Fun things to do in Galápagos Islands

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Galápagos Islands

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    Turtle Bay

    by richiecdisc Updated Apr 1, 2008

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    As if the beach was not enough of an attraction, after a nice longish walk along it, you come to Turtle Bay. It is framed by some nice mangrove forest and if you continue straight you'll find yourself on small trail that traverses a lava rock outcropping with beautiful ocean views. The terrain is interesting in itself but if you look a bit closer you'll realize that not all that black gunk is lava rock. No, the ones moving are marine iguanas. We weren't really looking all that close but heard a spitting sound and quickly realized we were nearly on top of a huge group of them. The sound was them expelling salt water from their nostrils. These marine iguanas are also know as Galapagos iguanas as they can only be found on the islands. They are also the only modern lizard that spend time in the water purposely for feeding and getting from one place to another. The different subspecies vary greatly in size. Darwin was none too fond of what he called “disgusting and clumsy” lizards!

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    Espanola Island Overview

    by SanguiniA Updated Oct 27, 2005

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    Espanola island is the southernmost island of the Galapagos. It is actually now an extinct volcano as through millions of years of island formations it has moved away from the hotspot. The island has two visitor sites: Punta Suarez and Gardner Bay. Punta Suarez is where the seabird colonies are whilst Gardner Bay is a stunning beach which is a 'free area' where you are allowed to roam around without a guide.

    Due to its relative remoteness, the species living on this island have evolved a bit differently than from the rest of the other islands. The classical examples are the marine iguanas that change colours in the breeding season as well as the endemic Hood Mockingbird.

    Other wildlife highlights include the star of the show and one of the highlights of the whole of the Galapagos - the Waved Albatross, other seabird colonies, sea lions, sally lightfoot crabs, the galapagos hawk and lava lizards amongst others.

    The best time to visit the island is from April-June to take advantage of both the good weather and the presence of the Waved Albatross. Visits between December and March will not yield sightings of the Albatross and July-December is the cold, dry windy season (which is still fine to visit the Galapagos - just not ideal)

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    Espanola Island - Hood Mockingbirds

    by SanguiniA Written Oct 28, 2005

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    A panga (dinghy) has landed on Punta Suarez, and the patrol troops are hastily dispatched ... they laborously investigate bags, feet and hats, and scrutinize every single tourist while exclaiming in intellegible squawks. The unofficial welcoming party are the Hood Mockingbirds; brazen, inquisitive and curious birds that live on the island. Show them a bottle of water, and they go berserk - perching on your hands dying for a drop. It is not allowed to give them a drink of course, as it is important that they remain self sufficient. But it seems that they have not gotten the point yet, or as they say - hope is the last to die.

    Anyway, the Hood Mockingbirds are endemic to Espanola and are larger than the other mockinbirds inhabiting the Galapagos. They also have a more curved bill and are the only carnivorous species - eating insects, turtle hatchlings and sea lion afterbirth.

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    birds, birds, and more birds

    by richiecdisc Written Apr 1, 2008

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    On my way back out to the lava rock beach from Turtle Bay I spotted the most beautiful pelican I've ever seen. I live in Florida and we see pelicans all the time. I grew up at a New Jersey Beach so I've seen them all my life but this brown one was particularly pretty. The brown pelican has a range that spans the west coasts of all the Americas but this particular subspecies is considered endemic to the Galapagos. Another bird that is not endemic to the Galapagos but is nonetheless always a fantastic sight is the Great Blue Heron. These amazingly graceful wading birds are interesting to watch when perfectly still and fishing but seeing one in flight is like returning to the age of the dinosaurs as they look positively prehistoric.

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    Sea Lions

    by SanguiniA Written Oct 27, 2005

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    The Sea Lions are conspicuous, favourite animals of the Galapagos. Found all over the coastal areas of the islands, curious and inquisitive they cannot fail to capture tourists' attention - sometimes even with a tug at your pants :)

    They live in colonies, with each bull having a harem of females. Strictly speaking, it is not a harem as the bull controls and defends a territory rather than individual females. Bulls are very agressive towards intruders in their territories, unless of course it is a sexy female :) They are obviously most agressive towards other bulls and their fights can get pretty vicious. Males who do not own a harem congreagate together in bachelor herds, and live in less favourable coasline spots. Males who defend a territory cannot feed so after some time they get week and the territory is lost to another fresher male.

    The females have a gestation period of around one year after which a single pup is born. The pair will have a very strong bond and recognise each other by their calls/barks. When the pups are very young they may be kept in a rookery - like a nursery with a babysitter and it is great fun to watch them play together.

    The appeal of the Sea Lions is that they are friendly, and the pups are especially cute and playful. Snorkelling with them is a great experience, pups will come to play with you and even nibble your fins. It is amazing how agile they are underwater and they move with surprising speed.

    How do you distinguish between males and females : While the male is larger than the female the most distinguishing feature is a very pronounced bump on the forehead. Males also have thicker necks to protect themselves during fights with other bulls.

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    Espanola Island - The Waved Albatross

    by SanguiniA Updated Oct 27, 2005

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    This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the Galapagos if not THE highlight. The Waved Albatross are medium sized albatrosses (seabirds) with wingspans up to 2m. The Waved Albatross is endemic to the Galapagos (excluding the few individuals that breed on the Poor Man's Galapagos islands nearer Ecuadorian coast) and it breeds only on Espanola island; and is best seen from Punta Suarez on this same island.

    The Albatrosses start arriving in April - first the males, followed shortly by the females. Courtship then starts with complex rituals of bill fighting, honking and sky pointing; this one of those really special nature spectacles, especially considering their appealing appearance. More than courtship, this is more of a re-bonding exercize since Albatrosses mate for life. After mating, a single egg is laid and incubation and parenting responsibilites are shared between parents. The chicks fledge in December, when the Albatrosses then leave the island to feed in the open seas along the Ecuadorian and Peruvian coast.

    Waved Albatross Fact: One of the biggest threat to these wonderful creatures is Longline Fishing. The birds attempt to catch fish and end up swallowing hooks instead, and end up as a catch themselves. If they do manage to break free they still face the problems of getting rid of the hook which may tear interior organs or their faces. This problem is faced by seabirds all over the planet.

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    Tour to Volcán Sierra Negra and Volcán Chico

    by MalenaN Written Nov 15, 2011

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    Volcán Sierra Negra on Isla Isabela is situated 27km northwest of Puerto Villamil. The volcano is 1490 metres high and has got the second largest volcano crater in the world, the caldera is 10km in diameter. Volcán Sierra Negra is an active volcano and it had its latest eruption in 2005, an eruption with lava flows that lasted for a week (wish I had seen that). Even if it is clear in Villamil it is often foggy around Sierra Negra, especially during the garúa season, which is between June-December. Even if it is foggy on Volcán Sierra Negra it often clears up when you follow the trail north towards Volcán Chico, a subcrater to Sierra Negra.

    I visited Volcán Sierra Negra and Volcán Chico on a daytour from Puerto Villamil. I booked the tour the night before and paid $35 (July 2011). In the morning I was driven from Hostal La Jungla at 7.30 to meet up with other people outside another hotel. We were eight tourists in the group and one guide.

    In Puerto Villamil it was grey and raining so we knew what was waiting in the highlands. At Volcán Sierra Negra it had rained the whole night and the trail was very muddy. There was a fine drizzle and it was difficult to take photos. When we reached the crater we could not see it, but further north along the path we could see a little glimpse of it. The trail is following the east side of the crater. North of the crater it stopped raining and was not so foggy anymore, but still cloudy. As we approached Volcán Chico the landscape changed to an amazing lava landscape, at some places colourful with red and yellow colours. There are several interesting formations, like lava tunnels, and very thin lava straws ”Devil’s hair”. You can clearly see the difference of the more reddish lava, maybe 5000 years old, and the more recent black lava stream from 1979. At one place there is a big yellow area in the distance and you can easily think it is the sun shining on the ground, but it is not. It is heat and sulphur.

    Our group walked all the way to a view point in the end of the trail from where we could see Isla Fernandina, even if it was not a very clear day. There were four groups visiting Volcán Sierra Negra, but two of them did not walk the trail to the end, but turned around when the lava landscape begun. I’m glad I wasn’t in one of these groups as it was a very interesting part to walk to Volcán Chico.

    After visiting the view point in the end of the trail we walked back the same way we had arrived. Along the way we stopped at a picnic spot under some tall trees to eat our packed lunch (included in the price of the tour). The trail from the starting point to the view point on Volcán Chico is 8km.

    On Volcán Chico the lava landscape is bare, even if there are some vegetation, but around Volcán Sierra Negra crater the vegetation is more dense and here you will probably also see several kinds of birds. Among others we saw the Vermilion Flycatcher, Ground Finches, Woodpecker Finch, Yellow Warbler and Smooth Billed Anis. We also saw a wild cat and along the path a rat without its head. Was it the cat that had taken the rat’s head?

    Don’t forget to use sun block, even if it is foggy or cloudy. The sun is strong!

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    don't miss the beach & Turtle Bay

    by richiecdisc Updated Apr 2, 2008

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    The second biggest attraction and one that most cruise ship itineraries include are Los Gemelos: two big sink holes that are called craters to make them more volcanic sounding. We drove by them a few times on our way to day boat trips as the port from which the boats go out are on the other side of the island from Puerto Ayora. Even with nearly two weeks in the islands we never managed to get ourselves motivated to come up and have a look. They just didn't sound that impressive. Two things the cruise ship set miss are Turtle Bay and the beautiful beach leading there. While most venture to Charles Binford Avenue many never cross the main street into town and continue that way along the same street that leads to a 3 km boarded walkway. This passes through some very interesting vegetation including beautiful cacti before emptying out onto an incredible white sand beach. We surprisingly found the place nearly devoid of people our first time there but the weather was less than perfect and on our second visit it was busier. That said, considering how many people visit the Galapagos it really isn't all that crowded.

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    Vermilion Flycatcher

    by MalenaN Written Sep 9, 2011

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    With their bright red colour against the intense green vegetation the Vermilion Flycatchers are very beautiful. It is the male who has got this bright red colour. There is a black mask over the eyes, and also the back and tail are black. The birds are rather small with a lengths of 13-14 cm and a weight of 11-14 grams.
    The Vermilion Flycatcher feed on flies and other insects, and it can catch them out of the air.

    On Galapagos you usually find the Vermilion Flycatcher in the highland areas. I’m happy that I saw two on Isla Isabela, during the hike to Volcán Sierra Negra.

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    home base: Puerto Ayora

    by richiecdisc Written Apr 1, 2008

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    Puerto Ayora is a touristy little seaside town that some loathe, some learn to enjoy, but everyone will have to at least spend a few hours in if even just waiting for your cruise to go out. It is the main hub of the Galapagos Islands and in that sense surprisingly undeveloped. There is a smattering of hotels and restaurants but certainly not as many as you might expect. There's little to do in the town proper aside from eat, drink, and shop but those activities in themselves can be quite enjoyable if you come back from a long trip at sea or even a very long day of exploring. But what many of the cruise ship set miss are the sights around Puerto Ayora unless they smartly arrange a few days to do just that. Even with a few hours to explore the town is a pretty place for a stroll. Walk along the promenade and enjoy the turquoise blue water and cool ocean breezes. Check out the nicest boats as they gleam in the sun. Look closer. Yep, those red scurrying monsters are indeed huge crabs. Next to him, that's a marine iguana. Was that a sea lion? Most likely, they're everywhere. Tons of interesting bird life above too. So, keep your eyes open and by all means enjoy this cute little town for what it is: an easy going seaside resort that has thankfully not been overdeveloped yet and with quite a bit of the wildlife you came all this way to see, walking around town like they own it.

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    Bartolome Island - Overview

    by SanguiniA Updated Oct 31, 2005

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    Bartolome, off the coast of Santiago is one of the smallest and youngest islands of the Galapagos archipelago. For a change, here the attraction is the landscape and not the wildlife - even though here is one of the few places where one can spot the Galapagos Penguin.

    The lava landscape is lunar, desolate and very arid - but it is quite a sight. Bartolome is an extinct volcano and there is a trail to the summit. The trail is a wooden boardwalk to protect the fragile lava from erosion. Once on top of the boardwalk you are greeted with a spectacular view of the famous pinnacle rock and the twin bays. This is the most photographed and most suggestive spot of the Galapagos. During the trail one can observe spatter cones and lava tubes, cacti and lava lizards, and of course plenty of lava and its weird colours and formations.

    Even though this island is arid there is a mangrove on the narrow strip of land dividing the twin bays and the island is a site for Green Sea Turtles nesting.

    The pinnacle rock is a great spot for snorkelling where sharks, turtles and plenty of fish are commonly seen. If you are lucky you may even swim with a Galapagos Penguin!

    Other wildlife to be seen on land are marine iguanas, lava lizards, sea lions and lava herons.

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    Prickly Pear Boab?

    by richiecdisc Updated Apr 1, 2008

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    If you continue on the trail into Turtle Bay you start to enter a thicker forest of cacti which are the most oddly impressive I've ever seen. They almost seem a cross between a boab tree with their shiny trunks and huge southwestern US cactus. As it turns out, it is the endemic prickly pear cactus and one of a particular variety that on Santa Cruz can grow to 40 feet high. There is evidently one with a four foot diameter trunk! So, as you can see, just taking a stroll to the beach can turn into an adventure on the Galapagos Islands. Oh, and the cost for this adventure? Free.

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    Sally Lightfoot Crabs

    by SanguiniA Written Oct 27, 2005

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    The bright red crabs are abundant throughout the Galapagos Coasts, scuttling around feeding on whatever they can get their claws on, be it dead, alive or their own kind. If scared or irritated they can move surprisingly fast and with agility. They can even hop on the water - which is an amusing sight. They are also favourite toys for Sea Lions pups ...

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    Espanola Island - Punta Suarez

    by SanguiniA Written Oct 27, 2005

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    With its seabird colonies, most notably the Waved Albatross's ones, this is surely one of the highlights throughout the Galapagos [beware of birders in your group, they will not be behaving in a civilised manner!! Watch out for them too - they might get a heart attack!]. The scenery is also amongst the best with brightly coloured vegetation against the stark backdrop of lava. A blowholes near the cliffs jutting water out at a height of 15-30 metres also makes for a great pic.

    The wildlife watching here is simply spectacular: Masked Booby colonies, Waved Albatross, Swallow Tailed Gulls, Red-Billed Tropicbirds, Hood Mockingbirds, the largest marine iguanas of the Galapagos, finches, galapagos hawks, sealions, crabs ... should I add any superlatives?!

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    Espanola Island - Gardner Bay

    by SanguiniA Written Oct 28, 2005

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    This stunning white sandy beach is one of the few 'free areas' in the Galapagos - areas where you can roam and explore on your own without being under your guide's constant watch.

    It is a great place to just relax by strolling on the beach amongst the sea lions, or even have a swim in the turqoise waters with them. There are also some lava rocky areas great to watch out for waders (birds), marine iguanas and sally lightfoot crabs. Hanging out with the mockingbirds is also a great source of amusement!

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