What to expect in the Galapagos? The Galapagos consist of 13 major islands (ranging in area from 5.4 to 1,771 square miles, 6 smaller islands, and scores of islets and rocks lying athwart the Equator 600 miles west of the mainland of Ecuador. Their total land area of 3,093 square miles is scattered over 23,000 square miles of ocean. Here is what to expect on the smaller outlying islands:
- ESPANOLA (HOOD) ISLAND– is one of the oldest of the islands. It is small and flat, with no visible volcanic crater or vent. Gardner Bay on the eastern shore offers the islands most magnificent beach. It is used by a transient colony of sea lions, and is a major nesting site for marine turtles. Around the small islets nearby, snorkelers will find fish and sometimes turtles and sharks. The trail leads from here to Punta Suarez, on the western tip of the island. Along the way you’ll pass the nesting site of almost all the world’s Waved Albatross, huge birds with a 6-foot wing span. Punta Suarez is one of the most outstanding wildlife areas of the archipelago, with a long list of species found along its cliffs and sand or pebble beaches. In addition to five species of nesting seabirds, Galápagos doves and sometimes Galápagos hawks can be seen. The Hood mockingbird is very curious and bold. Several types of reptiles, including the brilliantly colored marine iguana and the oversized lava lizard, are unique to this island. When heavy swells are running, Punta Suarez is also the site of a spectacular blowhole, with thundering spray shooting 30 yards into the air.
- FLOREANA ISLAND – is best known for its colorful history of buccaneers, pirates, whalers, convicts, and colonists. In 1793 the Post Office barrel was established by British whalers to send letters to and from England. This tradition has continued over the years, and even today visitors may drop off and pick up letters, without stamps, to be carried to far destinations. Punta Cormorant offers two highly contrasting beaches. The landing beach is of volcanic origin and is composed of olivine crystals, giving it a greenish tinge. At the end of the short trail is a carbonate beach of extremely fine white sand. Formed by the erosion of coral skeletons, it is a nesting site for green sea turtles. Between these two beaches is a salt lagoon frequented by flamingos, pintails, stilts, and other wading birds. An old eroded volcanic cone called Devil’s Crown is a popular roosting site for seabirds such as boobies, pelicans, and frigates. Red-billed tropicbirds nest in rocky crevices. The center of the crown is an outstanding snorkeling spot full of sea lions and colorful fish.
- (GENOVESA) ISLAND – is a low volcano barely breaking the surface of the ocean. Ships sail directly into its large breached caldera to anchor at the foot of the steep crater walls. It attracts vast numbers of pelagic seabirds who come here to nest. Great frigate birds, red-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and storm petrels all breed here by the thousands. A trail leads from a coral beach past tidal lagoons where lava gulls and yellow-crowned night herons are seen, then along the low shrubs populated by frigates and boobies, and eventually to a cliff edge where seabirds soar. A second trail leads to an open area for masked boobies, more frigates, and red-foots. At the end of the trail thousands of band-rumped storm petrels flutter at the cliff’s edge, where they nest in crevices. Short-eared owls can sometimes be seen here, hunting the storm petrels during daylight hours.
The best way to see the islands are to take a cruise, give us a call and let us plan your bucket list trip to this amazing place.
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