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15 BEST POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR [THINGS TO DO]

  1. Bartolome Island;

  2. Darwin Biological Research Station with the Tortoises for breeding, Santa Cruz;

  3. Snorkeling / scuba diving;

  4. Swim with the Sea Lions in Loberia / Punta Estrada; Santa Cruz;

  5. Lava tunnels, Santa Cruz;

  6. Fish Market of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz;

  7. Marine Iguanas & Shark Canals at Playa de Los Perros, Santa Cruz;

  8. Watch the Galapagos Penguins at Chinese Hat and Isabella Islands;

  9. Dolphins;

  10. Waved albatrosses at Punta Suarez, Espanola Island;

  11. Opuntia Cactus Forest;

  12. Daisy forest at Los Gemelos twin craters sink holes;

  13. Swimming with Green Turtles at Punta Vicente Roca, Isabela Island;

  14. Blue Footed and Nasca Booby colonies;

  15.  Sierra Negra Caldera at Isabella Island, Galapagos.

There are no words that can describe the thrill of a visit to the Galapagos Islands, where animals appear unafraid of people like in Paradise. But don't think, that they are not concerned. Parenting animals are most certainly alarmed for their young when you get too close, so be considerate and keep a respectful distance. Always obey the instructions of your guide.

 

The Galapagos Islands are an extremely young geological formation with high geological activity, particularly volcanism and earthquakes. The 1,476 m high Fernandina had an eruption in 2009; while other volcanoes on Galapagos have been active in historical times, such as Cerro Azul, Marchena, Pinta, Santiago, Sierra Negra and Wolf, which are all points of interest of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

 

Dear visitor, our website gives you info about our National Parks Tours, Cuyabeno Loop, as well as our Cuyabeno  and Cofan Lodges in the Amazon.   For those who want to combine the Exuberant Nature of Ecuador with the Famous culture of Peru, we even have a 7 days Highlights of Peru extension! Here you can find our Prices. Our website has hundreds of high-resolution pictures of National Parks and monuments of Ecuador, with thumbnails that open by clicking on them. If you love our pictures or find our info useful you can help others finding our pages too you can share them from the mobile menu bar with a

 

Galapagos Islands, Last minute, Yachts, Hotels, Day trips, Island hopping

We at PARKS AND TRIBES can help you find the most suitable arrangement for things to do at the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador: Since we have no boat of our own, we don't try sell you our own boat, but instead we try to find you the Best Galapagos Deal for your money, only taking a small commission for our mediation. Moreover, we coordinate it perfectly with your Amazon trip National Parks Tour, your city program and/or whatever program you have on mainland Ecuador or elsewhere in South America.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Great discounts for combined bookings Galapagos + Cuyabeno

CLICK FOR GALAPAGOS ISLANDS MAP WITH MOST COMMON ROUTES.

 

Tourism and Conservation

Some are concerned that the Galapagos Islands are overrun by tourists. Indeed, visitation has grown considerably since the second half of the nineties. Nobody knows how many visitors the park can support. However, without visitors, Galapagos would have vanished as a park long ago, together with its Galapagos animals.

Much has been achieved thanks to income from ecotourism:

  • Wild pigs and goats have been eradicated from all uninhabited islands, allowing the original vegetation with their fauna to recover;

  • Most tortoise populations have recovered to levels where they can maintain themselves in the wild;

  • The Government recognizes conservation based tourism as a major source of income and not only protects Galapagos but all parks of Ecuador.

Don't listen to the critics, your visit really DOES help pay for the management of the Galapagos Islands and thereby contributes to their conservation.

Download detailed biological description of the park in Spanish.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Visitation statistics Galapagos National Park

Visitation growth over the period 1980 - 2010.

 

Points of interest of Galapagos Islands of Ecuador

Volcanism

While the Galapagos Islands are most famous for their endemic plants and and animals, it is also a fascinating geological "hotspot" between the Nazca and Cocos tectonic plates. The hotspot started forming on the sea bottom some 20,000,000 years ago and over the millions of years, gradually rose to 6 main islands, 12 smaller islands, and about 50 islets and submerged rocks. 9 volcanoes are active, as about 70 eruptions have occurred since 1800. The 26 May 2015 - eruption of Wolf after 33 years of dormancy, has been a major geological event. Besides volcanoes, different lava forms and basalt are interesting volcanic phenomena.

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Bartelome Island at Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Pahoehoe lava at Galapagos National Park

One of the most dramatic views of the Galapagos Islands is the Pinnacle Rock from the top of the volcano on Bartolome Island.

Pahoehoe lava on Galapagos.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Galapagos Lava TunnelPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Sierra Negra Caldera Galapagos

Lava tunnels are formed when a liquid lava core continues flowing while the exterior cools off and solidifies, like this one at Santa Cruz.

Sierra Negra Caldera at Isabella Island, Galapagos.

 

Great Galapagos biodiversity? Noooo!

As is the case on all minor islands in the world, the  level of biodiversity on Galapagos is extremely low as expressed in the number of species per hectare. In fact, as the islands are so young, their biodiversity is even lower than on some other islands of the same size.

 

And yet, the species on Galapagos are unique in many ways, due to the location of Galapagos right in the center of the Humboldt current, that bends west and passes by the islands. That facilitated the transportation of animal and plant species from the mainland onto the different islands. On each island, the species that succeeded in establishing itself, developed separately from the same species on neighboring islands and from the originating species on the main island. Thus a variety of closely related but distinct species and subspecies could develop.

 

Galapagos Animals

The "tameness" of their birds and mammals, many visitors love to see animals from close by who appear to be unafraid of them. Moreover, naturalists from all over the world like to see first hand where Darwin came to his evolution theory, which ultimately lead to the revolutionary publication the "Origin of the Species".

 

Birds of the Galapagos Islands

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Blue-footed Booby colony at Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Bue-footed Boobies, Sula nebouxii, at Galapagos National Park

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Nazca Booby with Chick at Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Close-up Blue-footed Boob, Sula nebouxii,@ Galapagos National Park

The Nazca Booby, Sula granti, is a common breeder on Galapagos and can be found along the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean.

The Blue-footed Booby, Sula nebouxii, is a common breeding bird of Galapagos and many other tropical and subtropical islands of the Pacific Ocean.

 

They rarely leave the nest when approached by people, but that does not mean they are not disturbed. When people get close, their heart rates go up dramatically and they are very much alarmed. So always keep your distance, always watch out for unprotected eggs on your trail and strictly obey the instructions of your guide.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Equatorial Pinguins at Galapagos National parkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Pinguin Spheniscus mediculus at Galapagos National Park

The only tropical penguin in the world, the Galapagos Penguin, which can always be seen at Las Tintoreras Islets.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Waved Albatross at Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Male Cactus Finch at Galapagos National Park

Waved or Galapagos Albatross courting, Punta Suarez, Espanola Island.

The Galapagos finches formed an essential part in the development of the evolution theory.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Darwin finches at Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Galapagos Finch at Galapagos National Park

There are 15 Darwin's finches placed in the tanager family; most There are 15 species of Darwin Finches on the Galapagos Islands and one on Cocos Island of Costa Rica. The Galapagos specimens were first collected by Charles Darwin during the second voyage of the Beagle and were quite important for the development of the evolution theory.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Cactus Finch at Galapagos National Park, EcuadorPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Galapagos Hawk at Galapagos National Park

John Gould also dedicated some of his fantastic drawings to Galapagos Finches.

Another endemic species is the Galapagos Hawk.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Great Frigate Bird in Flight at Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Male Great Frigate Bird with expandes throat at Galapagos National Park

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Great frigate bird with inflated bag at Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Great Frigate Bird colony at Galapagos National Park

There are five species in the single genus Fregata of which the Magnificent Frigate Bird, Fregata magnificens and Great Frigate Bird, Fregata minor, roam  the skies of the Galapagos Islands as well as breed there in several colonies, particularly on Tower Island. They have long wings, tails and bills and the males have a red gular pouch that is inflated during the breeding season to attract a mate. They are pelagic piscivores (fish eaters) which obtain most of their food by chasing other birds until they throw up the fish they caught.

 

Vegetation of the Galapagos Islands

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Cactus prickley pear forest vegetation at Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Galapagos Cactus trees

A Opuntia Cactus Forest on Santa Cruz.

Cactuses are an important food source for land iguanas and Galapagos Tortoises.

 

Prickly Pear of the genus Opuntia, Opuntia spp., is represented in Galapagos by six species and fourteen endemic varieties of cactus. It grows on the lower elevations of the islands where rainfall is low and is a staple food for the Galapagos Land Iguanas and Galapagos Tortoises, while they serve as nesting trees for the Galapagos cactus finches.

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, forest grows at higher elevationsPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Galapagos national park: Daisy forest.

At the higher elevations, there is so much fog and drizzling rain, that actual forests can develop. With just one species of tree - a kind of daisy - the Daisy Forest is rather species poor and yet unique. A good location to see them is on Santa Cruz at  the Los Gemelos twin sink hole craters.

 

Galapagos National Park Reptiles

The Galapagos Islands are named after these old giant tortoises, Geochelone nigra, called "galapagos" in Spanish. They can live up to several centuries. During the early worldwide trading age, they were prized food as they can survive months without food and water. Sailors loaded their ships with hundreds of tortoises, thus decimating their numbers to levels in which extinction became almost inevitable. Thanks to half a century of captive breeding and conservation measures in cooperation between the Darwin Foundation and the Government of Ecuador National Park Service, populations of most species are slowly recovering to levels that allow them to survive again in the wild on their islands on origin.

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Giant Tortoise at Galapagos national parkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Tortoise nursery at the Darwin Center at Galapagos National Park

The extremely rare subspecies are bred in a breeding station at the Darwin biological station.

Young tortoises are kept in different cages for each subspecies. After they have grown large enough to have a high survival chance, they are released in the wild on their corresponding island.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Darwin Biological Station POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Distribution Santa Cruz Giant Turtles sub-species

On 21 October 21015, a publication in "Nature" magazine announced the discovery of a new subspecies on Santa Cruz Island, the Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise, Chelonoidis nigra donfaustoi.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Chelonoids nigra donfaustoiPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Santa Cruz new species Giant tortoise

The new subspecies, the Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise, Chelonoidis nigra donfaustoi. as they occur in the wild. With a population of 250 animals, they are considered vulnerable but not immediately threatened.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Galapagos Lava Lizard at Galapagos National Park

The Galapagos Lava Lizard is yet another endemic genus of reptiles with distinct species on different islands.

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Land iguana at Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Male Land Iguana at Galapagos National Park

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Resting Galapagos Land IguanaPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Male Galapagos land Iguana

The Galapagos Land Iguana, Conolophus subcristatus, is a species of lizard in the Iguanidae family endemic to the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Land Iguana varies in size and coloration among different islands. There are two taxonomically distinct forms of Conolophus inhabiting the western part of the islands (C. rosada and C. pallidus) and one in the central part (C. subcristatus).

 

Galapagos Land Iguanas are typically unafraid of people and feed on the abundant Prickly Pear or Opuntia Cactus. It is always amazing how they devour a cactus leaf with prickles and all. Beware you don't get too close to these animals and never try to touch them. Their bite can be extremely painful!

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Sea Iguana Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Galapagos National Park Marine Iguana

Galapagos Marine Iguanas, Amblyrhynchus cristatus, is an iguana species endemic to Galápagos Islands. where it is widespread throughout the archipealogo. Among modern lizards, it has the unique ability,  to dive at deep as 9m below sea level for foraging marine algae. Being a cold-blooded animal, the marine iguana can spend a limited time in the cold water of the Humboldt Current. Afterward diving it needs to warm up in the sun. Throug special glands in their noses they "sneeze" out the surplus salt.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: snorkelingPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: snorkeling with Green Turtle.

Getting to know the under-water world at Galapagos is among the greatest things to do at the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: diving to the coral fishes.POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: scuba diving with Green Turtles

Even if you did not bring a mask, it still is fun to submerge a little and enjoy the colorful tropical fishes. The best of course if you are a scuba diver. Gear is available for rent, so you don't have to bring your own.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Green turtles.POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS:  Green turtels near the surface

Green turtles surround the shore of the Galapagos Islands, particularly at Punta Vicente Roca, Isabela Island.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Orange Crab Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Red Rock Crab Galapagos Islands

The "Red Rock Crab" or in Spanish "Abuete Negro", Grapsus grapsus, is common along the entire Pacific coast of Central America and Mexico and nearby islands. It is one of the many charismatic species that inhabits the Galapagos Islands and occurring in great numbers along the water line, they are a charming colorful attraction to all the visitors of the islands and a thankful object for photographers.

 

Mammals of the Galapagos Islands

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Galapagos Sea Lion Zalophus WollebaekiPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Sea Lions Galapagos Islands

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Sea Lions Galapagos National ParkPOINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Sea Lion Zalophus Wollebaeki, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos Sea Lion, Zalophus wollebaeki, is an endemic species of Ecuador, only mating on the Galapagos Islands and Isla de la Plata. This playful Sea Lion is very common on the islands and during mating season the males round up large lack of females. Swimming among these young and curious animals at Playa de los Perros is among the 15 best points of interest at the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. But stay away from the harems, as the heavy bulls are dangerous and are known to have attacked people that have come too close to their harem. Always follow the instructions of your guide.

 

Not only the islands are protected as Park, but also the surrounding sea in the Galapagos Marine Biological Reserve.

POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Galapagos Islands National Park: mangrove beach.POINTS OF INTEREST AT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Dolphins Galapagos National Park

The Garrapatero Beach, at Santa Cruz Island is 3 km of sandy beach surrounded with mangroves where you even may watch some flamingos. 

Frolicking Dolphins are among the common marine mammals that inhabit the Galapagos Marine Biological Reserve.

 

While the lowlands of most islands are semi deserts, at some hidden locations, one finds some mangroves where wading birds and even some flamingos may find their habitat. But for extended Mangroves in Ecuador, one needs to visit the mainland, where some of the best mangroves of the Eastern Pacific Ocean can be found.

 

For detailed information on climate and weather conditions read: Climate Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

WARNING: You will be on the Equator. UV radiation is extremely high everywhere you go and you need to protect you adequately, even if you are dark-skinned. Always where a hat, not just a baseball cap, and please, don't wear sandals or bear feet when you come from abroad. I have seen such horribly painful feet on people who covered everything but their feet. Your feet get the most direct sunlight as they are exposed horizontally to the sun!

 

Always put on high grade sun block (don't forget the edges of your ears).  Accustom your skin to the sunlight by exposing it for no more than an hour the first day and add an hour everyday afterwards. Don't be fooled by an overcast sky, you can still get sun burn. Be particularly aware in the highlands, where the UV is even higher! as well as on the water (Cuyabeno, Galapagos), because on the water, the UV effect is greater. Also beware of wind, as it also tends to increase the sun burning of your skin. 

 

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