Guide To The Galapagos Islands
There are 13 main islands, 6 small islands and a number of atolls and rocks in the archipelago. All the islands are special in their own way and have different attractions. The landscape, the flora and the fauna, and even the climatic conditions change as you move from one island to another.
The headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service is responsible for the conservation and management of the National Park (which accounts for about 97 percent of the total land area of Galapagos), It is located here, as is the Charles Darwin Research Station. The two sinkholes at Los Gemelos are a major attraction, along with the many lava tunnels created by hot lava. There is lush vegetation in the highlands and mangroves along the Black Turtle Cove. Tortoises and land iguanas are common, while sea turtles, sharks and rays can be spotted near the cove.
Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, is the main settlement on the archipelago. A bustling harbour town with good tourist infrastructure, this is the hub of the islands’ tourism industry. A wonderful base from which to explore the islands, Puerto Ayora has a few luxury hotels, many small Galapagos Islands hotels, restaurants and shopping establishments. Most of the tour operators are based here and visitors who haven’t booked in advance can take their pick based on itineraries, services or prices offered.
Located near Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station is a tortoise breeding centre, where endangered Galapagos tortoise species are reared and reintroduced into the wild. It also contains a museum and a national park information centre.
Animals found here include frigate birds with their characteristic red neck sacks, giant tortoises, red crabs, sea lions, blue- and red-footed boobies, lava gulls, marine iguanas and dolphins. A small historical museum, Centro de Interpretacion, is a major attraction. The main town is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
This is the largest and one of the most picturesque islands in the Galapagos and offer great views. Home to a variety of birds and tortoise species, the island also offers great hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as excellent scuba diving and snorkelling. Some of the volcanoes on the island are still active.
This is a great place to watch the famous flightless cormorants, the only ones in the world. Other wildlife includes marine iguanas, penguins, pelicans and sea lions. The youngest island in the Galapagos (around 1 million years of age), it is still active volcanically and last erupted in 1995.
The island offers wonderful snorkelling and birding. Wildlife includes fur seal, sea turtles, Darwin finches, Galapagos hawks and different species of herons.
North Seymour Island
Bird watchers will love this place located right next to Baltra (South Seymour). Large colonies of fabulous frigate birds (pictures of which you find on covers of every brochure on Galapagos) and blue-footed boobies nest here. The boobies fishing in flocks make great viewing. Sea lions and marine iguanas are also found on this small islet.
This beautiful island with red sand beaches is populated by sea lions and flamingos. It is a great place for snorkelling and swimming alongside penguins, iguanas and sea lions.
This island offers classic views of Galapagos. The view is particularly dramatic from the top of the extinct volcano. The landscape is barren, but the snorkelling is excellent. A wonderful place to watch Galapagos penguins and green turtles.