Snorkeling at Cabo Rosa, AKA Los Tuneles

On most speedboat trips of any length, you’re likely to be surprised by a random rock protruding from the ocean. Of course, there will always be birds, and often sea lions, co-opting any accessible rock.

Cabo Rosa rock

Cabo Rosa, called Los Tuneles by the locals, is a surreal part of the ocean just offshore of Isabela Island. When one of the volcanoes erupted and the lava flowed to the sea, the molten lava contained gases that created chambers or tunnels within the lava streams. Once it cooled, the gases escaped, sometimes through fractures or fissures in the lava, sometimes through cracks and large collapses, creating the most wonderful maze of submerged and surface rock structures scattered all along sections of the island’s coastline.

Los TunelesLos Tuneles

Los Tuneles heron

Los Tuneles is a big area for local fisherman and also tour companies, since the snorkeling and diving here is wonderfully full of all kinds of marine and avian life. First, we walked around on top of some of the rocks.

Los Tuneles bridge

Los Tuneles turtle

We got our first real glimpse of Tintorera sharks

Los Tuneles Tintorera shark

a pair of courting/nesting blue footed boobies

Los Tuneles boobies

and some penguins from a distance.

Los Tuneles penguins

Then, we donned our snorkeling gear, jumped in, and followed our guide into the maze, sometimes dipping below the surface to go under a ‘bridge” of lava rock, sometimes sliding over lava just below the surface.

Cabo Rosa Kate snorkeling

We saw sharks, sea horses, Blue-Footed Boobies, so many colorful fish, I can’t even list them all, and most amazingly, enormous sea turtles! The guide told us not to get behind them, but swim beside them if possible so as not to spook them and that’s what we did. I couldn’t believe the sheer size of them and just swam as fast as I could to keep up, trying to remember to breathe at the same time. Unfortunately, my camera quit a few minutes after entering the water (the lens jammed), so I was unable to get what would have been wonderful, up close pictures of the turtles that day.

Cabo Rosa fish
Although the wildlife on land is rather indifferent about the presence of humans, the fish are slightly more skittish.

Cabo Rosa fishes

Due to the volcanic nature of the islands, there are so many rock configurations, from tunnels to cliffs to jagged piles of rubble.

Cabo Rosa vertical fish

Surprise, surprise! We happened to surface right next to a rock where some penguins were resting!
Cabo Rosa resting penguins

Led by our guide, we ended up in the open ocean for a bit while following a pair of sea turtles and it was suddenly exhausting because the current was so strong beyond the protection of the lava tunnels. It was exhilarating and a little bit terrifying at the same time. What a day!

Then it was a seemingly shorter speedboat ride back to our port. We were apparently lucky during our entire vacation in the Galapagos; after hearing the horror stories of people getting motion-sickness on the speedboat rides, we never once saw anyone even slightly queasy. Mainly it was just luck that the seas were fairly calm for us, even during the El NiƱo weather.

Cabo Rosa speedboat

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