Considered one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing, Galapagos is the kind of destination that leaves a mark. There aren’t many places in the world you can see such unique wildlife in one place. It’s like going on a safari but by boat, hopping from different islands home to an array of different animals.
The Galapagos islands are part of the republic of Ecuador, and the site of Charles Darwin’s studies during the second voyage of HMS Beagle. There are thirteen main islands and seven smaller islands and each have something unique and different to see. The largest and most visited islands are Isabela, Santa Cruz and Santa Cristobel.
One of the best ways to see all that the Galapagos Islands have on offer is to take a Galapagos cruise holiday. You have a choice of a range of itineraries so you’ll have the chance to see the best of what the island has to offer for you.
Visit Tortuga Bay for the Turtles
Tortuga bay is situated on Santa Cruz Island and is the most popular place for tourists in the Galapagos. Marine turtles call this place home and if you visit between January and February, you may even see the black turtles laying their eggs. Whereas between April and May hatchlings emerge and make their way to the sea which is an awesome sight. Other wildlife you can see here include marine Iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs.
To get here from Puerto Ayora you can walk, bike or take a water taxi. At the entrance to the bay you’ll find a conservation centre and a ranger as well as a car park and some bike racks. The beaches are free to visit, but you have to sign in at the ranger station before entering.
See the Giant Tortoises on Rancho Primicias
A visit to the Galapagos Islands wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island. The iconic creatures live within this privately-owned animal sanctuary which is one of the best places in the region to see these animals. You can get close to these fantastic beasts and is an experience like no other in the world.
The best way to get here is by taxi as it’s around 13 miles from Puerto Ayora. It costs only $3 to enter which includes a guided tour of the property and access to all facilities. Not only do you get to see these creatures up close and personal, there’s also empty tortoise shells to climb into and tunnels made of cooled, hardened lava to walk through. The ranch is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Snorkel with Sea Lions in La Loberia
Lo Loberia is a beautiful area on San Cristobel Island well known for its gorgeous beaches and resident sea lions. As well as excellent wildlife spotting you can also enjoy activities on the beach. Swimming, snorkelling and surfing are all popular things to do. It can be a nice break and a place to relax after exploring and trekking the islands highlights.
Sea lions are in abundance here but proceed with caution as males are quite territorial and can be aggressive toward humans if they feel threatened. As long as you keep your distance and show the wildlife respect then you will be fine. The beach is open all day every day and is only a 30 minutes’ walk from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. If you are short on time a taxi ride is a cheap and easy alternative.
Charles Darwin Research Station
The research station operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation strives to preserve the diversity of the Galápagos Islands. If you are interested in science this facility is a must as so much research and conservation is done here by over a hundred educators, research assistants and volunteers.
For visitors after walking around the outside area and visiting the numerous Galapagos giant tortoises go inside and explore the museum and exhibits. There’s a video about what the centre does, its mission and its continuing conservation efforts. The exhibits and the centres facilities are free, however the centre welcomes donations from visitors to help fund its science projects
Snorkelling and diving within the islands
You’ll find manta rays, turtles, a variety of tropical fish and even sharks in the waters surrounding these spectacular islands. There are lots of places in the area to see amazing wildlife whatever diving or snorkelling experience you have. Las Grietas on Santa Cruz Island, Los Tuneles on Isabela Island or Frigate bird Hill on San Cristóbal Island are all great places for novice snorkelers and divers. At these sites you’ll see sea lions, penguins and sea turtles as well as lots of colourful fish.
Dive sites that are popular with experienced divers here include Wolf Island’s Shark Point and Santa Cruz Island’s Gordon Rocks. You need to have dived before and be pretty confident to dive in these areas. If you need some guidance don’t worry, the best thing to do is to book with an organised tour to include your equipment and take you to the best spots.
A Top Spot for Bird watching
Amazing the Galapagos is home to 45 types of birds you won’t see anywhere else in the world. These include Galapagos penguins, Darwin’s finches, waved albatrosses and blue and red-footed boobies. Different islands are good for different types of birds but taking a bird watching tour will mean you get to see a whole range of bird life and learn about them too.
Santa Cruz island and Isabela Island’s Las Tintoreras are great places to see a variety of birds if you don’t want to travel too far by boat to more remote islands. Before you go you might want to take a list or a bird watching sheet with you so you know which birds you are looking out for and tick them off when you find them. It might sound a little childish but it could be fun!
Sierra Negra Volcano
The volcano sits above Isabela Island, reaching as high as 4,500 feet. This large shield volcano is still active and the most active recorded in the Galapagos. However, the most recent eruption was back in October 2005.
It’s a long day’s hike and you’ll need good walking boots and supplies as there are no facilities on the route. You might not be hiking in the Swiss Alps but you still need adequate equipment to get by. You can take a guided tour of the volcano starting at Puerto Villamil and walking the rim of the caldera along the side before moving on into the fresh lava fields of the main crater. Both full and half day tours are available from tour operators in the region.
An amazing trip to the Galapagos
As you can see there’s so much to see in this unique part of the world and hopefully this guide has given you a broader idea of what to do. The Galapagos islands continue to amaze both tourists and scientists who visit to see the wildlife, scenery and conservation efforts.
Have you ever been to the Galapagos Islands? What were your highlights of the trip?