5 unforgettable Galapagos experiences

The Galapagos Islands are famed for having one of the highest rates of endemism in the world, and some of the planet’s most unusual and avidly studied life. An incredible 97% of all reptiles and land mammals, and 80% of land birds that you will see on the islands are found nowhere else on earth, not to mention the stunning landscapes and pristine shorelines that attract tourists from all around the world every year. From the unmistakable importance this archipelago has had on our understanding of evolution to the abundant natural beauty it holds, the Galapagos Islands are bound to leave you with unforgettable experiences.

1. Exploring Darwin Bay, above the shore and below

Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island formed from a partially submerged volcanic crater. Hiking up a short trail to the rocky cliffs, visitors are offered stunning views of the gorgeous blue bay, as well as the opportunity to observe the nesting grounds of numerous marine birds. In fact, the incredible array and quantity of birds found around Genovesa Island has given this island the name “Bird Island.” The abundance of Red-Footed Boobies (more than 200,000 of them!), frigatebirds, Swallow-Tailed Gulls (the only nocturnal gull species in the world), Red-Billed Tropicbirds, mockingbirds, finches and Nazca Boobies will leave tourists stunned. Marine iguanas also dot the shoreline of Darwin Bay, and the tidal lagoon attracts additional life such as the endemic Lava Heron. Returning to the beach, tourists can snorkel along the caldera cliffs, which host spectacular marine life thanks to its nutrient-rich water.

2. Hiking Punta Suarez 

Making up one of just two walks on Española Island, Punta Suarez is one of the most rewarding hikes and most visited landing sites of the entire archipelago. Here, visitors have the opportunity to see the striking Galapagos geyser, which spouts water up to 75 feet into the air. This Galapagos Old Faithful actually consists of a fissure in the cliff that formed at just the right angles so that it forces the crashing waves high into the air; the simplicity of it is perhaps what makes it all the more beautiful. Visitors also have the chance to see a range of birds, including three species of Darwin Finches, Swallow-Tailed Gulls and Blue-Footed Boobies, to name a few. Additionally, this site serves as the breeding grounds for the Waved Albatross from April to December, an extremely rare Galapagos bird that visitors come from all over the world to see. The “Christmas” Marine Iguana also lives around this visitor site, aptly named for the red and green hues the males take on during breeding season.

3. Snorkeling at Champion Islet

With its extensive range of tropical fish, curious sea lions, sea turtles and white-tipped reef sharks, Champion Islet is without a doubt one of the best dive sites in the Galapagos Archipelago, and for those brave enough to dive a little farther out into the deep, they will be rewarded with Galapagos Sharks, whales, giant mantas, hammerheads and more. The Galapagos Marine Reserve was recently extended this last year, making it the second largest in the world and one of the only dive sites where visitors can see such an extensive range of large marine animals. The island itself is actually off limits to tourists, so scuba diving may be the only way to visit this marvelously pristine island.

4. Watching pods of dolphins from the boat

In their excitement of seeing booby birds and giant tortoises, tourists often overlook the fact that the Galapagos Archipelago is an excellent site for spotting dolphins! The Galapagos Islands formed at the conjunction of five ocean currents, resulting in extremely rich waters and happy swimming grounds for at least five species of dolphin (with many others migrating through). In fact, it is not unusual for visitors to see pods of bottlenose dolphins riding the bow waves of their expedition vessel. As you lounge on the deck after an island exploration adventure, be sure to keep your eye out for a free show and any dolphins that might come up to say hi as they playfully swim in these crystalline waters.

5. Observing penguins on Bartolome

Among the many glories that these islands hold, one of the most memorable experiences in the Galapagos is catching a glimpse of the Galapagos Penguin, the northernmost penguin in the world and the only one known to cross the equator. The Galapagos Penguin is only found on a few Galapagos shores, as it depends on the Humboldt Current for its supply of fish, thus making Bartolome an important feeding area. Naturalist guides will enthrall you with the many tricks this little penguin has developed in order to thrive under these rather unusual conditions. Notice the odd, hunched over position the penguins often take on, holding their wings out just slightly. This is one of the many behavioral changes the penguin has adopted to protect itself from the strong equatorial heat.

Adrián Peñafiel is Corporate Commercial Vice-President at Metropolitan Touring.

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Comments (2)

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  1. I’d love to go there so badly but when I was living in Ecuador I made the decision to skip the Galapagos for budget reasons. It’s certainly not a cheap place but judging by everyone I’ve ever spoken to, and this article, that a trip there is certainly worth it.

  2. Muqeet says:

    I’d love to go there so badly but when I was living in Ecuador I made the decision to skip the Galapagos for budget reasons.

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