Baltra is a small flat island located near the centre of the Galápagos. It was created by geological uplift. The island is very arid, and vegetation consists of salt bushes, prickly pear cacti and palo santo trees. This uplifted island is a great visual introduction to Galapagos.
Until 1986, Baltra Airport was the only airport serving the Galápagos. Now, there are two airports which receive flights from the continent; the other is located on San Cristóbal Island.
During World War II, Ecuador authorized the United States to establish a naval base in Baltra Island, and radar stations in other strategic locations. Baltra was also established as a United States Army Air Force base. In those days, this airport had the largest airstrip in South America. Crews stationed at Baltra patrolled the Pacific for enemy submarines, as well as provided protection for the Panama Canal. After the war, the facilities were given to the government of Ecuador. Today, the island continues to be an official Ecuadorian military base.
The pier is a 5-minute drive from the air terminal. If you happen to start your voyage in Puerto Ayora, you will take a bus ride to the Itabaca Channel, cross it by ferry towards Santa Cruz Island, and then have an interesting ride from the lowlands up to the highlands and down again to the lowlands. The changes in vegetation that guests will experience will be a rewarding way to start your Galapagos expedition.
Perhaps the most photographed location in the entire archipelago, the “rock pinnacle”, that is one of the most recognized landscapes of the islands.
Climb up a wooden staircase to the summit for a stunning view of two beautiful bays. You can observe fascinating formations of lava flows and spatter cones. Many have called this island “an open Geology textbook”. Sea lions and penguins can be seen around Pinnacle Rock. There is a sandy beach with great swimming and snorkeling. This is one of those selected locations where seeing penguins in tropical waters can be a revealing discovery. It is an extinct volcano and has a variety of soils red, orange, green, black and shiny volcanic formations.
Bartolome is a small island that has two visitor sites. At the first site, you can snorkel around Pinnacle Rock, where penguins are usually seen. Then, it’s back on board for a quick change of clothes followed by a short dinghy ride to a dry landing for a climb to the highest point on the island. On the way up, you will encounter different volcanic formations, including spatter and tuff cones, lava flow and lava tubes. From the summit you will have a wonderful view of Sullivan Bay. For those not interested in the hike, there is the option of a panga ride. Usual fauna and flora also includes sea lions, pioneer plants, reef sharks, rays and colorful reef fish.
Difficulty Level: Moderate. Walk up 375 low-grade stairs to top of volcano at a slow to moderate pace.
Area: 1.2 km²
Maximum altitude: 114 meters
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes and 1 hour walk on the beach and snorkel. The groups rotate the visits.
Wildlife: brown pelican, Galapagos penguins, white tip reef sharks, green sea turtles
Flora: Galapagos Carpetweed, maytenus octogena, thorn shrub, white mangrove, red mangrove, salt bush
Main attraction: a panoramic view of the archipelago and Pinnacle Rock
Terrain: ladder, beach
Physical condition: High (360 steps)
Its name was given in honor of Spain. It also is known as Hood, after Viscount Samuel Hood. It has an area of 60 square kilometers (23 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 206 meters (676 ft).
Española is the oldest island at around 3.5 million years, and the southernmost in the group. Due to its remote location, Española has a large number of endemic species. It has its own species of lava lizard, mockingbird, and tortoise. Española’s marine iguanas exhibit a distinctive red coloration change during the breeding season. Española is the only place where the waved albatross nests.
Española has two visitor sites. Gardner Bay is a swimming and snorkeling site, and offers a great beach. Punta Suarez has migrant, resident, and endemic wildlife, including brightly colored marine iguanas, Española lava lizards, hood mockingbirds, swallow-tailed gulls, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, Galápagos hawks, 3 species of Darwin’s finches, and the waved albatross.
Gardner Bay offers the chance to enjoy a wonderful coral white sand beach. It is home to one of the most important colonies of sea lions, and it is also a nesting site for sea turtles. Throughout the morning there are opportunities for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking.
Duration: 2 hours 30 min
Wildlife: Hood mockingbird, Galapagos hawk, marine iguana, Galapagos sea lion, warbler finch, small ground finch, cactus large finch, green sea turtle.
Flora: Puncture weed, salt bush, beach drop seed.
Main Attraction: white sand beach and sea lion colonies and snorkeling. Maintain safe distance from the sea lions, especially adult males, they can be aggressive.
Terrain: stairs, rocky beach.
Physical condition: Low
Espanola Island Points of Interest
Punta Suárez is one of the most popular and attractive sites in the Galapagos. Due to its isolation from other islands, it has a high proportion of endemic fauna. A few steps inland from the landing site, groups of Española marine iguanas bask in the sun. Further inland, Nazca and blue-footed boobies nest near the trail, Galapagos doves peck around unaware of visitors and finches go about their day to day business. The trail continues towards a blowhole, which is a fissure in the lava where water spurts high into the air like a geyser. The cracks in the cliffs are home to swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds. Further up the cliff in an area of low-lying trees you will find waved albatrosses nesting. The 15,000 to 17,000 pairs of albatrosses on Española represent almost the entire population of this species on the planet. They perform one of the most spectacular courtship rituals of the animal world.
Duration: 2 hours 30 min
Wildlife: weaved albatross, Hood mockingbird Galapagos, hawk, swallowed tail gull, marine iguanas, Galapagos sea lion, red billed tropic bird, cactus large finch, medium ground finch, small ground finch, blue-footed boobie, nazca boobies.
Flora: mesquite, desert thorn, salt bush, yellow cordia, Galapagos carpetweed.
Main Attraction: colored marine iguana, the blower and the albatross.
Type of terrain: rocky
Physical condition: High
The name was given in honor of King Ferdinand II of Aragon, who sponsored the voyage of Columbus. The youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed, with the most recent volcanic eruption in April 2009, where lava from the volcanic island Fernandina started flowing both towards the island’s shoreline and into the center caldera.
Walk among the hundreds of marine iguanas on black lava rocks. See flightless cormorants, penguins, pelicans, sea lions and mangrove forests. The walking grounds will reveal the beautiful shapes of lava once it has cooled off. At this location, few rocks are more than 400 years old. Fernandina’s colossal dome shape can enchant anyone who visits it for it’s perhaps the most remote island in the Pacific.
Fernandina Island is one of the most pristine ecosystems in the entire world and also one of the most dynamic. La Cumbre Volcano last erupted in April 2009, and also dominates the landscape, with lava fields stretching towards the ocean from its base. Punta Espinoza is a narrow piece of land where some of the most unique Galapagos species can be seen, including the flightless cormorant, Galapagos snakes, marine iguanas, penguins and the Galapagos hawk.
Disembark (dry landing) for a one-mile walk over dark lava. Punta Espinoza has an amazing combination of barrenness and a lot of wildlife. Having no introduced mammals, Fernandina boasts a very unique environment with the highest density of marine iguanas, sharing their space with sea lions, sally-light foot crabs, hawks, penguins and the flightless cormorant.
Duration: 2 hours and 30 minute walk.
Wildlife: flightless cormorant, Galapagos snakes biserialis, Galapagos hawk, marine iguana, lava lizard, Galapagos sea lion, and Galapagos penguins.
Flora: lava cactus, white mangrove, black mangrove, red mangrove, Galapagos shore petunia.
Main Attraction: pahoehoe lava. The largest colony of marine iguanas, and flightless cormorant’s colony (unique in the world).
Terrain: PNG trails, lava and sand.
Physical condition: Average
It was named after Juan José Flores, the first President of Ecuador, during whose administration the government of Ecuador took possession of the archipelago. Floreana is one of the Galapagos most famous islands due to many strange stories regarding past settlers. The first governor of Galápagos, General José de Villamil, brought a group of convicts to populate the island of Floreana, and in October 1832, some artisans and farmers joined them.
There are many wonderful and diverse sites to visit including Post Office Bay and the “Baroness’s Viewing Point”. Marine life also abounds in Floreana’s coastal waters making it a fantastic site for snorkeling. Flamingos also populate the island and may be seen during your visit. It is one of the four inhabited Galapagos Islands.
The Baroness’s Viewing Point is the perfect place to take in the special environment that defines Floreana, and a great spot to talk and ponder regarding the intriguing history of the Baroness and her three lovers!
In the 18th century whalers passing through the islands placed a wooden barrel on Floreana Island for use as an unofficial mail box. The tradition continues today as visitors leave addressed postcards in the barrel and sort through left mail to deliver at home. This is one of the archipelago’s most famous spots. Don’t forget to look in your logbook for your postcards! During the early 20th century, the island became a kind of promised land for many Norwegian citizens who arrived in search of a better life. Colorful history of buccaneers, whalers and settlers.
Area: 170 km²
Maximum altitude: 640 meters
Floreana Island Points of Interest
Baroness Cove & Post Office Bay
After a wet landing at Post Office Bay, visit the historic barrel that has been serving as a post office in the archipelago for over two centuries, to learn about the human side of the islands, its early inhabitants and the adventures of pirates and whalers. Panga ride along the maze of channels in the north shore of Floreana, see the Sea Lion colonies, marine turtles in shallow waters, rays and occasionally penguins. Wet Landing on Baroness Cove and a short walk up to the observation tower to enjoy breath taking views of Floreana and its nearby islets. Snorkeling is possible.
Disembark at Punta Cormorant (wet landing) at an olivine-crystal beach for an easy walk that includes a brackish water lagoon where bird species like greater flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts, herons, sandpipers, and others may be observed. This outing also includes a white-sand beach where sea turtles come out at night to nest (from December to May).
A great site for bird-watching, Cormorant Point has a large lagoon where everything from Flamingos to stilts and pintail ducks can be observed. The beach nearby is also quite special and known as: The “Green Beach” named so due to its green color, which comes from a high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand.
Duration: 2 hours trail is an approximate distance of 720 meters
Wildlife: Sting rays, semipalmated plover, white cheeked pintail duck, black necked stilt, green sea turtle, whimpers
Flora: Galapagos weedcarpet, maytenus octogena, thorn shrub, black mangrove, salt bush, incense tree, longhaired scalesia, Curve spined Lecocarpus
Main attraction: population of flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) and the beach a nesting area for sea turtles (Chelonia midas)
Terrain: beach and normal soil
Physical condition: high
Wildlife: Floreana mockingbird, Green sea turtles
Main attraction: One of the best places for snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands
Physical condition: high
Wildlife: Sea lions, Green sea turtles, sharks, fish diversity and dolphins, sharks, white tip reef sharks, reef fish, manta rays
Main Attraction: One of the best places for snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands is a submerged volcanic cone; one can observe interesting coral formations
Physical condition: Average
The name is derived from Genoa, Italy. Genovesa, or Tower Island, is the northernmost island that is allowed to be visited by naturalist (non-diving) cruises. It consists of the remains of a large submerged crater. The shape of the island is horseshoe and has a volcanic caldera, whose wall has collapsed. This island is extremely remote and home to literally millions of birds belonging to many different species including the red footed booby as well as frigates, swallow-tailed gulls and even endemic owls! It, therefore, has the nickname of “Bird Island”. There are two sites on Genovesa that are visited.
Area: 14 km²
Maximum altitude: 76 meters
Volcano: (64 mt / 210 feet)
Genovesa Island Point of Interest
El Barranco, also known as Prince Phillip’s Steps, is a steep path (90 feet) with stairs carved into the rock. Once at the top of the stairs, the terrain is flat, allowing for a stimulating walk of about a mile to the other side of this small island, observing large colonies of Nazca boobies, red footed boobies, Galapagos doves, mockingbirds and petrels. With some luck, you may spot a short-eared lava owl.
Duration: 2 hours walk.
Wildlife: great frigate bird, swallow tailed gull, barn owls, Galapagos fur seals, red billed tropicbird, warbler finch, vampire finch, large ground finch, red footed boobie, nazca boobies
Flora: Galapagos Croton, yellow cordia, walteria ovata, incense tree
Main Attraction: Cliffs, sea lions colony, barn owls search, favorite place for sea birds nesting.
Terrain: lava and difficult paths
Physical condition: high
Darwin Bay was formed after a caldera collapsed. Its steep cliffs dominate the island. It is called “the bird island” because it is home to thousands of frigate birds, red-footed boobies, noddy terns, lava gulls, tropic birds, doves, storm petrels and Darwin’s finches. Darwin Bay’s soft, coralline white sand is only the beginning of a spectacular excursion. A trail from the beach takes you into lush mangroves where red footed boobies nest. Other locals include sea lions, swallow-tail gulls, frigates and more. Snorkeling is a must here as sharks, colorful reef fish, rays and tortoises are common.
Duration: 2 hours walking. Path 1,500 meters
Wildlife: yellow warbler, Galapagos mockingbird, great frigate bird, yellow crowned night heron, swallow– tailed gull, barn owls, Galapagos sea lions, Galapagos dove, warbler finch, cactus large finch, large ground finch, vampire finch, red footed boobie, nazca boobies
Flora: Galapagos carpetweed, Galapagos croton, scorpion weed, red mangrove, salt bush, yellow cordia, incense tree, prickly pear cactus
Main attraction: Frigate colonies, Nazca boobies, swallow –tailed gulls, red footed
Physical condition: low
This island was named in honor of Queen Isabela. Isabella is the largest island in the Archipelago. It was formed by six large volcanoes which flowed together. It is also one of the youngest of the Galapagos Islands, and a marvelous world within itself. The third-largest human settlement of the archipelago, Puerto Villamil, is located at the southeastern tip of the island. It is the only island to have the equator run across it. It is also the only place in the world where a penguin can be in its natural habitat in the Northern Hemisphere. Five of the island’s six volcanoes are still active. There a local population of 2,200 inhabitants.
Volcanoes Tortoise Breeding Center Wetlands Difficulty level: Easy Wall of Tears Tagus Cove was historically used as an anchoring place for pirates, buccaneers and whalers. Here you will see the names of hundreds of ships painted on the high ridges (a practice now forbidden). On the hike, the trail goes through an area of vegetation and the volcanic landscape of Darwin volcano. At the top of the trail, you will enjoy an incredible view of the whole cove and Darwin Lake. An optional uphill hike takes guests to the back of Darwin Crater, filled with salt water. The view at the end of the trail is worth the climb. Darwin is one of Isabela’s six volcanoes, a remarkable contrast to the lower islands to the east of the archipelago. All guests will enjoy a panga ride along the volcanic cliffs of Tagus Cove, teeming with life (boobies, flightless cormorants, penguins, martins, terns, iguanas and sea lions) Possibilities to swim, snorkel or ride kayaks. There is no beach in the area, so pangas are employed. The early morning activity may be followed by kayaking or a panga ride, where you will have the opportunity to see a large number of blue-footed boobies perched on the ledges of the cliffs, as well as marine iguanas, penguins, brown pelicans, brown noddy terns and swallow-tailed gulls. While exploring the channel between Fernandina and Isabela Islands, we sometimes encounter dolphins and whales.
Maximum height: 1707 meters.
Isabella Island Points of Interest
Tortoise Breeding Center The Tortoise Breeding Center was created to protect animals in their first years of life from the threats of foreign species such as pigs and donkeys as well as to educate visitors and locals about the importance of the Galapagos giant tortoise and all Galapagos species.
The Wetlands of Isabela Island are located just outside of Puerto Villamil. The Wetlands consist of lagoons, swamps, and mangroves and are home to a variety of unique bird species such as common stilts, whimbrels, white-cheeked pintail ducks, gallinules and other shore birds. The Wetlands can easily be reached on foot or bicycle via beautiful trails that wind through the swamps.
In 1946, a penal colony was established on Isabela Island, but it was closed in 1959 when the Galapagos Islands were designated a National Park. Prisoners were forced to build this wall, stone by stone, in isolation, only to be asked to tear it down again and start over. This now historical site towering at 65 feet (25m) took the lives of thousands during its construction and remains as a vivid reminder of the past. Locals claim to hear the cries of the long-lost souls emanating from the cracks between the volcanic rocks.
Duration: approximately 1,800 meters, 2 hours.
Wildlife: yellow warbler, flightless cormorant, Galapagos mockingbird, hawks, marine iguana, land iguana, Galapagos flycatchers, large ground finch, medium ground finch, small ground finch, penguins, flightless cormorants, green sea turtles, herons, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, pelicans.
Flora: Galapagos croton, heart-leafed scalesia, yellow cordia, incense tree, prickly pear cactus.
Main Attraction: A view of the saltwater lagoon which is located within a tuff cone, lava fields of Darwin volcano, cave inscriptions where we find names of pirates and whaling vessels dating from the 1800s.
Terrain: mostly gravel, lava.
Physical Condition: medium – high
Tortoise Breeding Center
Difficulty level: Easy
Wall of Tears
Tagus Cove was historically used as an anchoring place for pirates, buccaneers and whalers. Here you will see the names of hundreds of ships painted on the high ridges (a practice now forbidden). On the hike, the trail goes through an area of vegetation and the volcanic landscape of Darwin volcano. At the top of the trail, you will enjoy an incredible view of the whole cove and Darwin Lake.
An optional uphill hike takes guests to the back of Darwin Crater, filled with salt water. The view at the end of the trail is worth the climb. Darwin is one of Isabela’s six volcanoes, a remarkable contrast to the lower islands to the east of the archipelago. All guests will enjoy a panga ride along the volcanic cliffs of Tagus Cove, teeming with life (boobies, flightless cormorants, penguins, martins, terns, iguanas and sea lions) Possibilities to swim, snorkel or ride kayaks. There is no beach in the area, so pangas are employed.
The early morning activity may be followed by kayaking or a panga ride, where you will have the opportunity to see a large number of blue-footed boobies perched on the ledges of the cliffs, as well as marine iguanas, penguins, brown pelicans, brown noddy terns and swallow-tailed gulls. While exploring the channel between Fernandina and Isabela Islands, we sometimes encounter dolphins and whales.
Elizabeth Bay is one of the furthest points of the Galapagos that is visited. There is a sheltered cove – a wonderful mangrove ecosystem that is a refuge for sea turtles, rays, blue-footed boobies, penguins, herons and more.
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes by zodiac
Wildlife: turtle’s pond around the islets of the bay, penguins, marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, masked boobies and sea gulls, rays, sharks, pelicans, boobies, sea lions and fish in general, sea lions, flightless cormorants, penguins. From June to September you can see some whales.
Flora: red mangrove
Main Attraction: Formed by the union of the volcanoes Sierra Negra and Alcedo Volcano. This wide bay has a very high and colorful mangrove, which contrasts with the lava.
Terrain: none, only zodiac ride
Physical condition: Low
Punta Moreno is located just southwest of Elizabeth Bay on the west coast of Isabela Island and is known for large populations of sea birds which can be appreciated during a panga ride along the striking rocky shores or a hike along path through lava rock leading to tide pools and mangroves. In the tide pools green sea turtles or white-tip sharks can be spotted.
Highlights: impressive lava flows from eruptions years ago. Desolate, extremely pristine landscape. A textbook of pioneer plants, extraordinarily varied and unusual arid-zone vegetation. The main attraction is a compound of small brackish lagoons very much like a desert oasis with lagoon birds, including seasonal flamingos. Ideal place for observing the rare and reclusive gallinules. Frequent sights of frigates, pelicans and other sea birds doing salt cleansing dives to the lagoon’s surface.
Punta Albemarle is located on Isabela Island’s remote northern tip and after a long time of being closed off to visitors, it will reopen again in 2012 for only a handful of cruise ships. Punta Albemarle was used as a radar base by the U.S. during World War II. The waters in this region are very productive allowing for excellent chances for seeing whales in the area not to mention nesting cormorants and also the largest marine iguanas in the entire archipelago.
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
Urbina Bay is located in Western Isabela, at the foot of Alcedo volcano. This is the spot where the Galapagos National Park began their successful eradication of goats on Isabela Island. After a wet landing on a beautiful black-sand beach, you may be able to observe sea turtle nesting sites. This area is also known for penguin and flightless cormorant sightings and is one of the best places to see Darwin’s finches as well as large land iguanas. Also, be on the lookout for Galapagos tortoises which like to feed within the site’s dense vegetation.
Punta Vicente Roca
A magnificent landscape shows the uniqueness of the western volcanoes of Galapagos. This is the youngest geological feature of the archipelago at the northern tip of the Galapagos’ largest island, Isabela. This area is part of Ecuador Volcano, where a collapsed caldera floor is revealed after a major sinking of half of the whole volcano structure. The anchoring place lies in front of tuff-stone layers of a parasitic cone, next to the slopes of the host volcano. Lava intrusions, called sills and dikes, reveal the relatively recent volcanic activity of this area. Since there is no landing site at this location, our outing will include coastal exploration where our Naturalists will commit to explaining the dramatic geology of the area. Wildlife here will definitely surprise everyone; few hours before we crossed the Equator and yet this tropical area can have surprises like dolphins, whales, sea lions, sea birds, turtles, and more. Where is all this life coming from? The answer is the Cromwell Current; a deep submarine current that up wells right at the volcanic platform of the western islands. These cool nutrient-rich waters attract plenty of sea-depending species which include brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies, noddy terns, shear waters, and the only tropical penguin on Earth, the Galapagos penguin. Depending on sea conditions (current and visibility), we will schedule a snorkeling outing too.
Punta Vicente Roca
Punta Vicente Roca is a wonderful snorkeling site, where you can usually see turtles as well as all kinds of fish. Since there is no landing site at this location, the coastal exploration is by dinghy, while the naturalist guide explains the dramatic geology of the area with remains of lava flows and tuff stone layers. The panga ride will give you the opportunity to study some of the Galapagos’ spectacular geological rock formations. Nazca boobies, pelicans, swallow-tailed gulls, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants and penguins are often seen in the area.
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
Depending on the conditions of the ocean, it will be possible to schedule a snorkeling outing along the cliffs of partly-sunken Ecuador Volcano, on the northern tip of Isabela Island. Since there is no landing site at this location, the coastal exploration is by dinghy, while the naturalist guide explains the dramatic geology of the area with remains of lava flows and tuff stone layers. This is the nesting place for flightless cormorants, the only existing marine birds in the world other than penguins that have changed their condition of flying birds to diving birds. Wildlife here also includes sea lions, Galápagos fur seals, Galápagos penguins, blue-footed and Nazca boobies and noddy terns. This area boasts an impressively-rich marine life, and is seasonally visited by green sea turtles and oceanic sun fish (Mola mola). If conditions are good, snorkeling can be done at the cliffs of a tuff cone.Duration: 1.5 hours
Wildlife: Green sea Turtles, Galapagos penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions, masked boobies, blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, frigate, flightless cormorants
Main attraction: Volcanoes of Isabella, swim with sea turtles, sea lions and manta rays
Terrain: Snorkeling in deep water for all
Physical condition: average
The island was named after an English nobleman, Lord Hugh Seymour. Just north of the Baltra Airport is the small islet of North Seymour. North Seymour was created by seismic uplift, rather than being of volcanic origin. The island has a flat profile with cliffs only a few meters from the shoreline, where swallowtail gulls and tropicbirds sit perched on ledges. A tiny forest of silver-grey Palo Santo trees stand just above the landing, usually without leaves, waiting for rain to bring them into bloom. The island is teeming with life. While visiting the island, one may have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana.
North Seymour may very well be the perfect introduction to the Galapagos Islands. Although the island is characterized by arid vegetation, fauna abounds and you will soon find yourself surrounded by sea lions, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, frigates and more. With some luck you may even get to see land iguanas as well. The island was created by the rise of a submarine lava formation.
North Seymour is an extraordinary place for breeding birds, and is home to one of the largest populations of nesting blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds. Pairs of blue-footed boobies can be seen conducting their mating ritual as they offer each other gifts, whistle and honk, stretch their necks towards the sky, spread their wings, and dance—showing off their bright blue feet. Magnificent Frigatebirds perch in low bushes, near the boobies, while watching over their large chicks. The frigates are huge, dark aerobats with a 90-inch (2.3 m) wingspan. Male frigates can puff up their scarlet throat sacks to resemble giant red balloons.
The island is covered of low and dense vegetation Incense trees, blue footed boobie. Is mainly flat and arid with vegetation that includes cactus ,incense tree and salt bushes. Palo Santo trees, colonies of blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and magnificent frigate birds. On the other side of the island, the waves crash onto the rocks and sea lions play in the surf.
Disembark (dry landing) for a walk along the coast and the interior of the island, observing bird colonies of blue footed boobies, frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls and also sea lions and marine iguanas. Opportunity for snorkeling or coastal exploration.
Area: 1.9 km2
Maximum altitude: 28 meters
Duration: 1 hour with 45 minutes
Wildlife: yellow warbler, Galapagos mockingbird, magnificent frigate bird ,great frigate bird, swallow tailed gull, marine iguana, Galapagos sea lion, red billed tropic bird, medium ground finch, small ground finch, blue footed boobie.
Flora: Maytenus octagona, Galapagos croton, thorn shrub, salt bush, yellow cordial, Galapagos incense tree, Jerusalem thorn, Galapagos carpetweed.
Main Attraction: Island formed by raisings and for this reason is easy to find corals and bones along the way and frigate colonies
Terrain: rocky and lava
Physical condition: medium
Rábida (Jervis) Island bears the name of the convent of Rábida, where Columbus left his son during his voyage to the Americas. It has an area of 1.9 sq mi (4.9 square kilometers) and a maximum altitude of 1,204 ft (367 meters). The high amount of iron contained in the lava at Rábida gives it a distinctive red color. White-cheeked pintail ducks live in a saltwater lagoon close to the beach, where brown pelicans and boobies have built their nests.
Rabida is a small island with red volcanic rocks surrounding a beautiful red sand beach, where there is a colony of sea lions and a pelican nesting site. The trail leads to a salt water lagoon where shore birds can be seen. Rábida is considered to be one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos Islands, and you may also have the opportunity to go kayaking or on a panga ride.
A stroll along the beach of this small island allows the observation of a large colony of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and several species of Darwin’s finches. This is a great place to snorkel from the beach, both for beginners as well as for experienced snorkelers, due to the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes.
Duration: 1 hour easy walking and 1 hour of beach time and snorkel
Wildlife: Greater flamingos, Brown boodie, Galapagos sea lion, Brown pelican, blue footed boobie, woodpecker finch, small ground finch, cactus finch, Galapagos mockingbirds, snakes and lizards.
Flora: Galapagos croton, Black mangrove, incense tree, prickly pear cactus.
Main Attraction: Red sand beach and cliffs
Terrain: beach and rocky
Physical condition: low
San Cristóbal (Chatham) Island bears the name of the patron saint of seafarers, “St. Christopher”. Its English name was given after William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. It has an area of 215 sq mi (558 square kilometers) and its highest point rises to 2395 ft (730 meters). This is the first island in the Galapagos Archipelago Charles Darwin visited during his voyage on the Beagle.
This island hosts frigate birds, sea lions, giant tortoises, blue- and red-footed boobies, marine iguanas, dolphins and swallow-tailed gulls. There is a turtle farm and refuge of Giant Turtles La Galapaguera.
Its vegetation includes Calandrinia Galapagos, Lecocarpus darwinii, and trees such as Lignum vitae. The largest freshwater lake in the archipelago, Laguna El Junco, is located in the highlands of San Cristóbal. The capital of the province of Galápagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, lies at the southern tip of the island, along with one of two airports serving the islands from the mainland.
San Cristobal Island Points of Interest
Galapaguera Cerro Colorado
Wildlife: yellow warbler, Chatham mockingbird, Galapagos flycatcher, small tree finch, small ground finch, giant tortoise.
Flora: Acacia, galapagos croton, Guayabillo, heart-leafed scalesia, poison Apple, matazarno, cat´s claw.
Main Attraction: Giant tortoises from San Cristobal Island
Terrain: high, rocky and humid
Physical condition: medium
Located on the north coast of San Cristobal Island, this eroding lava cone offers a fantastic landscape as well as wonderful swimming, snorkeling and panga ride experiences. Cerro Brujo’s gorgeous beach is also home to many sea lions and it’s also the first coast where Charles Darwin first stepped foot on in the Archipelago! You will also see a beautiful lagoon used by the locals of Baquerizo Moreno Port for salt mining as well as two different species of halophytes (rare plants that grow in soils with a high salt content)
Punta Pitt is located on the eastern tip of San Cristobal Island and is a great place to see Nazca boobies and blue footed boobies. You will hike up to a plateau where the view and landscape are so spectacular it is definitely worth the effort. You can also enjoy kayaking, snorkeling and panga rides at Punta Pitt.
Wildlife: semi terrestrial hermit crab, Chatham mockingbird, magnificent frigate bird, marine iguana, Galapagos sea lion, brown pelican
Flora: candelabra cactus, Galapagos croton, poisons apple, matazarno, salt bush, incense tree.
Main attraction: sea lion colonies
Physical condition: low
Interpretation Center and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno town
Wildlife: seabirds, coastal or migrant birds, sea lions, lava lizard finches
Flora: Prickly pear cactus, Galapagos cotton, incense tree, calandrina
Main attraction: visit to interpretation center.
Terrain: PNG paths, streets
Physical condition: medium to low
Wildlife: Semipalmated plover, great frigate bird, marine iguana, Galapagos sea lion, blue footed boobie, black necked stilt, ruddy turnstone, whimpers.
Flora: maytenus octagona, candelabra cactus, White mangrove, red mangrove, prickly pear cactus, incense tree, milkwort.
Main attraction: beach, fine white sand chalky origins, sea lions colonies.
Physical condition: low
Given the name of the Holy Cross in Spanish, its English name derives from the British vessel HMS Indefatigable. It has an area of 381 sq mi (986 square kilometers) and a maximum altitude of 2834 ft (864 meters). Santa Cruz hosts the largest human population in the archipelago, the town of Puerto Ayora.
The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and the headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Service (GNPS) are located here. The GNPS and CDRS operate a tortoise breeding center here, where young tortoises are hatched, reared, and prepared to be reintroduced to their natural habitat.
The Highlands of Santa Cruz offer exuberant flora, and are famous for the lava tunnels. Large tortoise populations are found here. Black Turtle Cove is a site surrounded by mangroves, which sea turtles, rays and small sharks sometimes use as a mating area. Santa Cruz highlands are lush grassland that is famous for its lava tunnels. Puerto Ayora is the major human settlement of the archipelago. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the National Park headquarters are located here.
Charles Darwin Research Station and Puerto Ayora
Disembark in Academy Bay (dry landing) to visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoise pens, including tortoise celebrities like “Lonesome George” within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest home to many land birds. These are the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. On your visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station you will gain insight into the great efforts being made by scientists, guides, rangers and park managers to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will see the famous Galapagos tortoises that are the islands’ namesake. Time is allowed to visit local shops and restaurants.
Wildlife: species of giant tortoises and land lizards.
Flora: candelabra cactus, Galapagos croton, thorn shrub, scalesia, White mangrove, black mangrove, red mangrove, poison apple, salt bush, prickly pear cactus
Main attraction: Giant tortoises in captivity .visit to the downtown.
Terrain: streets and paths in the Galapagos National Park
Physical condition: low
Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill)
The north shore of Santa Cruz hosts Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill). Dry landing and a walk that includes a brackish water lagoon frequented by lagoon birds, including stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers, sanderlings, and more. Further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western islands of the archipelago. This area is a natural nesting site for land iguanas, constantly monitored and assisted by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The arid-zone vegetation can be a rewarding location for bird watching, where Darwin’s finches, Galápagos mockingbirds, the endemic Galápagos flycatcher, and yellow warblers are regular sightings.
The name Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill) stems from the fact that it was one of the few sites on Santa Cruz Island where a healthy population of land iguanas were found in 1975. After landing at a pier, a hike takes to you to a salt water lagoon behind the beach, frequented by common stilts, pintail ducks and occasionally flamingos. A short walk up the hill leads you to a land iguana nesting site, with breathtaking views of the bay. You will have the chance to go swimming after the walk.
Duration: 1 hour
Wildlife: Tyrant flycatcher, large tree finch, woodpecker finch, warbler finch, small ground finch, large ground finch, medium ground finch, small tree finch, vegetarian finch.
Flora: Guayabillo, heart -leafed scalesia, red bush, thin leafed Darwin’s shrub.
Main attraction: volcanic crater, woodpecker finch and scalesia forest.
Physical condition: medium
El Chato Reserve
Duration: 4 hours, we’ll take a bus for 45 minutes
Wildlife: Paint-billed crake, moorhen, cattled egred, Galapagos rail, white cheeked pintail duck, pied billed grebe, giant tortoise.
Flora: Galapagos croton, guayabillo, water fern, heart leafed scalesia, matazarno, Galapagos pisonia, glory bower.
Main attraction: ecologic reserve “Primicias” and “Tunel de lava” (lava tunnel)
Terrain: vegetation, flat
Physical condition: medium
Bahia Ballena (Whale bay)
Wildlife: Galapagos hawk, small ground finch, medium ground finch, large ground finch, cactus finch, vegetarian finch, woodpecker finch.
Flora: Acacia, maytenus octogona, thorn shrub, matazarno, salt bush, yellow cordia, incense tree, Galapagos tomato
Main Attraction: beach with olivine crystals and pottery remains from the year 1846
Physical condition: medium
Las Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island
Las Bachas Beach is located in the north of Santa Cruz Island. Its soft, white sand is derived from decomposed coral, making it a favorite nesting site for sea turtles. Behind the beach there is a small brackish lagoon, where it is possible to observe flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels.
Wildlife: Greater flamingo ,magnificent frigate bird ,lava gull, marine iguana, lava lizard, white cheeked pintail duck, brown pelican, large ground finch, medium ground finch, green sea turtle.
Flora: maytenus octogona, scorpion weed, White mangrove, black mangrove, red mangrove, Galapagos carpetweed.
Main attraction: Green sea Turtles ´Favorite place to nest and leave their eggs.
Terrain: Coral sand beach
Physical exertion: low
Santa Fé Island is named after a city in Spain. It has an area of 9 sq mi (24 square km) and a maximum altitude of 850 ft (259 mts). Santa Fe hosts a forest of Opuntia cactus, which are the largest of the archipelago, and Palo Santo. Weathered cliffs provide a haven for swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropic birds and shear-waters petrels. The Santa Fe species of land iguanas are often seen, as well as lava lizards. Formed by uplifting, rather than by a volcano, Santa Fe is known for having one of the most beautiful coves in all the Galapagos. Some of the island’s endemic species include the Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Snake, rice rats, different types of finches, and the Galapagos Mockingbird. The visit includes a hike on a trail past salt bushes where Galapagos hawks as well as the Santa Fe land iguanas tend to roam. Playful sea lions will usually accompany swimmers and snorkelers during beach time.
It is a wet landing on a sandy white beach with many sea lion harems. Bulls vie for the right of “Beach Master”, while smaller males masking as females make stealthy mating moves. Galápagos hawks are often easily observed, perched atop salt bushes. The giant prickly pear cactus found here live up to their name with tree-sized trunks! The endemic land iguana, unique to this island, may be spotted during the afternoon walk. Snorkeling and swimming from the beach rounds off the rewarding experience.
Its name is equivalent to Saint James in English; it is also known as San Salvador, after the first island discovered by Columbus in the Caribbean Sea. This is the fourth largest island in the archipelago, dominated by a volcanic dome, and surrounded by small cones. Vegetation is plentiful because of the humidity. It’s a place of great geological activity, including the recent flow of Pahoehoe Lava.
Maximum altitude: 907 meters
Volcanoes: 920 mt7feet 3018, last eruption 1890
Santiago Island Points of Interest
Enjoy a coastal exploration along the impressive cliffs of Buccaneer Cove. Learn about the history of Santiago Island, its relevance for the whalers, pirates and early researchers, including Darwin’s epic voyage in 1835, and the conservation projects aimed at eradicating feral species (a fence stretched along the rocky outcrop is visible to save native plants from the once existing enormous goat population). Today the island is free of feral goats, and the cove is home to a large number of marine birds, sea lions and inter-tidal organisms. Enjoy fantastic natural formations such as the “Elephant Rock”, “The Bishop” and an impressive natural cave. This is a great site for snorkeling too!
Puerto Egas (James Bay) is located on the northwest side of Santiago Island. The wet landing is on a black beach with eroded rock formations in the background. The trail crosses the dry interior, where the remains of a salt mining enterprise can still be seen, and then continues along the coast. Tidal pools are home to a variety of invertebrate organisms, including sea urchins, octopus and starfish. You will also see marine iguanas, finches, oyster catchers and possibly the Galapagos Hawk. The trail leads to the Fur Sea Lion Grottos, one of the only places in the islands where these unique animals can be seen.
Puerto Egas was only briefly inhabited in the 20th century in an attempt to commercialize salt from a deposit inside a tuff cone. Today, Puerto Egas is one of the most impressive coastal walks in Galápagos. Most of the landscape is tuff-stone layers and lava flows. This is a great opportunity to see land and marine birds. At low tide, marine iguanas graze upon the algae beds and there is also a colony of fur-sea lions which can be observed up-close.
After the walk, you will have time to swim or snorkel off the beach, where you will see sea lions, fish and maybe some turtles, rays and reef sharks.
Duration: 2 hours on walk .1 hour of snorkel
Wildlife: Galapagos Mockingbird, Galapagos hawk, marine iguana, Galapagos fur seals, Galapagos dove, woodpecker finch, small ground finch, cactus finch, large ground finch, medium ground finch
Flora: beach morning glory, thread leafed chaff flower, castela, yellow cordial, incense tree, Galapagos lantana, gray matplan, prickly pear cactus
Main attraction: caves and salt mines, sea lion colony
Terrain: beach and paths
Physical condition: medium
Sullivan Bay is known for its spectacular volcanic formations, relatively young pahoehoe lava flows, and unique geological scenery. Sullivan’s relatively recent volcanic activity, few plants have been able to take root here, much less be successful, so pay particular interest to the low-lying pioneer plant known locally as “mollugo” as well as the lava cactus. Dry landing on the area that had James’ latest volcanic activity in 1897. Fantastic lava formations. A good spot for snorkeling where pioneer marine species should be expected.
Duration: 2 hours
Wildlife: Galapagos hawk, lava lizard, Galapagos penguins, small ground finch, medium ground finch, large ground finch, cactus finch
Flora: maytenus octogona , lava cactus, thorn shrub, White mangrove, mollugo, incense tree.
Main Attraction: lava fields
Terrain: lava and beach
Physical condition: medium
The Espumilla Beach visitor site is on the northern coast of Santiago Island in James Bay. This is a wet landing. The main attractions here are a Palo Santo forest, beach and the landscape. The Palo Santo forest at Espumilla has some of the tallest specimens of the species in the entire archipelago. Also look out for the Galapagos Hawk as well as Darwin’s finches. The beach is an important site for nesting marine turtles.
Duration: 2 hours
Wildlife: Greater flamingo, Galapagos hawk, tyrant flycatcher, Galapagos flycatcher, white cheeked pintail duck, vampire finch, small ground finch, cactus finch, medium ground finch, small tree finch, vegetarian finch, green sea turtle
Flora: Maytenus octogona, button mangrove, black mangrove, salt bush, incense tree.
Main attraction: Incense tree forest, the beach and the landscape
Terrain: Long walk around the yellow sand beach arriving towards the lagoon and the waterfall
Physical condition: medium high
South Plaza Island is named in honor of a former president of Ecuador, General Leonidas Plaza. South Plaza Island, although quite small, is actually home to a large Opuntia cacti forest, land iguanas and one of the largest sea lion colonies in the central region of the archipelago. An endemic plant, Sesuvium, inhabits this island and is a great climate indicator as its color is a greenish-yellowish during the rainy season and a bright red during the dry season. You will also be able to see Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, other kinds of sea birds as well as different types of finches.
Disembark (dry landing) in the channel between North and South Plaza Islands, where the island tilts toward the water, the approach makes for a lavishly colorful sight! The turquoise waters of the channel contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. The rocks have grown thick with green seaweed in places, speckled with bright orange ‘Sally Lightfoot’ crabs. Further up the shore a carpet of scarlet sesuvium succulents serves as groundcover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cactus. Yellow-gray land iguanas sit beneath these, waiting patiently for pears to drop. Along the coastline one finds sea lion colonies, while frigates, swallow-tailed gulls and shearwaters glide playing with the thermals that form along the cliffs of this small but amazing island.
Wildlife: Great frigate bird, Magnificent frigate bird, swallow tailed gull ,lava gull, brown noddy, land iguana, Galapagos sea lions, red billed tropicbird, sally light foot crab
Flora: Galapagos carpetweed, castela, maytenus octogona, puncture weed, thorn shrub, grabowskia, Galapagos purslane, Gray matplan, prickly pear cactus
Main attraction: sea lions colonies and land iguanas
Terrain: Partly rocky
Physical condition: medium
Isla Lobos is named after its large colony of sea lions (also called “lobos”, or wolves in Spanish). Usually visitors may have close encounters with sea lion pups, especially while snorkeling. However, this small islet offers much more including blue footed boobies, frigates and even a glimpse at the second type of sea lion species found in Galapagos: the Fur Sea Lion.
This tiny islet is actually home to a huge population of sea lions and is also home to many shorebirds. While at Mosquera, keep your eyes peeled as there are occasional reports of dolphins and orcas.
Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat)
Sombrero Chino is a small islet near the southeastern coast of Santiago Island. Its name translated to English means ‘Chinese Hat’; a name that makes perfect sense as soon as you take a look at its unique shape. There are various interesting geological formations which make this island a great visit for scenic photos, but there are also various marine species to observe such as very colorful sally light foot crab and sea lions. Keep an eye out for different species of Darwin’s finches as well.