If you’ve ever heard anything about the Galápagos Islands, it was probably somewhere along the lines of “they’re one of the most amazing archipelagos in the world” or “oh my god the wildlife is amazing!” And, if you’ve ever actually been to the Galápagos Islands, you will know that both statements are one hundred per cent true. While the Islands are considered tropical paradises, they aren’t what you’d typically imagine.
A lot of the islands are barren and have more resemblance to the moon than the Maldives. Sitting west of Ecuador (of which they are a part of), the islands are actually an isolated group of volcanic islands with a fragile ecosystem, which has taken on a somewhat mythological status due to its abundance of distinctive wildlife. From sea lions to tortoises, to blue-footed boobies and rare iguanas, you’ll quickly lose yourself in the diversity and magnificence of the wildlife.
The islands remain mostly untouched by hoards of humans, so they truly are a beautiful place to visit. Here is how to make the most of your trip to the Galapagos.
On the island of San Isabella you will find an enormous (and active) volcano called the Sierra Negra. It’s the second largest caldera in the world and last erupted in 2005. You can hike to see the volcano, passing short-eared owls, finches and flycatchers along the way. You’ll be mesmerised as you walk through lava fields and giant cones left behind from lava flowing into the ocean. A must-do trip!
Just a little bit behind the village of Villamil, off the coast of Isle Isabella, is Villamil Lagoon. It’s known for its marine iguanas and migrant birds with more than 20 species reported there. The wooden boardwalk takes you over the lagoon as you pass through lush mangroves and heavy vegetation. The boardwalk eventually leads you into the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre, another must-do in the Galápagos Islands.
Perhaps one of the more popular places to visit in the Galápagos, Puerto Egas is a stunning long, flat, black lava shoreline where lava pools and caves are home to an abundance of wildlife. It’s one of the best places to see marine iguanas lying in the sun and Sally Lightfoot crabs scurrying around. The inlets also house the famous Galápagos fur sea lions!
Whilst in Santa Rosa, you should definitely visit the underground lava tunnels. They are over one kilometre in length and were created when the outside skin of a molten-lava flow solidified. It’s a pretty impressive sight!
El Chato Tortoise Reserve
A must-do when you’re in the Galápagos Islands is to visit El Chato Tortoise Reserve just South of Santa Rosa. The Islands are pretty much famous for the turtles and tortoises, despite their perpetual catatonic state! If you manage to catch a glimpse of these prehistoric-looking beasts feeding, you’ll be impressed by their long, graceful necks. The reserve is also a good place to see short-eared owls, Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers, Galápagos rails and paint-billed crakes.