When visitors are booking a Galapagos Islands trip, they are very eager to get it right. They want to book the best trip available to them, which gives them the best chances of observing the amazing wildlife. It is not a surprise to us then, that one of the most common questions we get asked during the booking process is, “Which are the best Galapagos Islands to see wildlife?” Here we will explain our answer to this question that we offer to prospective visitors to the Galapagos Islands, and we hope that this will be helpful when you are booking your trip.
In fact, all of the islands are incredibly diverse, and all offer fabulous opportunities to see a lot of wildlife. On a Galapagos Islands cruise, or even on a Galapagos land- based trip, you will be sure to see a wide diversity of fascinating wildlife, regardless of the specific islands that you visit. We find that the vast majority of customers are delighted with their cruise or land-based vacation and that this is consistent across the board. We would not discourage you to avoid any islands, as every island has its merits and offers points of interest for visitors. However, what we usually suggest to visitors planning a Galapagos Islands trip is that they choose to include at least one of the following islands in their Galapagos adventure: Espanola, Fernandina, Isabela, Floreana, Genovesa. Let us now look at the wildlife that can be seen on these different islands to get a better idea of what is on offer, and to help guide your decision-making process, certain cruises offer better itineraries than others, some of the best itineraries you can take are run by the Natural Paradise Galapagos cruise, the Grand Majestic yacht and a couple of other options.
Española Island is considered to comprise part of the central Galapagos Islands, and it is the furthest south that you might venture in the archipelago. This island is most typically accessed by those on a Galapagos Islands Cruise rather than a land-based trip, as it is 12 hours on the boat from Santa Cruz, which makes day trips not possible. However, a few trips do run from San Cristobal, which is a bit closer. There is a relatively diverse array of species on Espanola Island, and visitors to this destination do often see a fair amount of it. In particular, there is a lot of bird life on this island. One of the highlights of a trip to Espanola is the chance to see the waved albatross, though you will have to be there between April and December to have the highest likelihood of seeing this bird. There is also the opportunity to see blue footed boobies and Nazca boobies. Other bird life to look out for include red-billed tropic birds, the Galapagos hawk and the Espanola mockingbird. Meanwhile, there is a good chance of seeing sea lions. In the summer months of June to October you might even be very lucky and see a humpback whale, as these frequent the waters during these months. There is even the slim possibility of seeing the Espanola giant tortoise, though it must be said that this is more unusual.
Fernandina Island is the western-most Galapagos isle and it is only possible to visit it on Galapagos cruises. Look for trips that include the western islands, and it typically forms a part of these trips. There is a lot of wildlife on this island. Usually, cruises to Fernandina will also include visits to Isabela Island due to the proximity between the two. Special wildlife highlights of a visit to Fernandina Island include the chance to see flightless cormorants. These are only possible to see in the western islands. Other bird life that you may get to see includes blue footed boobies and Galapagos penguins as well as Galapagos hawks. In terms of animals there are opportunities to see land iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, snakes and Sally Lightfoot crabs.
As highlighted above, trips to Isabela Island on a cruise often include taking in Galapagos visitor sites on Fernandina Island as well. Isabela Island is a western Galapagos Island and it may be visited as part of a Galapagos Islands cruise, or a land-based option, since there is an airport on this island. The wildlife here is remarkable, and birds that you might get to see include penguins, boobies, herons, flightless cormorants, finches, Galapagos doves, pelicans and Galapagos hawks. Meanwhile, animals that can be observed include both marine iguanas and land iguanas and giant tortoises. In the waters there are sea turtles and several types of rays.
Floreana Island also offers interesting opportunities to see a variety of wildlife. It is regularly included on trips that are based around the central islands, and it is located directly south of Santa Cruz Island. The island is pleasingly not too far from either Santa Cruz Island or San Cristobal, so it is accessible for visitors on Galapagos land- based options as well as on Galapagos Islands cruises, and day trips can be arranged.
Bird life that you might get to see on this island is colorful and varied. It includes everything from pink flamingos to blue footed boobies and it includes Galapagos penguins, Darwin finches and the joint-footed penguin. Looking at animal species there are green sea turtles and sea lions. Sometimes (though not always) on a visit to Floreana Island, cruises stop at Devil’s Crown, which is considered one of the best snorkeling points in the archipelago. Here you may get to see sharks and fascinating colorful fish, and rays can also sometimes be spotted in these waters.
Genovesa Island is especially good for those visitors that love bird life. There are a wide variety of species on this island. The island is located in the north of the region, north east of Santa Cruz Island. It is sometimes named Tower Island. It is not possible to visit this island on a Galapagos land-based option, as it is too far away from inhabited islands. As such, only those on Galapagos cruises will get an opportunity to visit it.
Marine iguanas can be seen on Genovesa Island, but as indicated above, the main highlight is the diversity of birds. There are red footed boobies, and this is one place where you have a better chance of seeing them. There are also Nazca boobies, Darwin finches, storm petrels, mockingbirds, red-billed tropic birds, short eared owls and swallow-tailed gulls.
Our Insider recommendation if you want to see the widest diversity of wildlife is to book a trip that can include one of these islands. However, as we explained above, whichever islands you visit, you are sure to get to see a great deal, so focusing on the best islands to see the most wildlife should not be a particular concern. You are unlikely to be disappointed about wildlife on your Galapagos vacation.
If you want to book your Galapagos Islands cruise or land-based trip, we are ready to help. We are experts in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, and we will be able to help you book the best trip that will meet your specific needs. Why not get in touch today to get started on booking your Galapagos adventure to enjoy the wide diversity of bird and wildlife in these amazing islands?