The Galapagos Islands is like no other place on the planet and its exclusive animals are no doubt one of its key defining elements. Located in a remote location about 1,000 km (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, the fauna was able to develop virtually unaffected by predators. In fact, the animals are so unthreatened by humans, that don’t be surprised if a sea lion’s flipper accidentally lands on you. The unique array of animal species ranging from giant tortoises to iguanas, to birds with different colored feet, provides for some up-close encounters not possible elsewhere.
The Blue-footed Booby is a marine bird, which owes its signature blue feet thanks to sexual selection and carotonoid pigments obtained from its diet of fresh fish. You can find them on North Seymour, as well as on some of the Southern islands like Isabela and Floreana. See them in flight while on a panga, perching on the cliffs, or while on a guided walk on one of the aforementioned islands.
There are 13 endemic species of these fascinating creatures, each with a unique beak adapted to every island’s singular habitat. They can be seen on most of the main islands on land visits, so make sure to bring binoculars or a good camera with a zoom lens to spot them.
Galapagos green sea turtle
The Galapagos Green Sea Turtles live in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific Coast and can be seen in coastal waters throughout the archipelago. You can frequently spot them while snorkeling and on a panga ride.
The Galapagos penguin
Contrary to popular belief there is a penguin that lives north of the equator and this friendly creature is found only in the Galapagos. The Galapagos penguin is endemic to the islands, able to survive there thanks to the cold waters from the Humboldt and Cromwell Currents. You can spot them while kayaking, snorkeling or panga riding during your Galapagos cruise.
Galapagos sea lion
The Galapagos Sea Lion primarily breeds on the Galapagos Islands, and are one of the two types of seals found on the Islands. You can find them widespread along the coastline while snorkeling or on a land visit walking along the shore while they rest on the beach.
The Galapagos giant tortoise
Giant Tortoises are one of the most quintessential animals of the Galapagos, and there are only ten different species remaining of the original fifteen. These giant creatures can weigh up to 417 kg and can live in the wild for over 100 years. You can spot them in the wild in the Highlands of Santa Cruz, so make sure that your cruise includes this visit if you are looking forward to see them.
Six of the existing species of lava lizards are endemic to the Galapagos Islands, and they are some of the most abundant reptiles found in the Galapagos. You can witness these creatures doing pushups on a land visit to any of the islands from your cruise.
Marine Iguanas are the only reptile species that have the ability to forage for food in the sea, which makes it a marine reptile. They mainly live in colonies on rocky shores, but can also be seen in marshes, mangroves and beaches throughout the Galapagos Islands. You can see them while Kayaking in Santa Cruz or lying on the rocks near the Charles Darwin Station, as well as on many of the rockier surfaces in the archipelago while they sunbathe.
Sally Lightfoot crab
The main function of these brightly colored sea scavengers is to keep the shore clean of any organic debris and eat ticks off marine iguanas. They can be seen feeding in large groups on most beaches and in shallow water all around the Islands. You can see them from the panga, or on the rocks while snorkeling, swimming or walking along the shore.
The Waved Albatross, the largest bird in the islands, breeds primarily on Española Island. If you want to be sure to see the Waved Albatross during your stay in the Galapagos, make sure to book a cruise that includes Española in its itinerary from April and December when they breed on the ground.
Carlos Beate is the Commercial Manager at Andando Tours. Andando Tours offers exclusive traveling experiences, specializing in sailing around the Galapagos Islands and overland along the magnificent Avenue of Volcanoes on the Ecuadorian Andes.