The Galapagos is one of the most fascinating places in the world , it offers a viriety of activities from liveaboard cruises on which you can spend from 5 up to 15 days cruising around the islands discovering its unique species , from the famous galapagos giant tortoises, blue footed boobies,land and marine iguanas , the world famous Darwin's finches and many more,the flora is also very unique , from giant opuntia cactus trees to plants that grow on rocks ,it really is as they call it , a living laboratory of evolution.
Since the first visitors to the Galapagos were mostly from england ,the first names of the islands were in English normally after british royalty , after Ecuador claimed the islands as ecuadorian territory they were given names in spanish , here are a few.
SANTA CRUZ OR INDEFATIGABLE ISLAND
Santa Cruz island is located in the center of the Galapagos, it has the largest town in the galapagos named Puerto Ayora also with the largest human population, the reason for this is because Baltra island located on the north side of Santa Cruz was occupied by a US air base that buildt the first landing strip in Galapagos , after the air base left ,Baltra became the main airport in the Galapagos and tourist started arriving there. Now Santa cruz offers many options for tours from live aboard cruises,day trips and hotel based, in town we can find the Charles Darwin research center , also at the highlands it is possible to see giant tortoises in the wild as well as Darwins finches and many land birds,other attractions are Tortuga Bay , Las Grietas and Garrapatero.
FLOREANA OR CHARLES ISLAND
Floreana was one of the first island reached by early visitors such as pirates and british whalers ,Floreanas human history is very interesting with stories from Norwegian settlers to German families making of it their home, Floreana has several attractions starting from the Post Office Bay where a rum barrel was placed as a mail box for whalers.
Punta Cormorant has a large brackish water lagoon where flamingoes go to eat , it also has a green sand beach as well as a white sand beach which is used by sea turtles as a nesting area.
The Devil's crown is one of the most popular snorkelling and diving sites in Galapagos , there is easy to find lots of fish , playful sea lions , sometimes reef wite tip sharks locally known as tintoreras.
SAN CRISTOBAL OR CHATAM ISLAND
San Cristobal is the eastern most island of Galapagos , with a population of around 8000 people in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno ,is the capital of the Galapagos and the second largest town in the islands.
From here it is possible to visit many sites such as El Junco on the highlands, a fresh water lagoon filled with rain water , La Galapaguera which is a small reserve for giant tortoises.
Puerto baquerizo has also great waves that have made of this town a favorite destination for surfers.Other attractions on the San Cristobal are Punta Pitt , La Loberia, Isla Lobos, Frigate Hill , Kicker Rock, Puerto Ochoa, and Cerro Brujo.
ISABELA OR ALBERMARLE ISLAND
Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos, Isabela island has 6 volcanoes 5 of which are still active, in each one of these volcanoes lives a different species of giant tortoises, From the town on Isabela named Puerto Villamil is possible to visit Sierra Negra volcano,with giant tortoises in the wild and also is possible to see fumaroles on the volcano. Back in town there is a brackish water lagoon with flamingos, at the coast we can find penguins, marine iguanas and several species sea birds like blue footed boobies frigate birds,also sea lions and sharks. Other places ti visit on Isabela are Muro de las Lagrimas, Elizabeth Bay, Ubina Bay ,Tagus Cove and more.
FERNANDINA OR NARBOROUGH ISLAND
Fernandina is the younguest island in the Galapagos and the one with the most volcanic activity, Fernandina's volcano is named La Cumbre.
Fernandina is located on the west part of the Galapagos ,surounded by marine currents bringing cold waters with lots o nutriens , Fernandina is one of the richest islands in terms of food for marine life and sea birds such as the flightless cormorant which due to the abundance of food never had the need to fly and lost that ability.
Snorkelling is also a highlight when visiting fernandina.
Almost in the middle of the archipelago is located Bartolome island , one of the smallest islands in the Galapagos but also one of the most interesting.
There are to parts of this island that are open to visitors,one is a mall trail that takes us to the top of the island aprox. 350 feet above sea level.Bartolome is one of the younguest islands in Galapagos meaning that most of its landscape is covers by lava flows and volcanic ash making of it a great place to understeand about the formation of the Galapagos.
Once at the top there is an amazing view of this island and its famouse pinnacle rock , with good weather we acn also see many of the surounding islands. The second place to visit is a beautiful golden sand beach where on season it is possible to see marine turtles nesting and of course snorkelling is a must since there is a small population of penguins and some times you can see them under water.
NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND
North Seymour , located north of santa Cruz and Baltra Islands is a small flat island full of life ,there is a large colony of blue footed boobies that can be found all over the island , blue footed boobies nest right on the ground without making a real nest so some times you have to really watch your step while walking on the trail.
Another species of sea birds found in large numbers are frigatebirds , probably the most interesting part of visiting North Seymour is to see the frigates courtship , the male inflates a big bright red pouch to atract the females and females fly over all males looking for the nicest pouch.
Besides birds there is also a small population of land iguanas , sea lions , lava lizrds and interesting vegetation such as the palo santo tree.
GENOVESA OR TOWER ISLAND
Genovesa has 2 visit sites the first one is Darwin Bay , this is one of the places in galapagos with large colonies of sea birds like frigates, nazca boobies, red footed boobies,and some shore birds such as swallow tail gulls and night herons.
The second site is Price Phillip steps, a natural stairway made of lava rocks which takes us to the top of this relatively low island, once at the top a narrow trail takes us along nesting areas of Nazca boobies formerly known as masked boobies, at the end of the trail we find a lava field close to the water where lots of storm petrels can be found feeding ,its also a good place to sit down and go birdwatching , one of the goals is to find a night owl that blend in with the color of the lava waiting to catch a storm petrel.
RABIDA OR JERVIS ISLAND
Rabida is one of the small central islands of the galapagos,located south of James island , Rabida or Jervis island has a beutiful red sand beach where colonies of sea lions are found just relaxing or waiting to go fishing.
The trail takes us along the beach ,eventually through the vegetation ,mostly a plant caled salt bush ,once you vcross the vegetation a small brackish water lagood is found and soome times is possible to see flamingoes.
The rocks near the beach a a great place for snorkelling and most of the time the sea lions will join you and swim along.
Santa Fe is located south east of Santa Cruz , this island has probably one of the most beautiful bays in Galapagos , a sandy bottom gives the water a beutiful turquoise color on sunny days , after landing on a white sand beach , the path takes you along a forest of giant opuntia or prickly pear cactus, probably the tallest i the world reaching heights of over 50 feet.
As part of the fauna , Santa Fe is home to a unique species of land iguanas , galapagos doves , an endemic species of rice rat and with a bit of luck you can even find the endemic galapagos snake , small and non poisonous.
After the walk we recommend to go snorkelling , some times is even possible to find marine iguanas feeding underwater.
SOUTH PLAZAS ISLAND
Plazas islands are actually the product of an underwater uplift so now what we see are two long and flat rocks opposite each other forming north and south Plazas islands.
The one open to visitors is South Plazas ,as ussual the first ones wellcoming us are the galapagos sea lions ,once on the island we can find land iguanas and marine iguanas, due to the small size of this island it is probably the only place where both species of iguanas interbreed.
The island is covered mostly by a succulent plant called sesuvium which is food for the land iguanas,the interesting part of this vegetation is that during the dry season ,the surface of the plant turns red and during the rainy season its green.
SANTIAGO OR JAMES ISLAND
Santiago is one of the large islands towards the north west of the Galapagos archipelago , it was one of the few islands visited by Charles Darwin and one of the first inhabited island , during the early 1900's a people lived there working on a salt "mine" which was actually a salt water lake at the nottom of a small volcanic cone ,and they would extract salt from the bottom.
Now James or Santiago islan is home to a second species of galapagos sea lion known as fur seals.
Along the coast is easy to find shore birds such as oystercatchers, herons and more,also its common to see the galapagos hawk flying in circles looking for food.