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Discover the enchanting wildlife of the Galápagos Islands

The wildlife of the Galápagos Islands

In 1535, strong currents carried the ship of Panamanian bishop Tomás de Berlanga off course. Here in the remote Pacific – some 900 kilometres from mainland Ecuador – Berlanga stumbled upon what he called the ‘Enchanted Islands’: the Galápagos. This UNESCO-listed archipelago is a haven for a remarkable array of wildlife found nowhere else, from vampire finches to tropical penguins. Here is a glimpse of what to expect on your own serendipitous voyage.

The Galápagos: a diverse archipelago

The Galápagos comprise 18 main and three smaller volcanic islands that straddle the equator, experiencing summer-like conditions all year round. The islands boast diverse terrain, ranging from rocky and barren landscapes on the younger islands, to lush and tropical scenery on the older ones. The ongoing volcanic activity continually shapes the topography and habitats, driving the unique adaptations of the wildlife. Half of all species found here are exclusive to the Galápagos Islands, adding to their allure and scientific significance. Visitors can choose to explore the eastern or western islands, each offering distinct experiences and encounters with fascinating creatures.

Charles Darwin Research Station and giant tortoises

The central island of Santa Cruz houses the renowned Charles Darwin Research Station, named after the pioneering naturalist who visited the Galápagos in 1835. His observations during the five-week stay laid the groundwork for his groundbreaking theory of evolution. The research station is now dedicated to the conservation and study of the unique wildlife found on the islands. Among the station’s most famous residents was a Pinta Island tortoise called Lonesome George, an ‘endling’ – the last of his subspecies. He is now immortalised in a display at the station, while conservationists here continue their efforts to protect and preserve other tortoise species.

Isabela Island: a world of penguins and boobies

The largest island in the Galápagos, Isabela, takes the shape of a seahorse and offers a captivating landscape. Visitors can witness Galápagos penguins, which thrive in this tropical environment and are the only penguin species found north of the equator. The island is also home to the striking blue-footed boobies, whose peculiar courtship dance and vibrant feet offer a glimpse of nature at its quirkiest.

Floreana Island: turtles, flamingos, and human history

Floreana Island, named after Ecuador's first president, is a sanctuary for green turtles that nest here from December to May. In addition to these majestic creatures, visitors can spot elegant flamingos and wide-roaming Galápagos petrels, which spend years at sea before returning to breed on the islands. Floreana’s history is equally intriguing, with a legacy of pirates, whalers, and colonists. The wooden-barrel-turned-post-box, set up by British whalers in 1973, is an eccentric way for travellers to connect with each other across time and distance.

Española Island: the realm of waved albatross

Española Island, the oldest in the archipelago, offers a chance to observe waved albatrosses. These magnificent birds boast an impressive wingspan and spend their early years out at sea. Punta Suarez, a hotspot on the island, presents an opportunity to witness lava lizards, Hood mockingbirds, swallow-tailed gulls, and three species of Darwin finches. Alternatively, Gardner Bay provides a picturesque setting to relax on the beach alongside sunbathing sea lions, before immersing oneself in the lively underwater world during snorkelling adventures.

Marine marvels

The Galápagos Islands benefit from the convergence of three major ocean currents, attracting over 400 species of fish and various cetaceans. Visitors may encounter Bryde's whales, sperm whales, dolphins, and the seasonal presence of whale sharks, and blue and humpback whales.

Responsible travel

Responsible travel is essential to safeguarding this unique environment and its inhabitants. Opting for smaller vessels and travelling in small groups reduce the environmental impact and ensure a more immersive, respectful experience with the wildlife.

The Galápagos Islands remain an enchanting wonderland of wildlife, where nature's ability to adapt is on full display. As you embark on your adventure to this unique archipelago, remember the importance of responsible travel to preserve its magic for generations to come. There is only one Galápagos – a place that will leave an indelible mark on your heart.

Recommended tour: 

Ecuador & Galapagos Experience / 10 Days & 7 Nights

Experience the Galápagos Islands and observe their remarkable wildlife at close quarters. This private journey includes a 4-night cruise on an expeditionary catamaran, with opportunities to spot giant tortoises, sea lions, land iguanas, boobies, and other fascinating birdlife. This is combined with a visit to the old colonial centre of Quito, and the 'Middle of the World' monument marking the equatorial line.

Alternatively, if you are interested in a tailor-made holiday to the Galápagos Islands, call one of our Ecuador travel specialists or complete a tailor-made request form, and we will be in touch to plan your bespoke journey.