Galapagos Islands Holidays
In order to conserve and protect the wildlife and environment of the Galápagos Islands, the number of visitors is controlled by the Galápagos National Park Authority. Here's a selection of some of the islands and what you might expect to see
The most populated island, the main town of Puerto Ayora is the busiest hub in the Galapagos. A charming and well-resourced port in its own right with a number of hotels and restaurants, it has spectacular crescent beaches and excellent opportunities for snorkelling, kayaking and scubadiving. It is the base for further cruises and walking tours. The Charles Darwin Research Station is committed to preserving the unique environment and is a centre for the breeding of turtles.
The oldest of the islands (3.4 million years) Espanola has no fresh water source and is uninhabitable by humans – but it’s a haven for sea birds. There is a large waved albatross community at Punta Suarez, and at Port Gardner you will encounter blue and maskedfooted boobies and bright red marine iguanas. Sea lion colonies can be seen, along with finches, swallowtailed gulls and the Galápagos hawk.
The sleepy town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is home to the Interpretation Centre that provides an excellent history and explanation of the islands. At Punta Pitt you will find red, blue and masked-footed boobies, and at La Galapaguera both wild tortoises and others in a Reserve - necessary to protect them from wild goats and rats (introduced unfortunately by earlier travellers). The second main airport is on this island, and is another starting point for cruises.
A tiny island 25 km from Santa Cruz, Santa Fé has one of the most beautiful bays in the Galapagos. The water is crystal clear and ideal for snorkelling, and is a wonderful place to swim with sea-lions. The Santa Fe iguana is unique to the island, and can be seen among the Prickly Pear cactus that sometimes grow to a height of 10m.
The largest island made up of 6 fused volcanoes, Isabela is shaped like a sea-horse and is one of the youngest islands, which gives it a distinctive ecosystem. There are more wild tortoises here than anywhere else, because the Alceda tortoises like to wallow in the mud of the volcanic craters to protect them from mosquitoes and tics. Around Elizabeth Bay, penguins, turtles, Darwin’s finches and reef sharks abound, and between June and September Isabela is the best place to see passing whales.
Long a favourite spot for pirates and whalers, and more recently given over to an attempt at salt-mining, Santiago is now uninhabited. Fascinating for its lava formations at Sullivan Bay, Santiago is a home for pink flamingos, fur seals and sea-lions, marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs.
Despite being desolate with few plants, Bartolomé is probably the most photographed of all the islands. The wondrous lava formations with shades of red, orange, green and glistening black are a stunning sight, as is the view from the look-out summit at Pinnacle Rock (114 m). If you snorkel, Galapagos penguins are regular companions.
Devil’s Crown is an almost completely submerged volcano that has become a haven for exotic birds and offers the most spectacular diving and snorkeling opportunities. Here you can swim among turtles, sea-lions, white-tipped sharks, amberjacks and king angel fish whilst seeing the most vibrantly-coloured coral. And don’t leave without following in the footsteps of pirates and buccaneers and deposit a letter in the wooden post barrel!
For more information and inspiration on the Galapagos, read our blog.