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Wildlife in Galapagos Islands

A Galapagos wildlife holiday provides a wildlife utopia quite apart from the rest of mainland Ecuador.

The overwhelming biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands inspired Charles Darwin's seminal book "On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection". Such is the extent of the rigorous protection and respect for these islands that visitation numbers are tightly regulated, and the inimitably photogenic wildlife is fearless of man; a place where nature and man enjoy a rare equilibrium. Nowhere on earth is it possible to observe so many of the planet’s species at unfeasibly close range as the Galapagos Islands, which justifies its unwavering popularity as the pinnacle destination of any wildlife holiday.

Marine Iguanas

The marine iguana is the only lizard in the world with the ability to live and forage at sea and is endemic to the Galapagos Archipelago. There are eleven very similar subspecies, found on different islands, with those from Isabela and Fernandina being the largest. Marine iguanas are not a very agile species on land, but they are excellent swimmers – moving easily through the water as they feed on algae. Larger individuals go further out to sea and use their powerful claws to grip on to rocks in strong currents to feed, whilst the smaller ones stay inshore near rock pools, feeding on algae exposed at low tide.

Giant Tortoise

The Galapagos giant tortoise is one of the most famous animals of the Islands, with the Archipelago itself being named after them.The Galapagos giant tortoise spends an average of 16 hours per day resting. The rest of their time is spent eating grasses, fruits and cactus pads. They enjoy bathing in water, but can survive for up to a year without water or food.

Blue-Footed Booby

Blue-footed boobies are one of three booby species found on Galapagos. They are large, distinctive birds, found along the Eastern Pacific coastline where they often nest on small islands with rocky coasts. Their name comes from the Spanish word ‘bobo’, meaning foolish or clown – referring to their clumsy movement on land. Their plumage is brown on top, with a white rump and black tail, whilst their underparts are white. The most distinctive characteristic of the blue-footed booby is its large blue feet, which play an important role in courtship.

Pexels Riccardo Parretti

Sea Lion

The Galapagos sea lion is a species that primarily breeds in the Galapagos Islands, although some breeding colonies also occur on Isla de la Plata just off of mainland Ecuador.The sea lions have a smooth and streamlined body shape, making them efficient hunters, especially of sardines which are their main prey. They can dive to depths of up to almost 600 m and can stay underwater for over ten minutes. They spend a lot of their time resting on beaches or playing, and are generally inquisitive.


Ornithologists will not be disappointed, with a staggering 28 of the 58 species of bird found on the Islands being endemic! Examples include three endemic species of booby (including the funny and popular blue-footed booby), albatross, frigate birds, cormorants and, of course, the aforementioned amiable penguin, found on Isabela and Fernandina Islands.