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The Wildlife Of The Galapagos

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The Galapagos Islands are a world famous destination for viewing an incomparable range of wildlife. For many enthusiasts, this is number one on their wish-list of places to visit.

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About the Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands are a chain of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 miles from the coast of Ecuador. Their remote location has allowed the wildlife to evolve largely without interference, and it is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Charles Darwin’s famous theory of evolution was formulated from his studies here. Many of the species here are unique to the islands. Although in recent years there has been concern about the impact of tourism on the eco-system, careful management has ensured the sustainability of the Galapagos.

What wildlife can I see?

Surprisingly, each island has its own individual characteristics and wildlife. For example:

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Santa Cruz

On Santa Cruz the coastline is rocky, and mangroves grow in abundance, creating lush vegetation, and the lava has formed great craters and tunnels. Here you’ll find the famous giant tortoises; the Charles Darwin Research Centre and the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre are both located on Santa Cruz.


Covered with thick vegetation, Floreana is home to the American sea lion, the green turtle and lava lizard. Devils’ Crown is a massive submerged crater, making it an ideal snorkelling destination.


This is the largest island in the chain, with 6,000 tortoises living here. Surrounded by coral reefs and brackish lagoons, Isabela is the place to see the Galapagos penguin, the South American fur seal and the Galapagos hawk.

Isla Genovesa

This small island is renowned for its birds, including the lava gull (the rarest gull in the world), and the Galapagos mockingbird.

When is the best time to go?

The Galapagos has two seasons. The ‘Green Season’ (January to May), has daily rain and everything is green and lush. Seas are calm, and green turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. The waved albatross arrives in March and can be seen from then onwards. The dry season is from June to December; skies are cloudy, and in August and September the sea is choppy. This is the best time to see whales, dolphins and sea lion pups, and the giant tortoise’s migration on Santa Cruz from June to August.

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What is the best way to see the wildlife?

Two of the islands have airports: Baltra and San Cristobal. There are a few hotels and lodges to be found, and some camping is allowed, but it’s generally agreed that the best way to see all that is on offer is by boat. Travelling by sea will allow you to visit many different islands, so you can see as much as possible, and although the number of boats is strictly limited, there is a great choice. You could opt for a larger cruise ship, with all the amenities you would expect, or you might prefer a smaller sail-ship, yacht or cruiser, designed for fewer people and offering a more personal experience. Naturalist guides are usually included in the charter costs.

How long should I stay?

This depends on how much you want to see. Galapagos holidays can be booked for up to 14 nights, but some visitors prefer to combine a visit to the Galapagos with another destination, such as mainland Ecuador, or the Amazon.

There is no doubt that a holiday to the Galapagos is an unforgettable experience, and will give you an opportunity to view some of the world’s best wildlife in a stunning setting. So why miss out on the holiday of a lifetime?

This article was written by Jonnie P – a South America travel specialist. Who’s written extensively about all aspects of this most amazing of continents.

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