santa Cruz’s Black Turtle Cove (you will need to take Floreana Island Tour). We were able to enjoy a fantastic sighting of these sharks during our tour at Floreana.
Whale sharks are captivating and awe-inspiring sights in the waters of the Galapagos Islands. Unfortunately, this is the kind of shark that I did not see while snorkeling.
These gentle giants are known as the largest fish in the world, with an astonishing size of up to 40 feet in length. Whale sharks are known for their docile and peaceful nature despite their imposing dimensions.
Most divers say that diving with a whale shark is an unparalleled experience. They say these massive creatures glide gracefully through the water as their distinctive pattern of spots and stripes becomes apparent. They often describe their experience as a mesmerizing spectacle.
Whitetip Reef Sharks
Whitetip reef sharks are commonly seen around the Galapagos Islands. They have a shiny grey color and a pointy nose. They look like other sharks, but what makes them unique is the white tips on their top fin and tail.
Whitetip reef sharks often hang out around the edges and big parts of the coral. Sometimes, they explore calm lagoons, sandy areas, and deep parts of the ocean.
If you want to see Galapagos reef sharks, you can find them in Gardner Bay, Turtle Island in Española, and Punta Cormorant in Floreana. Bartolomé and North Seymour islands are also good places to spot them.
We were able to witness these amazing sharks during our Pinzon Island tour (first image) and Los Tuneles tour (image above). It was an incredible sighting, and we did not miss the opportunity to take a photo.
Sharks are abundant in the Galapagos Islands. Although they are a normal ecology component, shark interactions should be handled with care and respect.
While shark attacks are rare in the Galapagos, none of these cases have been fatal. It’s crucial to remember that sharks are curious animals. While they may approach humans, it’s necessary to give them room and refrain from acting in a way that might scare them—having a knowledgeable guide when snorkeling or diving is highly recommended for safety and understanding shark behavior.
Encountering these diverse shark species in the Galapagos enriches our understanding of the islands’ marine ecosystems. It also highlights the importance of preservation and respectful coexistence with these incredible creatures.