Galapagos Islands information wildlife & Island descriptions
As declared by the famous marine explorer Jacques Cousteau, "Galapagos is the last wildlife sanctuary". It is a place where animals do not fear humans, making it a natural paradise and haven for naturalists wishing to escape a busy and noisy outside world. Board the M/C Galapagos Journey fleet for the nature travel experience of a lifetime - the waters are calm and the weather is pleasant (we are at the Equator!). The Galapagos Islands travel experience is top of the list for every experienced traveler.
San Cristobal Islands
Interpretation Center: Built with the cooperation of the Spanish Science Centre, the interpretation centre gives a very good introduction to the Galapagos islands; its marine and land life and fauna and flora. It is located in the outskirts of the small city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, (the capital of the Galapagos Province).
Cerro Tijeretas (Frigate Bird Hill):
The trip to Tijeretas Hill takes approximately 20-40 minutes. Once there, visitors are treated to a spectacular view of the white beaches on one side and the roofs of Puerto Baquerizo on the other. The hill is named after the Frigatebirds who frequent the area. Here you will be able to see both the Magnificent Frigatebirds and Great Frigatebirds in the same colony so this is the perfect place to compare and learn to distinguish them.
This site offers some safe snorkelling, a great place for beginners as there are no strong currents and a brilliant opportunity to look out for stingrays, barber fish and butterfly fish.
Isla Lobos (Sea Lion Islet):
This small islet, located on ly an hour by boat from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, is separated from the main Island by a narrow stretch of calm water. Upon its rocky shores blue-footed boobies nest and sea lions rest. The atmosphere is one of tranquillity and primitive beauty and reveals a very typical Galapagos environment.
Bahia Gardner: Located on the north-eastern coast of Hood, Gardner Bay is an excellent beach for relaxing, swimming and observ ing sea lions. Here we will also have the opportunity to observe sharks in the crystal-clear ocean waters.
Punta Suarez : This rocky land-point sustains one of the most impressive and va ried colonies of sea birds in the Galápagos. Along its southern shore, high cliffs rise up from the sea allowing the visitor spectacular views of soaring birds and of the blow hole, a lava tube where water can spout up to 75 feet into the air according to the intensity of the surf.
Post office bay: This site is home to a wooden barrel, historically placed there in the 18th century by the crew of a whaling ship. Ever since this time the barrel has been used by mariners and tourists as a sort of postal service. Whalers and Galapagos residents used to leave their mail inside it, waiting for the captain of any boat headed to where the mail was addressed to deliver it… why not try it out t o see if it still works? What´s more, apart from being the location of the Post Office Barrel, this site was also the landing area for some of the first colonists to the Galapagos Islands.
Punta Cormorant: This site offers one of the la rgest and best flamingo lagoons in the Galapagos. It is situated between two tuff cones, giving the area its special atmosphere. Aside from the flamingos, various species of shorebirds can be seen the most common being stilts, white-checked p intail ducks and other migratory birds. This is a unique zone due to the hu ge amount of endemic plant life. It is also very interesting to observe the two distinct beaches: the “gre en sand beach (due to high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand) and the “Flour sand beach” made up of coral.
Santa Cruz Island
Charles Darwin Interpretation Center: Although the majority of Galapagos visito rs come here to observe and appreciate the natural wonders the Islands have to offer, many also find it interesti ng to learn more about the protection and c onservation programs in place on the islands. Some of the principal attractions of the National Park Information Center are; the Van Staelen Exhibition Hall, the Breeding and Rearing Center for young tortoises, Lonesome George (the last surviving tortoise from Pinta Island) and other adult Galapagos tortoises in captivity.
Bachas Beaches: Located to the West of Turtle Cove, t he sand on these two small beaches is made of decomposed coral. As a result the sand here is very white and soft, making it a favorite nesting site for sea turtles. Behind one of the beaches there is a small water lagoon, where occasionally it is possible to observe flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels. The other beach is longer and has two old barges that were abandoned during the Second World War, when the USA used Baltra Island as a strategic milita ry point in order to protect the Panama Channel. (The metal is rusty and sharp, so it is not a good place for swimming).
Highlands of Santa Cruz Island: The trail to the high lands leaves from Bellavista an d passes through the agricultural zone, near the National Park boundary, the Miconia Zone and then goes to the Fern and Sedge zone. With clear weather (unpredictable) this area offers beautiful scenes of rolling hills and extinct volcanic cones covered with grass and lush greenery all year round.
Tortuga Bay: The path to Tortuga Bay is good for birdwatching as it is easy to spot several species of finches as you walk along the path. Many consider the sa ndy white beach the nicest of the archipelago and the beach’s name derives from the sea turtles that go th ere to lay their eggs. The sunsets here are excellent and although the main beach is used primarily for s urfing, the west cove is a nice spot for relaxing, swimming or snorkeling. Flamingos, marine iguanas, pelicans, Whimbrels and can also be found here.
A small barren island that is located across from Sulliv an Bay off James Island, Bartolome has two main visitors’ sites. The first site offers the possibility to climb to the summit of the island, from where visitors can observe a variety of volcanic formations including lava b ombs spatter and cinder cones, lava flows and lava tubes. The moon like landscape provides one
of the most scenic panoramas in the archipelago. At the second site, visitors have the chance to relax on a beautiful beach, which offers great snorkelling oppo rtunities. Multi –coloured fish and occasionally penguins and sea turtl es have been seen at the base of the tall pinnacle rock, which dominates Bartolome’s landsca pe. A short walk across to Bartolome´s second beach and swimming is strictly prohibited. Here visitors can see White -tipped Reef Sharks at a saf e distance swimming along the shor eline.
These are two sm all islets that were formed a short distance from the East Coast of Santa Cruz. Despite its small size, some of the most interesting and outstanding species of the archipelago occur here. The principal attractions of Plazas are the land iguanas, sea lions and swallow–tailed gulls. It is possible to observe land iguanas relaxing in the shade of cactus plants and swallow-tailed gulls nesting on the rugged southern cliffs (which we will see along with various other sea birds). And that´s not all as the protected rocky seashore is a pri me habitat for a large colony of noisy sea lions. Also we will be able to see yellow – tail ed mullets, Audubon’s shearwaters, red-billed tropicbirds, frigate birds, and brown pelicans gli ding pa st the cliffs.
Puerto Egas: The excursion to Puerto Egas with its black sand beaches leads to one of the more rewarding visits of the the site of a small salt mining industry in the 1 960s, one of several unsuccess ful attempts to commercialize the Galap agos. A hike inland to the salt crater is an excellent opportunity to see land birds such as finches, doves, and hawks. A walk along the rugged shoreline, especially at l ow tide, will let us observe many marine species as Iguanas bask on t he rocks and sea lions laze in the tide pools. At the end of the trail there is a series of grottoes or sea caves w here fur seals and night herons ar e regularly found resting on the shady le dges. For many, this is the only opportunity to see the Galapagos fur seal, once thought to be on the verge of extinction. Galapagos. The island was
Sullivan Bay: Thi s visitor site provides a unique opportunity to view lava flow that is approximately 100 years old. The Sullivan Bay Lava is known a Panoehoe (Hawaiian for Rope) due to the lava fl ow having solidified in a mostly ropey-like appearance, it is rare to the rest of the world but is common to the volcanoes of Hawaii and Galapagos. Only a few plants have ma naged to take root in this harsh environment. The low-lying Mollugo is commonly the first plant to emerge from a bare lava field. Together with the Lava Cactus (Brachycereus) fou nd here, these plants are evidence of life returning to Sullivan Bay.
Chinese hat (sombre ro chino) is a tiny Island just off the southeastern tip of Santiago Island and is less than a quarter of 1 sq km in size. It is a recently-formed volcanic cone and its descriptive name acc ounts for the fact that it appears to take the shape of a do wnward-facing Chinese hat. (The hat shape is best appreciated from t he northside.) Opposite Sombrero Chino, on the rocky shoreline of nearby Santiago Island, Galapagos penguins and eagle rays are often seen. The island is home to a large sea lion colony and plenty of marine iguanas who cover the volcanic landscape. There are some excellent snorkeling opportunities in the cove.
Isabela is the l argest island in the archipielago. T his isl and consists of a chain of five volcanoes, from which Vo lcano Wolf is the highest.
Puerto Villamil: is a small port on Isabela, where not many travellers pass by. The Exp erimental Station is located very near Puerto Villamil in the south of Albem arle. Here the Galapagos National P ark experiments with the reproduction process of the subspecies of geochelone elephantopus gunteri (tortoise). Volcano Sierra Negra, located at the southern end of Isabela, is one of the best and most impressive examples of a volcano in the archipelago. This is the seco nd largest crater in the world after Ngorongoro in Africa.
Urbina Bay: located on the western coast of Albemarle Is land at the foot of Alcedo Volcano, Urbina Bay was uplifted from the sea in 1954. Flightless cormorants and pelicans nest along the co ast during their nesting seasons, and turtles and rays can be seen in the bay. Highlands include large and colorful land iguanas.
Tagus Cove: A tour along the cliffs in a zodiac will give visitors a good chance to see the Galapagos penguin, the flightless cormo rant and other sea birds. From the landing dock it is about a 30 minute hike along the trail up to the top of the cliff from where you can view Darwin lake.
Elizabeth Bay: As this is a marine visitor site, the excursion is carried out in a zodiac and so there is no landing point. Your zodiac ride starts with a visit to the Marielas islets where there is the largest and most important penguin colony in the Galapagos Islands. The excursion continues into the cove that is surrounded by red mangroves where you can admire their red roots and green leafs. It is here that you are able to observe sea tu rt les, flightless cormorants, spotted eagle rays, golden rays, brown pelicans and sea lions. Frequently visitors have been able to see Galapagos Hawks soaring overhead whilst schools of Pompano and Dorado fish swim below.
Fernandina is the third largest, youngest and westernmost island in the Galapagos. Many volcanic eruptions have been recorded since 1813, making this island the most likely to experience a volcanic eruption.
Puerto Espinoza: Just across from Tagus Cove, there is a visitor’s site where some of the unique Galapagos species can be seen. Marine iguanas unite in larger groups than on any other island as they stretch out on the sand, b asking in the sun, swimming near the shore and sometimes even blocking the path at the landing dock. Among the unique species found h ere, is the Flightless Cormorant - a bird that due to a lack of predators had to adjust its way of survival an d perfect its skills of finding food in the ocean. Their wings, tails and feet progressively adapted for swimming. Observing these birds, is like witnessing evolution happening right in front of you.
Santa Fe Island:
Santa Fe is one of the most entertaining destinations for shore excursions in the Galapagos Islands. It has two trai l choices for visitors, one of which takes you to the tallest Opuntia cactus in the Galapagos. While the other trail takes you int o the highlands where the land iguanas can be seen. After a long walk, the opportunity to swim in calm waters or snorkel with playful sealions, will be p retty tempting.
North Seymour Island:
Located slightly to the north of Baltra, North Seymour is a low, flat island, formed as a result of a submarine lava formation uplift. Covered with low, bushy vegetation, it co ntains the largest colony of magnificent frigatebirds in the Galapagos. There is also a large population of blue-footed boobies that perform an amusing courtship dance when nesting conditions are right. The dance consists of the birds taking big goofy strides, slowly picking-up high their blue feet, wings spread, whilst whistling and honking – it really is one of the highlights of this island.