10 things to enjoy in Galápagos Islands
One of the most remote and beautiful places on earth and a world heritage site, comprising of 13 major volcanic islands (and more than 40 smaller islands). The Galápagos Islands are a series of volcanic islands that straddle either side of Equator about 926 km west of Mainland Ecuador. Having literally risen from the sea, the Galapagos are in a position of near absolute isolation perfect for evolution, as Mr. Charles Darwin discovered. It is a land of stark lava formations, lush green highlands, turquoise bays, soft white sandy beaches and overflowing with wildlife. See giant tortoises, swim with sharks, spot Galapagos Penguins and sea lions or dodge colonies of spitting marine iguanas sunbathing on the sand.
Before starting, interesting tidbits about them:
⇒ The Galápagos were discovered by chance in 1535 by Father Tomás Berlanga, Bishop of Panama.
⇒ The islands are home to over 25.000 people clustered in small towns, the capital is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
⇒ The Galapagos is home to the only breeding penguin in the northern hemisphere. Penguins and lizards on the same island? Only in the Galapagos.
⇒ The Giant Tortoise is one of the most famous residents of the Galapagos. It grows up to 1.5 meter and can live for around 150 years.
⇒ The convergence of four ocean currents including Equatorial, Cromwell, Humboldt, and Panama is what create variable water temperatures and unpredictable tides in the area resulting in a unique marine ecology.
⇒ The Movement of Pacific, Nazca and Cocos tectonic plates is what formed the islands. The last movement of the plates was in April of 2009. The movement has resulted in 13 volcanic eruptions.
La Loberia (San Cristóbal Island)
A pleasant and scenic walk from town is the home of a large sea lion colony and nursery. La Loberia at low tide is an unmitigated treat. It is thrilling to watch the mother bring her pups to the tide pools for swimming lessons. Feel free to jump in the water and snorkel while the pups cavort around you. While you are here, enjoy the bird watching, marine iguanas and, from time to time, giant tortoises.
A wide variety of whales inhabit the abundant waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Approximately 24 different species have been identified here, and it’s quite likely that other species are present but have yet to be positively identified. The ideal months for whale watching in Galápagos Islands are July, August and September. During these times, rich upwelling’s and nutrients come up to surface waters and the whales take advantage of that.
Visitors to the Galapagos Islands expect to see amazing creatures crawling, flying, or basking on the islands. But what surprises many people is the abundance of life just off the shore line, only a few feet down in the water. There is a world teeming with schools of angelfish, gliding manta rays, docile white-tipped reef sharks, and feeding marine iguanas. With only a snorkel, fins, and a mask, you have a movable window into the underwater world, observing marine life face to face, from magenta octopus, cuttlefish, oysters and squids to graceful sea turtles and paddling penguins. Over 800 mollusks species exist amongst the islands.
Sierra Negra Volcano (Isabela Island)
Sierra Negra volcano is one of five volcanos on the island of Isabela, and boasts the second largest volcanic caldera in the world (After the the one in Yellowstone National Park).The volcano contains a 7 km x 10 km wide caldera which is somewhat unusual. It is elliptical, with its long axis aligned northeast southwest, whereas calderas on the other western volcanos are nearly circular. There are numerous cinder cones, spatter cones, and tuff cones. A large eruption in 1979 produced a 14 km high ash cloud and lava flows which reached the sea.
Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)
See the Galapagos Islands through the eyes of the legendary explorer, Charles Darwin. Learn the history of the islands and see endemic and native flora and fauna, including Land Iguanas and the ever popular Giant Tortoise. The station is the hub of conservation research in the Galapagos and has a wealth of information about the fragile and distinctive ecosystems you will visit in this island chain. You can conclude your visit of the station with a stop at a lava rock beach overlooking Academy Bay and the Island of Santa Fe.
Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island)
Home to the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, Puerto Ayora is a lively seaside town offering international cuisine, oceanfront hotels, outdoor bars, scuba diving schools and an avenue of boutiques with everything. Puero Avora offer an array of outdoor activities, such as snorkeling, kayaking, horseback riding and mountain biking.
Galapagos Beach at Tortuga Bay
Located southwest of the touristic town of Puerto Ayora, Galapagos beach at Tortuga Bay is a pristine location covered with soft white sand beach and lined with shade trees. It is a great location for some easy going snorkeling, marine iguanas, green turtles, bird watching and elicans. It is considered by the majority of visitors as one of the most beautiful beaches in Galapagos. The sunsets here are just stunning.
El Chato Tortoise Reserve (Santa Cruz Island)
El Chato Tortoise Reserve is one of the best areas to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat. The reserve is divided into two areas: Caseta and Chato. The trail begins at Santa Rosa, 22 km from Puerto Ayora, with the Caseta route being the most challenging. The road to the reserve is good for observing land birds. Tree and ground finches, vermillion flycatchers and cattle egrets inhabit the area as well as a variety of plants and endemic trees.
Bartolomé is a small island and an adventurer’s paradise. Its summit has one of the most breathtaking views of the Galapagos Islands. And Pinnacle Rock, the eroded remains of an old volcanic tuff cone, is a popular site for snorkeling. Underwater rock formations are spectacular and Galapagos marine animals, including reef sharks, rays and tropical fish, are abundant here. The white sand beach at the foot of Pinnacle Rock is home to a colony of playful Galapagos penguins and a favorite site among tourists. Sally Light-foot Crabs, marine iguanas, sea lions, and Lava Herons also can be found along the shore.
Separated by a thin strait north of Baltra and Santa Cruz Islands, Seymour Island is often referred to as North Seymour Island. Seymour Island has some of the biggest sea bird breeding colonies in the entire Galapagos. Here you will find birds nesting, mating and rearing their chicks all year round. Blue-footed Boobies and Frigate birds are the main attractions here. Since most of the wildlife and birds in the Galapagos Islands are quite fearless, it is possible for visitors to get an up close view of the nests of many of the birds here, including the lovely Swallow-tailed Gulls and bright Yellow Warblers. You can also find Lava lizards, land iguanas and the Galapagos snake, sea lions and marine iguanas swimming close to the shore. North Seymour Island has a nice dive site to the south, where one can discover the magnificent beauty and diversity of the Galapagos.