Galapagos Island Highlights

Will Bolsover

12 Dec 2016

Tops tips for travelling around the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are full of unique and endemic wildlife from marine iguanas (as seen on the intense Planet Earth 2 documentary), to extraordinary birds such as blue-footed boobies, red frigatebirds and waved albatrosses. But how do you know which islands to visit in order to see all these species?

The majority of cruises round the Galapagos just stick to a couple of the central islands but this limits the number of creatures you can see in any one trip. We want to give you the tools and information to make a decision for yourself as to which wildlife you wish to encounter and then we can tailor a Galapagos safari to your preferences to give you an unforgettable experience.

Read our Galapagos Island highlights to find out more about each destination.

Santa Cruz Island

Baltra - Santa Cruz could be considered the engine of the Galapagos Islands. This is the starting point for most trips around the islands as the airport of Baltra is the archipelago’s main gateway from Ecuador

Giant tortoises - Here you have the chance to see one of the Galapagos’ most famous residents: the giant tortoise. You can see these slow creatures roam about in the wild on Santa Cruz, munching on grass, seeking out shade and staying pleasantly still for photographs. 

Lava tubes - When you’ve had your fill of watching these docile giants, head underground to discover the island’s lava tubes. These huge caves were formed when the outer edges of lava flows cooled and hardened into thick walls surrounding empty tunnels. This is a unique experience and can be explored guided or unguided providing you have sturdy shoes and a torch to light your way.

Discover Santa Cruz Island


Bird species - Moving on to Espanola Island, unique bird species are on the cards. This is the only place to see breeding waved albatross whose courtship rituals are a spectacular sight. Watch as they circle and bow around their mate then land to tap beaks and make interesting hooting sounds. This intricate dance is well worth it though, as once they are together waved albatross partner for life. Along with albatross, Espanola Island is also home to Nazca boobies. Although this species does not have bright feet like its better-known cousins, Nazca boobies are still very striking and their fluffy young make an adorable subject for wildlife photography.

Beaches and marine life - Another highlight of Espanola Island is Gardner Bay one of the best beaches in the world. Not only does the bay have stunning white sand beaches and clear water but it is home to friendly sea lions and lively marine iguanas too. 

Isabela Island

Volcanic landscape - Isabela Island, the largest in the archipelago, is a hub of activity with stunning volcanoes and lakes as well as remarkable wildlife. Lying across the equator, this island is one of the most volcanically active places in the world. Head to the south to hike the Sierra Negra Volcano and witness the 10km caldera.

Spectacular snorkelling - If you’re looking for water-based activities, the snorkelling around Isabela Island is perhaps the best in the Galapagos with Los Tuneles being a wonderful place for swimming with sharks, sea turtles, rays and sea lions.

Pink flamingoes - Another unique wildlife experience on Isabela Island is the flamingos in the Laguna Salinas. These pink birds stand out against the green of the lagoon and can be seen in groups of over 30 at a time!

Find out more


Marine iguanas - If you want to experience large colonies of endemic marine iguanas, Espinoza Point on Fernandina Island is the best location. Watch as these unique species bask in the sun before plunging into the waters off the coast to forage for algae.

Endemic birds - Fernandina Island is also famous for a number of bird species including vulnerable flightless cormorants, penguins, pelicans and the Galapagos hawk. Your guides will reveal interesting facts about these creatures so you can learn what makes the Galapagos Islands a unique habitat.

Santiago Island

Eggas Port - This area of Santiago Island is home to a wealth of wildlife and is one of the best places to see fur seals in the Galapagos. Other wildlife that resides here includes marine iguanas, sea lions and the bright and beautiful Sally Lightfoot crabs.

Sombrero Chino - The volcanic cone of the Sombrero Chino is a unique geological site named due to its resemblance to an Asian-style hat.

Coastal birds - Along with the range of land and marine animals on Santiago Island, there are a number of bird species too such as Darwin's finches that were discovered on the second of Charles Darwin's voyage aboard the Beagle.

Read more about Santiago Island


Red Island - Rabida Island is known as the Red Island thanks to its unique volcanic coastline with high iron content. Look out along the red beach for colonies of sea lions lazing on the shore. 

More beautiful birds - Like Santiago Island, Rabida is home to some of the rarest birds of the Galapagos Islands from the large Galapagos hawk to nine different species of Darwin finches! Rabida is also a fantastic place to spot blue-footed boobies building their nests along the coast.

Snorkelling - After exploring on land, don your wetsuit and dive in to the waters surrounding Rabida Island for some of the best snorkelling in the Galapagos. Not only will you witness tropical fish and playful sea lions but you may also see white-tipped sharks. 

Bartolome ISland

Panoramic views - One of the best ways to explore Bartolome Island is to walk to the top of the island (360 steps). From here you can see the whole island and witness the different volcanic cones dotted around. Taking in the sights of this unique geology is truly breath-taking.

Pinnacle Rock -  Perhaps one of the most famous landscapes of the Galapagos Islands is here on Bartolome Island: Pinnacle Rock. This is a great place to take a memorable family photo and it is in the clear water around the base of Pinnacle Rock that some of the best marine life can be seen. 

Small colony of penguins - Snorkelling around Bartolome Island will offer you the best chances of swimming with Galapagos penguins. These are a relatively rare breed of penguin so getting up-close-and-personal with these friendly creatures is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Discover Bartolome Island

North Seymour

Largest land iguanas - Another of the Galapagos Islands' most famed creatures is the land iguana. Bold in colour and large in size, these peculiar reptiles are endemic to this region and should be on everyone's must-see list when visiting the Galapagos Islands.

Lot of frigatebirds - North Seymour island is home to a large number of frigatebirds showing their inflated red pouches almost all year round because the mating season continues throughout the year. These are strange birds unlike anything else in the world so have your cameras at the ready when visiting North Seymour.

San Cristobal

Wizard Hill & Kicker Rock - San Cristobal is the island where Charles Darwin first went ashore and Wizard Hill was one of his well known landings. This hill has fantastic views of Kicker Rock a famous sight which is great to photograph as the golden hour sunshine bathes the rock in stunning light.

Tortoises - Up in the highlands of San Cristobal Island is the Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre. This is a wonderful place to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat while learning about the wildlife and the conservation efforts that are undertaken to protect these species.

Red-footed boobies - San Cristobal is one of only two places in the Galapagos Islands where you can see the red-footed booby with their bright blue beaks and ruby red feet so a visit here is a must.


Birdlife - The range of birdlife is definitely the main highlight of a visit to Genovesa island; from red-footed boobies and frigatebirds to swallow-tailed gulls and Galapagos mockingbirds there will be a number of species for you to spot and photograph. The spectacular walk along the Prince Phillips steps will have you surrounded by storm petrels and adorable short-eared owls. 

Find out more about Genovesa

Santa Fe Island

Santa Fe land iguana - This is the only place in the Galapagos Islands that you can see the sub-species of land iguana known as the Barrington land iguana. This species is a paler shade of yellow than the common land iguana and has a more pronounced spine. 

Swimming with sea lions - Santa Fe is one of best places to swim with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands. The sea lions here are particularly active and playful on the beach and swimming with them is a real joy.


Cormorant Bay - Throughout June and July on Floreana Island there are lots of flamingos mating and doing synchronised dancing as part of their rituals. This is a unique sight and capturing images of the flamingos reflected in the water of the bay is stunning.

Devil's Crown - The Devil's Crown volcanic crater around Floreana Island is not only beautiful but it is fantastic for snorkelling too. There will be a lot of tropical fish, colourful coral and maybe even sharks.

Plazas Island

Lots of land iguanas - The wildlife of South Plaza island is abundant and is perhaps one of the best islands for large numbers of land iguanas of anywhere in the Galapagos. See these lizards feeding on cacti and interacting with the other wildlife that resides on the island.

Bachelor colony of sea lions - As you arrive on the Plazas Islands you may well hear the sea lion colony before you see them. The hoards here are extremely playful and can be seen both in and out of the water, sometimes boisterously tugging at the land iguanas.

Free Guide to the Galapagos

If you would like to explore the Galapagos Islands our free, comprehensive guide is packed with expert advice and tips.

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