Stretched along the equator, west of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands’ 18 volcanic islands bask under blue skies for the majority of the year, making them a great place to travel to anytime. The islands were formed some 3-10 million years ago by volcanic activity that burst through the earth’s crust, creating this fascinating archipelago. Their isolated position, some 900km off the coast of Ecuador, and the movement of seven major marine currents have made the Galapagos Islands a unique breeding ground for animals and plant wildlife. These islands are home to a large number of endemic animals and plants which have adapted to their particular conditions over hundreds and thousands of years. When naturalist Charles Darwin traveled to the Galapagos in 1835, he was amazed by the different animals he found within the same species, and his observations became pivotal in the development of his theories on natural selection and evolution.
Recognition as a National Park by the Ecuadorian Government, protection by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, and the constant study and observation by the Charles Darwin Foundation, have meant that the Galapagos Islands are the most ecologically intact archipelago on earth. It is no surprise that the Galapagos are a popular travel destination with regular cruises setting of to explore the distinct islands. Wildlife enthusiasts visit the Galapagos Islands to see the unique and surprisingly people-friendly animals found there. Here is our Galapagos island wildlife guide of the main islands, and of which animals you can expect to find where on a vacation cruise in the Galapagos Islands.
Santa Cruz Island
This island houses the Charles Darwin Foundation Center, the National Park Service headquarters and the interesting tortoise breeding centre. Santa Cruz Island is also known for its stunning flora and its large underground lava tunnels. Wildlife found on the island includes black turtles, sea turtles, sharks, flamingos and land iguanas.
This is th emain island and has a large airport as well as two docks with many ferries departing on tours of the Galapagos Islands. Much vegetation, including salt bushes, cacti and Palo Santo trees grow on Baltra and there are many land iguanas living there.
North Seymour and Bartholomew Islands
Both of these islands are smaller and younger than the other islands in the Galapagos. Wildlife found on the islands include blue footed boobies, Nazca boobies, swallowtail gulls, pelicans, Galapagos penguins and green turtles.
This is the largest island in the Galapagos, formed by six volcanoes merged together. Wildlife found on Isabela Island includes Galápagos penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, pelicans, Galapagos tortoises, Darwin finches, Galapagos doves and hawks.
This is the first island Darwin visited on the voyage of the Beagle. Wildlife found on the island includes frigate birds (pictured above), giant tortoises, sea lions, blue and red footed boobies, marine iguanas, dolphins and swallowtail gulls.
As the oldest island and the most secluded, Espanola is home to the highest number of endemic species in the Galapagos Islands. The animals found here are not found on any other island. Española Island also has a beautiful beach, great for snorkeling and swimming. Wildlife found on the island includes lava lizards, mockingbirds, tortoise, marine iguanas and the waved albatross.