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The Islands & their Animals

Enchanted Islands
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GALAPAGOS
The Islands & their Animals

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of 14 larger islands and many islets. The archipelago lies about 600 miles (almost 1000 km) west of the Ecuadorian mainland in the Pacific Ocean. Each island has its own flora and fauna and some species are endemic to one particular point or island – this is what makes Galapagos so special. Some of the most representative animal species of the Enchanted Islands are the giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas and sea lions. Although most people visit the Galapagos for their wildlife, the islands’ geology is equally fascinating.

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volcanic origin

The Galapagos archipelago was formed millions of years ago and while some of the first islands of the archipelago already disappeared again below the sea surface, the youngest islands in the west are still growing due to continuous volcanic activity.

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Natural Heritage Site

Due to their unique plant and wildlife on land and under water and their breathtaking sceneries, the Galapagos Islands were declared a World Natural Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1979.

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Galapagos Islands & Visitor Sites

Click on an island to learn more about its wildlife, history and visitor sites.

Galapagos Island Map
Marchena
Genovesa
Santiago
Bartholomew
Rabida
Fernandina
Baltra
North Seymour
South Plaza
Santa Cruz
Puerto
Ayora
Santa Fe
San Cristobal
Española
Floreana
Isabela
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Puerto
Baquerizo Moreno
Puerto
Villamil
Pacific Ocean
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Puerto
Velasco Ibarra
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Chinese Hat
Daphne
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Fernandina Island

Fernandina is one of the most pristine islands in the world because it does not contain any introduced mammal species. The island itself is a shield volcano and lava fields dominate the island’s landscape. The main attraction of Fernandina Island is the world’s largest colony of marine iguanas but you can also observe sea lions, shore birds and the unique

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flightless cormorants. If you are lucky, you might even stumble upon some penguins.

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Isabela Island

The seahorse-shaped island Isabela is by far the largest Galapagos Island and also one of the youngest ones. This western island is also known as Albermale Island and features several more or less active volcanoes. There is a small town called Puerto Villamil in the southern part of Isabela Island but most of the island remains pristine.

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The visitor sites along the northern and western coast of Isabela Island are considered one of the Galapagos highlights because of the abundant wildlife you can find here including penguins and the unique flightless cormorants.

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Santiago Island

Santiago is also known as James Island and it is one of the most scenic islands in Galapagos. Although Santiago Island is not inhabited nowadays, there were several colonization attempts and there are still remaining signs of it. The island was also frequented by pirates in the past. Probably the most famous visitor of Santiago Island was Charles Darwin.

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He spent most of his time on this island during his Galapagos visit and it was right here, that he first noticed the differences between species according to their habitat.

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Bartholomew Island

Probably the most famous Galapagos picture shows the breathtaking view from the lookout point on Bartholomew Island. A steep trail including stairs leads from the shore to the viewpoint from where you can see several neighboring islands and the magnificent Pinnacle Rock – the landmark of Bartholomew Island. The landscape of the island resembles the one you would find on the moon.

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Except for some lava lizards and lava cacti, you will not find much wildlife onshore.
However, the snorkeling site around the Pinnacle Rock is one of the best in Galapagos to observe rays, fish and reef sharks. If you are lucky, you might even sight one of the penguins that live in the area.

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Floreana Island

The southern island Floreana captivates with its fascinating history and the intriguing stories about its first residents. The island is also known as Charles Island and Santa Maria Island. It is one of only four inhabited islands in Galapagos. Most of its inhabitants live in the small town of Puerto Velasco Ibarra. Floreana Island is home to one of the most unusual post offices in the world.

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It was established in the 18th century by whalers and is still working in its traditional way. Besides the interesting historic sites, Floreana Island also features beautiful beaches and excellent snorkeling sites.

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North Seymour Island

The island is located north of Baltra Island and stretches over 1.9 square kilometers. In spite of its rather small area, North Seymour is home to a large number of animals. One of the largest colonies of blue-footed boobies lives here and you can observe both great and magnificent frigate birds nesting. North Seymour is also home to numerous land iguanas.

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Land iguanas are not native to North Seymour Island but were relocated from Baltra Island by scientists in the 1930s to provide this species with better living conditions.

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Española Island

As one of the oldest islands, Española is highly eroded and therefore rather flat. The island is already in the process of sinking back into the depths of the ocean. The English name of the island is Hood. Española is without doubt the southern highlight of the Galapagos archipelago because of the abundant wildlife you can find here.

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The most iconic species of Española Island are the colorful marine iguana, the Galapagos waved albatross that stays here from April to December and the blue-footed booby.

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Santa Fe Island

The Island of Santa Fe is also known as Barrington Island and lies in the central part of the Galapagos archipelago. Your visit starts with a wet landing at a picturesque bay where sea lions welcome you. The calm and crystal-clear water make an excellent snorkeling spot. With a little luck, you can see Galapagos hawks from the boat or during the hike.

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The island is home to the Santa Fe land iguana that can be found nowhere else in the world. The giant Opuntia cacti are the highlight of the island’s flora, some of them grow over 10 meters tall.

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San Cristobal Island

The Island of San Cristobal or Chatham is one of only four inhabited islands of the Galapagos archipelago. It is home to the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno which is the capital of the Galapagos province and the political center of the islands. The airport of San Cristobal is one of only two airports that connect the Enchanted Islands with the mainland.

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San Cristobal Island is not as commercial as Santa Cruz because of its location in the far east of the archipelago but it is still the starting point of many cruises and tours.

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Santa Cruz Island

Due to its centrality, Santa Cruz is the most commercial island of the Galapagos archipelago. It is one of only four inhabited islands and its town Puerto Ayora is the most populous one in Galapagos. Most Galapagos accommodation facilities are located in Puerto Ayora and most tours start from the airport of Baltra that lies to the north of Santa Cruz.

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Santa Cruz Island has numerous visitor sites. The most visited ones by cruises are the tortoises breeding center at the Charles Darwin Station and the Highlands of Santa Cruz.

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