The Galapagos Islands
On this page ,we will give you a small idea of the characteristics of the most visited islands, one very interesting thing is that all the islands in this archipelago are different, some have lots of birds, some have lots of natural life, some have mostly if not only lava (technically all islands here do), meaning that they are young and let you understand about the geology of the Galapagos and how the islands were created, here you will find pictures of the Galapagos most interesting islands and their visitors sites.
Santa Cruz, named after the holly cross , one thing to consider ia that all the islands were named after something related o the King or Queen of Spain, the Holly Cross or the catholic faith, in tis case was about the catholic faith, Santa Cruz one of the largest island inn the archipelago is home to two species of giant tortoises, one recently discovered Chelonidis Don Faustoi, named after one of the longest serving park rangers in the islands, it is also home to the world famous Charles Darwin Research Center.
Santa Cruz is the center of tourisms in Galapagos, one of the reasons for this is the unique location of Baltra or Seymour’s airport, with an strategic location serves the Galapagos as the main airport, flights arrive here more than three times a day and allow you to arrive and leave pretty much any time you want during the day, no night flights are available.
The island of North Seymour is one of the most beautiful places you can imagine in Galapagos, located very close on the North side of Santa Cruz or the north of Baltra airport, North Seymour is home to one of the largest colonies of sea birds in the Galapagos.
As part of the wild life the inhabits this island you will find blue footed boobies, as you disembark on this place swallow tailed gull will greet you, sea lions by the rocky coastline, marine iguanas, and all the Galapagos animals you can imagine. North Seymour, probably the closets island with amazing amount of wildlife, closest to Santa Cruz will welcome you with a wonderful display of frigate birds flying over you and blue footed boobies performing their courtship dance.
Plazas Sur or also known in english as South Plazas is a very small islet, part of two located on the East side of Santa Cruz, geologist believe that this two twin islands were created after a geological uplift, because of their unique features like flat landscapes, pillow type lava and location, the Plazas islands are a unique kind of landscape in the Galapagos.
Home to one of the largest sea lions colonies in the Galapagos, South Plazas island is also shelter to a large colony of land iguanas, this endemic reptiles feed on the fruits of the cacti trees fruits that grow on this tiny island, with less than 14 sq miles in area, South Plazas has the best environment for many species that only exist in the Galapagos, land iguanas, marine iguanas, sea lions, Darwin’s finches red billed tropic birds, Nazca boobies and more. Visit this place while touring the islands on a live aboard or go there by taking a day trip, an island worth visiting.
Santa Fe or the Holly Faith, is one if not the oldest island in the Galapagos, with an extension of about five thousand square miles, this small island located almost in the center of the Galapagos had a large colony of giant tortoises, unfortunately because of its location and proximity to all other island allowed pirates and whalers to make of these tortoises their main source of food, to the point that they became extinct. Fortunately the small island of Santa Fe is also home to the largest colony of marine iguanas in Galapagos, which by the way are also unique to this island, there are three species of land iguanas in Galapagos, and one of them is unique to Santa Fe, conolophus pallidus which by the way is probably the largest colony of land iguanas in the islands.
A large colony of sea lions compliments the two beaches in Santa Fe’s bay, which at the same time attracts a school of sharks that patrols the beach looking for lunch.
The island of San Cristobal’s small human population, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, is the capital of the Galapagos islands, which by the way its official name is not Galapagos, book a tour wit Us and tell us its official name and you’ll get a 5% discount (conditions apply).
San Cristobal has a so many places to offer, from December to May is visited by surfers from all over the world, with great waves it hosts wave hunters from all places. Besides its surfing opportunities is also the hub for fishing in the islands, Sports fishing in the Galapagos is technically not allowed but “pesca vivencial” a new form of fishing tourism was created so fishermen would stop doing this activity commercially and instead doing it in a smaller scale and also taking visitors so they understand and learn how this is done in Galapagos.
Take a 360 degree tour that will take you around the whole island in one day and see every single spot San Cristobal has to offer, swim, snorkel and hike, all in one day.
Probably the first islands that was discovered in the Galapagos has one of the largest amounts of wildlife in the Galapagos, its strategic location, South East in the pacific gets a direct influence of the southern marine currents also known as the Humboldt current, bringing cold waters this at the same time bring lots of food (fish)making of it an incredible asset for all sea birds in Galapagos.
Because of its unique location Española is the only place where the waved Albatross nests in the whole world, having a restricted nesting season, from April to December, besides its perfect location (food wise) and because of its unique geological features, meaning a small flat island that is great of easy landings from flight, lots of good nesting areas and lack of predators, sort of, there is in fact the Galapagos Hawk in the area but by no means interferes that much with their nesting. Española is a perfect island for sea birds in the whole world.
Floreana , one of the most popular islands in Galapagos, not just because of its wonderful landscapes and unique fauna and flora, its also famous for its human history, being the place where people stated to arrive and call it home since the early 20’s, when Norwegians came to start a fishing company, when that didn’t work shortly after that ,Germans started to arrive, running away from all the problems Europe had at the time, made of this island their home, ask your guide to tell you the whole story about humans in Floreana, it will sound like coming our of an Alfred Hitchcock’s novel.
Post office bay is a place where you can deposit letters or postcards and someone else will hand deliver them for you, the Devil’s Crown considered by many as the best place to snorkel in Galapagos and Punta Cormorant, with its green sand beach because of a volcanic crystal called olivine, and a brackish water lagoon home to beautiful pink flamingoes, Floreana will make your trip to Galapagos a one of a kind experience in the Pacific Ocean.
Isabela | Puerto Villamil
Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos ,with an extension of aprox. 100 km from south to north has the largest amount of active volcanoes in the islands, being Sierra Negra the volcano with the second largest caldera (crater) in the whole world, it is an out of this world experience to visit this island. The south part of Isabela has one of the smallest and at the same time most beautiful town in Galapagos, Puerto Villamil, which for many years was a penal colony, the Ecuadorian Alcatraz if you will, located in front of a beautiful white sand beach where in season you have decent waves for surfing, the most incredible part is that you can just have a sit or get on a hammock at one of the many beach bars, have a cocktail and enjoy the sunset.
From Puerto Villamil, is very easy to take local transportation and after a 45 minutes ride get to almost the top of a volcanos, in this case Sierra Negra, get to almost the top of it and after a 20 minutes hike enjoy its over 7 miles of crater in length , stand almost at the edge and enjoy the impressive wonders of nature as you immerse yourself and try to understand this wonder of the world.
Isabela West Coast
As we mentioned before, Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos, meaning that there is much area to cover, at the same time, being located in the western most part of Galapagos, Isabela has direct influence from the coldest waters in the archipelago, there is an underwater center current called the Cromwell current that comes from West to east, once it reaches the Galapagos it crashes against Isabela and comes to the surface, these very cold waters bring so much life, imagine the food chain, cold waters-plancton-fish-algae-food for everyone (marine life), for this matter, the west coast of Isabela is the richest part of the Galapagos, in terms of marine life.
As you make your way up north start at Punta Moreno, where you will be able to see probably the largest marine iguanas in the islands, some of the males are longer than 5 feet, penguins that arrived from the south of South America, maybe related to the Magellan’s penguins, the only penguin that lives north of the equator, sea turtles and as you continue along the coast, don’t be surprised if dolphins or whales join you during the navigation.
Fernandina is probably the youngest island in the Galapagos, geologically speaking,with an age estimated in under 250k years, in some books you might read an age of understanding 50 thousands, in any case is the youngest and at the same time has one of the most active volcanoes in Galapagos.
Fernandina, being the youngest and considered as one of the most untouched islands in the archipelago, does not have introduced animals, is home to probably the largest colony of marine iguanas per sq. mile of coast, over 2000 per half a mile, when you start your walk here, you have to what your every step so you don’t walk over any of the many of iguanas basking in the sun trying to warm up, remember that there “cold blooded” reptiles, depend completely on the sunlight to keep their body temperature at an optimum so they can survive and be active. Besides the thousands of marine iguanas, the rocky coast of Fernandina has some sandy beaches that are a perfect habitat for sea lions, find a few colonies of females taking care of their young, some sea turtles that have made of this areas their nesting sites and of course one of the most interesting birds you will find here is the flightless cormorant, a bird that found so much food in the cold waters of Fernandina that never had the need to fly so it lost this ability because all it had to do was just walk into the water, take a fish and walk back on land.
Santiago, James or San Salvador, its official name is probably one of the most visited islands in Galapagos, not just by nowadays tourists but since the 1600’s it was a safe harbor to pirates and whalers, also one of the few islands visited by Charles Darwin, Santiago is very interesting in terms of human history and natural history as well. Unfortunately because of the amount of people and the kind of people that visited this island a few species that lived here have become extinct, for example, when Darwin arrived to Santiago, he wrote in his journal that because of the many land iguanas that lived here, it was almost impossible to pitch a tent, by now land iguanas are gone from this islands due to introduced animals.
On the good sids, Santiago’s beautiful coast is home to many species, as you walk along it’s rocky coastline, you will see many bright red sally lightfoot crabs and of course lava and night herons trying to catch them, Galapagos sea lions all along its coastline, small marine iguanas and plenty of fish caught in tide pools during a low tide.
At the end of the trail you will reach James bay’s grottos, collapsed parts of a huge lava tube which is home to a second species of sea lions, known as fur seals, they were hunted for many years because of its fluffy coat, luckily the Ecuadorian government stopped this activity right on time so this species did not face extinction like many others in the wold.
Bartolome & Sullivan Bay
Bartolomé or Bartholomew island is by far the most popular and most visited island in the Galapagos, because of its proximity to Santa Cruz island makes of this place a must visit island in Galapagos, but its not just because it is close to the center of tourism, Bartolomé is a one of a kind place, when you disembark on this island and start making your way to the top of this island, your guide will explain to you about the origin of this islands and this will give you an idea of the origin of Galapagos in general, how the islands were created, how the hot spot of Galapagos erupted so much lava that accumulated pretty much in the same place and built up an island that in time broke the surface of the ocean an that is what you will be walking on, the top of an oceanic island.
Once you reach the top of Bartolomé, the view is indescribable, see the pinnacle rock and its two beaches where you can go snorkeling from, if you are really lucky you might get to swim with penguins and sea lions.
Across the bay from Bartolomé is Sullivan Bay, a beautiful place and a paradise for geologist, an expense lava field from a volcanic eruption that took place over 100 years ago, mostly pahoehoe lava or also known as ropy lava because of the pattern it creates as it flows, this gives you the perfect example of how the hot molten lava flows and creates an island in the Galapagos.
Rabida & Sombrero Chino
As we have mentioned before, most of the names given to the islands come from Spain, in the case of La Rabida , this islands was named after a monastery in the south of Spain , this islands is a one of a kind, what will catch your attention is the color of the sand which in this case is RED, yes red , the color of its sand and actually the island itself is due to oxidation of the lava rocks, at one point on this island we could see a large colony of flamingoes that made its home at its large brackish water lagoon just next to the beach, unfortunately weather events like El Niño, and other factors contributes to the leaving of the flamingoes, however, Rabida is still home to a colony of sea lions that might get in the water with you wile you snorkel, pelicans and plenty of sea and land birds make of this island a unique stop in the Galapagos.
Abut 1 hour away from Rabida is Sombrero Chino or Chinaman’s hat, a small volcanic cone that resembles this shape, one of the smallest but at the same time most interesting and beautiful places in Galapagos, disembark on a small white sand beach and start exploring its coastline, full of coral and lava, the contrast is just a perfect combination, explore its coastline full of sally lightfoot crabs, lava , and if you are lucky find penguins that might just join you in the water after the walk while you are snorkeling.
Genovesa or also known as Tower island in english , is a small volcanic island located north of the equator, when you visit this island you will notice that your boat will anchor inside of what at some point was a volcanic crater, an almost perfectly circular bay will enclose the anchoring site.
Genovesa in its less than 7 square miles of total area , is one of the most interesting islands in Galapagos, because of its unique location and distance from main islands , which at the same time means far from birds of pray and predators in general, is the perfect place for many sea birds to call it home.
There are two parts in Genovesa that people can visit, one is Darwin’s bay which is the name of the bay itself and has a small white sand beach where you can go on a short hike from to see frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls, Nazca boobies and of course the main attraction in this place are red footed boobies.
The second place is called Prince Phillip’s steps, Genovesa is also known as the bird’s island , at this place you will see similar birds as in Darwin’s bay plus Galapagos doves, more Darwin’s finches and once you reach the outer part of the cliff where you can see the ocean , this is a great opportunity to see lots of storm petrels and if you look carefully, waiting for these birds to come closer to land , there will be a short eared owl ready to get the meal of the day.