Galapagos Sea Turtles and a Little Dose of Zen

Galapagos Marine Life, Isabela Island, Videos

Sea turtles are among my favorite animals in the Galapagos Islands.

I was lucky enough to be in the Galapagos in March right after sea turtle nesting season, when there are tons of sea turtles near the shore of Isabela. Here are my tips on making sure you have a great experience.


How NOT to Swim With Sea Turtles

The first time I ever spotted a sea turtle was on Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos. The sea turtle was gliding along the ocean floor, huge and shadowy.

It would make an excellent bragging rights photo! I was so excited I started swimming as fast as I could towards it, adrenaline pumping, fins kicking fast and camera poised. It saw me and moved in the opposite direction. So I kicked harder with my fins. It swam faster. I took a deep breath and dove underwater. It shot straight into the distance and faded into black. No luck.

This happened again two more times. I thought the sea turtles were shy until I met my awesome naturalist guide, Sandra.

Swimming With Sea Turtles

Sandra was one of the few female naturalist guides on Isabela, and indeed in the Galapagos islands. She taught me how to swim with the sea turtles, rather than swim after them. It is actually very zen. She spotted a sea turtle and motioned for us all to stay back. After a minute or so, she told us to approach slowly:

Move very slowly and calmly. Do not make sudden movements or you will startle it. Relax. Go ahead.

We approached slowly. The turtle kept floating about. It saw us, but to my amazement, it didn’t swim away! It floated there watching for 15 minutes, even swimming towards me curiously. We saw four more sea turtles just snorkeling around Los Tuneles on Isabela, and with my new sea turtle zen approach, we got to swim with every sea turtle we found.

Sea Turtle Video

Here are the video highlights of  my experience swimming with the sea turtles.

Have you seen sea turtles? Let us know about it in comments!

Meet the Author

Lisa Cho is an expat living in Ecuador, originally from San Francisco, California. She writes about the Galapagos Islands on this site and about her mainland Ecuador adventures on

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