Destinations

Galapagos Island Animals

What animals will I see in the Galapagos Islands?

Although there’s no such thing, outside of captivity, as a certainty of seeing rare animals anywhere in the world, the incredibly biodiverse Galápagos Islands come as close as anywhere to offering a guarantee. And what remarkable species you’ll see, many of them endemic to the archipelago and completely indifferent to the encroachment of humans on their little patch of paradise.

Perhaps the most iconic species from this whole menagerie of ultra-specialists is the giant tortoise. 

As the Spanish word for tortoise is ‘Galapago’, a giant dollop of reptile appreciation is therefore a must on any itinerary. The only guarantee that you’ll see a giant tortoise, though, is by viewing them in captivity – the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz is the obvious place to see these aged beings haul their carapaces around.

rare reptiles

Another reptile you’re almost certain to see on any itinerary is the marine iguana. It’s the only iguana in the world that can forage in the sea, and the only one that’s entirely endemic to the Galápagos. Look out for these grey-and-blotchy-red reptiles sneezing the salt out of their nasal cavities while sunning themselves. Their yellow/grey land-based relatives tend to be found a little further inland soaking up the sun with what looks like a smile of contentment on their nobbled faces. Also adhering to this colour scheme are the wonderfully named Sally Lightfoot crabs – which start out grey when young and turn yellow and red when they reach sexual maturity. 

The quieter shores of Santa Cruz are a good place to see these nimble crustaceans tip-toeing about their business.

wildlife under water

In an around the water you are likely to spot sea lions bobbing about. Moreover, if you visit Isabela or Española in particular, there’s a good chance you’ll see them up close, either sprawled out on the beaches or keeping an inky eye on you as you flipper about in your snorkel gear. Other species you could see when snorkelling are stingrays, parrotfish, damselfish and angelfish, to name but a few fish, as well as the Galápagos green turtle and Galápagos penguin. The islands of Isabela and Bartolome are among the better bets for seeing the latter. 

Snorkel in deeper water and you might just see whales, dolphins or hammerhead sharks ghosting through the ocean far below you.

flying high

Wheeling about the skies, waddling on rocks or bobbing on the water will be numerous species of birds. Although Española is the top destination for seeing blue-footed boobies and waved albatross up close, Isabela is also rich in avian life – including the balloon-throated frigate bird and the shabby-limbed flightless cormorant. 

Finches, hawks, mockingbirds and flamingos are also possible sights – while pelicans, herons and the folded-umbrella form of the boobie as it missiles down for fish are almost certain sightings on your cruise around the Galápagos.

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