the Galápagos Islands
Galapagos Islands and Wildlife
Baltra Island (South Seymour Island)
Baltra is a small, flat island located near the centre of the Galapagos. Baltra Island offers one of the two gateway airports to the Galapagos and will be used as an arrival and departure point for most Expedition Cruises.
Bartolomé Island (Bartholomew Island)
On Bartolomé Island you will have the chance to see volcanic formations such as lava bombs, spatter and cinder cones. Bartolomé Island has a volcanic cone that is easy to climb and provides great views of the other islands. On the way to the summit you may see colonies of marine iguanas, lava lizards, tiquilla and various cacti.
Española Island (Hood Island)
The island's remote location has a large number of unique fauna. Secluded from the other islands, wildlife on Española adapted exclusively to the island's environment and natural resources. Marine iguanas on Española are the only ones that change colour during breeding season. The waved albatross is also found on the island. The island's steep cliffs serve as the perfect runways for these large birds which take off for their ocean feeding grounds near the mainland of Ecuador and Peru.
Española Island has two visitor sites. Gardner Bay is a swimming and snorkelling site as well as offering a great beach. Punta Suarez has migrant, resident, and endemic wildlife including brightly coloured marine iguana, Española lava lizards, hood mockingbirds, swallow tailed gulls, blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies and Nazca boobies, Galapagos hawks, a selection of finches, and the waved albatross.
Fernandina Island (Narborough Island)
This is the youngest and westernmost island. Hundreds of marine iguanas gather on the black lava rocks of a narrow stretch of land known as Punta Espinosa. The famous flightless cormorant inhabits this island and also Galapagos penguins and sea lions are abundant. Here you may see the biggest marine iguanas mingling with Sally Lightfoot crabs as well as flightless cormorants at their nesting sites. Sometimes Galapagos penguins, Galapagos hawks and sea lions can also be seen. Among the flora and volcanic formations, observers will spot brachycereus cactus.
Floreana Island (Charles Island)
Floreana is one of the islands with the most interesting human history and one of the earliest to be inhabited. At Post Office Bay you can post your letters in a wooden barrel that served as a post office for whalers in the 18th century. Mail would be picked up and delivered to their destinations in mainly Europe and the United States by ships on their way home. Beware that your mail may arrive months later, if at all!
At Devil's Crown, an underwater volcanic cone, coral formations are found. Wander from mangrove beds to a large brackish lagoon which holds one of the biggest flamingo populations in the Galapagos. The island is best known for its endemic plants like the Galapagos milkwort, passion flower and button mangrove. Pink flamingos and green sea turtles nest (December to May) in this island. The "patapegada" or Galapagos petrel is also found here, a sea bird which spends most of its life away from land.
Genovesa Island (Tower Island)
Genovesa Island is formed by the remaining edge of a large crater that is submerged under the sea. Its nickname of 'Bird Island' is clearly justified. At Darwin Bay, frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls (which are the only nocturnal bird of its species in the world) can be seen. Red-footed boobies, noddy terns, lava gulls, tropic birds, doves, storm petrels and Darwin finches are also in sight. Prince Philip's Steps is a bird-watching plateau with Nazca and red-footed boobies. There is also a large Palo Santo (sacred stick) forest.
Isabela Island (Albemarle Island)
This island was named in honour of Queen Isabela and is the largest island in Galapagos. On this island Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, pelicans and Sally lightfoot crabs abound. At the skirts and calderas of the volcanoes of Isabela, land iguanas and Galapagos tortoises can be observed, as well as Darwin finches, Galapagos hawks, Galapagos doves and very interesting lowland vegetation. The third largest human settlement of the archipelago, Puerto Villamil, is located at the south eastern tip of the island.
North Seymour Island
North Seymour Island is teeming with life. Visiting the island you may have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana. Flocks of pelicans and swallow tailed gulls feed off shore and seasonally masked boobies can also be seen. North Seymour Island is an extraordinary place for breeding birds and is home to one of the largest populations of nesting blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds.
Pairs of blue-footed boobies can be seen conducting their mating ritual as they offer each other gifts, whistle and honk, stretch their necks towards the sky, spread their wings, and dance, showing off their bright blue feet. Magnificent frigate birds perch in low bushes, near the boobies, while watching over their large chicks.
Rábida Island (Jervis Island)
The high amount of iron contained in the lava at Rábida Island gives it a distinctive red colour. White-cheeked pintail ducks live in a saltwater lagoon close to the beach, where brown pelicans and boobies have built their nests (July through September is a good time to observe brown pelicans nesting on the salt bushes). Up until recently, flamingos were also found in the saltwater lagoon, but they have since moved on to other islands, likely due to a lack of food on Rábida Island. Nine species of Finches have been reported in this island.
San Cristóbal Island (Chatham Island)
San Cristóbal hosts the second gateway airport to the Galapagos Islands and is the point where some Expedition Cruises start and end. This island hosts frigate birds, sea lions, giant tortoises, blue and red-footed boobies, tropic birds, marine iguanas, dolphins and swallow-tailed gulls. Its vegetation includes Calandrinia galapagos, Lecocarpus darwinii, and trees such as Lignum vitae. The largest fresh water lake in the archipelago, Laguna El Junco, is located in the highlands of San Cristóbal. The capital of the province of Galapagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, lies at the southern tip of the island.
Santa Cruz Island (Indefatigable Island)
Santa Cruz Island hosts the largest human population in the archipelago at the town of Puerto Ayora. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service are located here. Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and admire the giant tortoises that are part of the breeding program. A saltwater lagoon can on occasion offer a colony of pink flamingos. Dragon Hill offers lovely views of the bay. Bachas beach offers the chance to encounter sea birds, marine iguanas and sea turtles.
Santiago Island (San Salvador, James Island)
Santiago Island is also known as San Salvador, after the first island discovered by Columbus in the Caribbean Sea. Marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, land and sea turtles, flamingos, dolphins and sharks are found here. Darwin's finches and Galapagos hawks are usually seen as well as a colony of fur seals. At Sullivan Bay a recent (around 100 years old) pahoehoe lava flow can be observed.