Unlike other safari destinations, you will not be squinting through binoculars to catch a glimpse of your favorite animals when going for a wildlife adventure in the Galapagos Islands.
Here, the animals proudly and fearlessly display themselves. Thus, your excursion brings memories you will treasure for a lifetime.
That said, if you want to make the most of your visit and discover the archipelago’s incredible ecosystems and wildlife, here are the best places to see the best wildlife in the Galapagos.
Where to See the Best Wildlife in the Galapagos
Given its proximity to the airport, Santa Cruz is the main tourist hub of the Galapagos Islands. It’s the only island where tourists can experience the interior and higher elevations of the Galapagos. The town has the longest paved road in the archipelago, running north to south across the island. It takes tourists from the airport ferry on the north coast into the highlands and towards smaller towns.
Tortuga Bay is one of the best places in Santa Cruz to enjoy incredible wildlife viewing experiences, such as watching marine iguanas chilling under the shade. Walk the entire length of the bay until you reach the beautiful lagoon called Playa Mansa, an ideal spot for swimming and chilling out as you admire the epic scenery.
Another place for admiring wildlife in the Galapagos is the El Chato Reserve, especially if you’re here for the giant tortoises. It’s home to hundreds of these gentle giants, the perfect spot for seeing these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat. You will see them wallowing in mud pools, wandering around the reserve, and if you’re lucky, you might see them mating!
Plaza Sur is an islet with dramatic cliffs and varied landscapes and is home to impressive wildlife species, including seabirds, sea lions, and iguanas. It delights visitors with its intense carpet of the colourful Sesuvium and pear cacti. The best way to visit Plaza Sur is to cruise around the Galapagos Islands and see many other islands to catch a glimpse of the Galapagos wildlife.
Plaza Sur is famous for its large colony of over a thousand Galapagos sea lions. But what makes this place interesting is that it serves as a bachelor’s pad for sea lions since only retired and battle-scarred male sea lions live here. It is also a habitat for nesting seabird colonies, where you can spot red-billed tropicbird, blue-footed boobies, Shearwaters, and more.
Plaza Sur is also called the iguana island and the only place in the archipelago where land and marine iguanas live alongside each other. The islet is also home to Darwin’s Cactus Finches since its abundant pear cactus serves as their food and nesting areas.
Plaza Sur’s shoreline consists of white sands and rocks, where sea lions love to laze around. The inland areas have more arid scrubland, best suited for land iguanas.
The island of Española lies in the southernmost section of the archipelago and is believed to be about four million years old. It’s a popular stopping point for those taking the Galapagos Island cruises since it’s home to incredible wildlife.
Española is relatively flat, and its highest point reaches only 675 feet. Because of its flat landscape, it has a dry climate. Yet, it’s home to sea lion colonies, hybrid and land iguanas, and different bird species soaring by its rugged cliffs. It is also home to the Española Mockingbird, the only carnivorous mockingbird endemic to this island. Here, you will find the only marine iguana population that maintains their red and green colour the entire year.
Thanks to the cold waters coming from the Humboldt current and the upwelling resulting from its flow, Española is also the nesting site for Galapagos Waved Albatross. These endemic birds nest on its flat grounds. Many tourists would come here to witness their mating ritual, some of the best and most fascinating scenes you’ll encounter in the Galapagos.
Compared to the other islands in the Galapagos, you won’t find too much vegetation on Fernandina Island. Yet, it houses numerous wildlife species, making it a great spot to visit on a cruise. As mentioned, the best way to experience touring the Galapagos Islands is by cruising, allowing you to see much of the islands and catch a glimpse of its incredible wildlife.
Much of the vegetation in Fernandina consists of cacti, which can survive in these conditions. Its landscape is due to recent volcanic activities, which gave the island a somewhat barren appearance. The weather here is similar to the rest of the Galapagos, where you can expect it to be generally warm, with some rain during the rainy season.
If you want to see evidence of so much volcanic activity in the Galapagos, you should visit Fernandina Island. It also has fascinating wildlife highlights, including flightless cormorants, which you cannot find in many other places in the archipelago.
The island of Isabela is a must-visit as you cruise around the Galapagos Islands. It offers spectacular volcanic landscapes and diverse wildlife, not to mention fun adventures like trekking, snorkelling, and diving. The sleepy town is also home to gorgeous beaches, where you can relax and unwind after cruising around the Galapagos.
When it comes to wildlife, Isabela is home to the Galapagos Penguins. In fact, it has the most abundant population of Galapagos Penguins compared to the other islands in the Galapagos. Isabela is also home to the famous giant tortoises. You can visit the Arnaldo Tupiza tortoise breeding centre to learn more about these species.
Isabela Island is also among the two islands in the Galapagos that serve as a nesting place for Flightless Cormorants, which have lost their ability to fly due to complex evolution.
You will also find marine iguanas in Isabela. The island has large colonies of iguanas scattered at the island’s various visitor sites. If you’re up for some snorkelling adventure, the island is an ideal spot where you will have the opportunity to swim with sea horses and whitetip reef sharks.