The Galapagos Islands are made up of 19 islands, 13 major and 6 smaller, each originating from undersea volcanoes that erupted over 600 million years ago, now form part of Ecuador’s National Park system.
Each island is very different from the other and contains unique wildlife, not just on each island, but within each island as well. So distinctive is the distribution of wildlife that some species can only be found on specific islands and what you find on one side you will not find on the other side!
Each island has a given name and a Spanish name and we have put in brackets what the alternative is, as depending on where you look the alternative name can be used. Below is a brief description of each island to help give you a guide of what each island contains.
BALTRA. Arrival and departure point from mainland Ecuador. The pier is a five-minute drive from the terminal.
BARRINGTON. (Santa Fe). Walks through Opuntia cacti and Palo Santo forests. Here you can see land Iguanas (endemic to Barrington), Lava Lizards and sea lion colonies, along with excellent swimming and snorkelling.
BARTOLOME. The climb up the wooded staircase to the summit affords one of the best views the Galapagos has to offer, below are two stunning bays, bordered by soft sand and azure waters. Its formations of lava flows and spatter cones are fascinating, and sea lions and penguins can be seen around pinnacle rock. Swimming and snorkelling here gives you the opportunity to see turtles, penguins and seals.
FERNANDINA (Narborough). This is the youngest island of the Galapagos group. You have the opportunity to walk amongst hundreds of marine iguanas on black lava rocks, see flightless cormorants, penguins, pelicans, sea lions and mangrove swamps.
HOOD (Espanola) Gardner Bay: home to a coral white sand beach with sea lions and mockingbirds, the latter is endemic to Hood Island. Swimming and snorkelling around the nearby islets with interesting coral formations and colourful fish.
Punta Suarez: on the other side of Hood Island you can walk on lava rocks dotted with nests of blue-footed boobies and Nazca boobies (formerly masked), a colony of marine iguanas (endemic), waved albatrosses and a blowhole. The spectacular albatross courtship rituals are seen from April to November. There are also sea lions, Galapagos Doves and Darwin’s Finches
FLOREANA. Home to an olivine-crystal beach and a secluded lagoon teeming with pink flamingos. A short walk away is a white sand beach where sea turtles nest (December to May) and nearby are Devil’s Crown and Champion islets, with beautiful coral formations and great snorkelling
NORTH SEYMOUR. Here you’ll see Palo Santo trees, colonies of blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and magnificent frigate birds. On the other side of the island waves crash onto the rocks and sea lions play in the surf. An uplifted island where some marine coral skeletons are seen along the shore.
ISABELA. This is the largest island in the archipelago. A walk to the top brings you to Darwin’s salt-water crater lake for a superb view. A dinghy ride along the shoreline lets you see penguins, flightless cormorants, boobies, pelicans and Sally Light foot crabs.
Urbina Bay is located on the central-west coast of Isabela Island at the foot of volcanoes Alcedo and Darwin. Landing on a black volcanic beach, highlights include; large colourful land iguanas, giant tortoise in the wild, blue footed boobies, penguins and flightless cormorants.
Punta Moreno is on Isabela’s southwest coast. There are spectacular views of volcanoes Alcedo, Negra and Cerro Azul, along with impressive lava flows. This is a desolate, pristine landscape, where you will see pioneer plants along with an extraordinarily varied and unusual arid-zone of vegetation. The main attraction is a compound of small brackish lagoons with lagoon birds and seasonal flamingos. Here is an ideal place for you to observe the rare gallinules, along with frigates, pelicans and other sea birds doing salt cleansing dives into the lagoons.
JAMES (Santiago) Sullivan Bay: fantastic lava formations and a good spot for snorkelling, where pioneer marine species should be expected.
James Bay: a dry landing on a black volcanic beach where a shoreline walk will reveal an assortment of marine-related species. Particularly good for migratory species of birds, swimming and snorkelling. You should spot Darwin’s finches and the Galapagos hawk, one of the few predators in the archipelago, and an easy stroll along the black lava rock formations brings you to the home of a fur sea lion colony.
SAN CRISTOBAL. The name of this island means ¨Sea Lion Island¨ and is appropriately named as it is ripe with noisy, frolicking sea lions. This island also offers great snorkelling as well as the chance to see Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies. Witch Hill on the northern coast is one of the most picturesque beaches in the Galapagos with its white powdery sand and the abundance of animals. Wildlife includes sea turtles, rays, and various types of Booby Birds, whilst the clear water provides an excellent opportunity for enjoying swimming and snorkelling. Pitt Point, situated on the north-eastern tip of the island, hosts frigate birds, storm petrels, and all three types of Booby Birds
SOUTH PLAZA. A small island with a steep cliffed shoreline and fascinating natural life: sea lions, land iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, Opuntia cactus and vegetation that changes colour with the seasons.
SANTA CRUZ. The Finch bay hotel is situated here, giving you a variety of options from mountain biking to sea kayaking to scuba diving. Here is also the Charles Darwin Research Station, where you will observe giant tortoises.
TOWER (Genovesa). Darwin’s Bay, formed by a collapsed volcano, dominates the island. It is also known as Birders Island as it is home to thousands of frigate birds, red-footed boobies, noddy terns, Lava gulls, tropic birds, doves, storm petrels and Darwin’s finches.
Prince Phillips Steps. Walk on lava rocks, a Palo Santo forest full of nesting birds, and some of the most thrilling snorkelling along the cliffs, where Hammerhead sharks are often seen, along with playful sea lions that twist and turn around you. There is also a good possibility of seeing the unique Short-eared owl.