Photo courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions
Visiting the Galapagos Islands is unlike any other travel experience. This remote archipelago of volcanic islands west of mainland Ecuador has long attracted travelers interested in Darwin, evolution, volcanoes, nature and wildlife. The biodiversity of the region is incredible.
The biggest draw by far are the unique and iconic species of this protected UNESCO World Heritage site. The animals are completely unafraid of humans, which makes them easier to find and observe. Encountering fur seals on the beach or snorkeling with the frisky sea lions can be especially fun!
The Galapagos Islands have over 200 different animals species. Here are the top ones you’ll encounter. The animals you will see will depend on the islands visited and on the season – some animals are seen year-round, while others will be more prevalent during specific seasons.
Top right photo courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions
The largest living tortoise species, they weight up to 550 pounds and can live to 100 years of age. There are approximately 15,000 tortoises across all the islands.
The land iguana is so very different from the marine iguana. They prefer the arid land and stay away from the water. They may burrow with others at night for warmth, but otherwise they are quite solitary. If they survive their first 2 years they can live up to 60 years.
The marine iguana is the only iguana in the world to feed exclusively underwater. These guys feed on algae and seaweed, diving up to 40 feet and holding their breath for an hour. Unlike the land iguana, marine iguanas live in large groups by the shore and bask in the sun to warm up.
Top two and bottom left pictures courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions; Middle left courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Green Sea Turtle
Seen in the coastal waters all throughout the islands, the Green Sea Turtle is the only species of turtle that nests in the archipelago.
Galapagos Sea Lion
Galapagos sea lions are not afraid of people and are quite playful. Some, especially the juvenile, may even swim right up to you. How fun is that! Just be careful - some bite.
Manta, Spotted Eagle and Golden Rays
Rays can be spotted all over the Galapagos Islands, though specific species are found only in certain areas. The manta rays have wingspans up to 22 feet and feed on plankton. The smaller spotted and golden rays tend to swim in groups and are carnivorous, eating mollusks, fish, small squid and octopus.
Sally Lightfoot Crab
Sally crabs are sure to entertain you. Very energetic, they move fast and are quite light on their feet (hence the name). Young crabs are black or brown with white or red dots. It allows them to stay camouflaged against the black lava rocks and sand. As they grow, they shed their shells, and each time a new shell grows back it comes back with more color until they are fully the reddish orange color.
Whales and Dolphins
The most common whales are Bryde’s, humpbacks, blue whales, sperm whales, pilot whales, minkes and orcas. Common dolphins, bottlenose and striped dolphins can also be spotted.
Galapagos Fur Seal
A newer arrival on the islands, they hunt fish and squid 200-300 feet under the surface.
Second row left photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
The largest bird in the archipelago, the albatross’ wingspan can reach over 8 feet wide.
Only the male frigate birds have the red neck which they inflate to attract the female. Frigates eat mostly seafood – crab, squid, jellyfish – but don’t dive for it. Their feathers are not waterproof so they hunt food on the surface.
This bird is one of the most iconic on the islands. Did you know that the bluer the feet the healthier they are? This is an important factor in attracting mates.
The red-footed boobie is the most numerous on the islands yet also quite elusive, and only found on a few islands.
Endemic to the Galapagos Islands, this hawk is one of the world’s rarest raptors with only about 150 breeding pairs in the wild.
With wings too short to fly, cormorants have become skilled swimmers, diving up to 45 feet to fish.
Also known as the Galapagos Finches, they are a group of 18 species, 13 endemic to the islands. Darwin Finches though are actually not finches but part of the tanager bird family and known for their distinct beaks.
One of the rarest penguins, it is the second smallest and the only penguin to live on the equator/in the Northern Hemisphere.
Contact me when you are you ready to send yourself
to the Galapagos Islands. I'd be delighted to help you.
In the meantime, here are
TIPS ON PLANNING A TRIP TO THE GALAPAGOS
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder