One type of animal that you may be likely to come across on your Galapagos Islands vacation is the land iguana. This fascinating creature can be quite a sight, given that they can grow up to three feet long (almost a meter in length), and may weigh as much as 30 pounds (13.5 kilograms). Here you can find out everything you need to know about land iguanas before your trip to the islands. We will cover the different species, when and where to see them, and explain some of their behavioral characteristics.
There are three types of land iguanas to be found in the Galapagos Islands which are considered to be endemic to the islands.
Land iguana – the land iguana is the most ubiquitous of the three species of land iguanas, and this is the type that you are probably most likely to see on your visit to the Galapagos Islands.
Santa Fe land iguana – the Santa Fe land iguana differs from the land iguana because it is paler, and it also has a snout that is more tapered.
Pink Galapagos land iguana - the third species of iguana is the pink Galapagos land iguana. This type of land iguana is particularly interesting and not just due to its unusual color. The species was only considered as a separate species in 2009, despite being identified more than more than 20 years prior. The pink Galapagos land iguana gets its color as a result of the fact that it has a lack of skin pigment, meaning that the blood beneath the skin can be seen. Unfortunately, this type of land iguana is considered to be critically endangered. They face the threat of volcanic activity in addition to the problem of invasive species such as rats and feral cats eating their eggs and young. Drought also creates a threat for this species.
The land iguana is the one of the three species that is most likely to be seen on your Galapagos Islands cruise or Galapagos land-based trip. This can be seen on a variety of different islands throughout the archipelago, including Fernandina Island, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island, South Plaza, Baltra, Santiago Island and North Seymour Island. There is a captive breeding program of land iguanas at the Charles Darwin Research Station, so if your trip takes you there, you will likely see them there. Iguanas are also known for being on the runway of Baltra airport.
It will probably come as no surprise to find that the Santa Fe land iguana is endemic to Santa Fe Island, and so if you want to see this iguana, then this is where you will need to go.
As for the pink Galapagos land iguana, you are unlikely to see this fascinating creature. It is only found in a small area of Wolf Volcano, which is to the north of Isabela Island. Unfortunately for tourists, this is an area that is not accessible to them.
Land iguanas can be spotted in the Galapagos Islands all year around.
Land iguanas live for approximately 50 years in total. They are mostly herbivores. However, all three species will act in a carnivorous way if an opportunity presents itself. They will eat insects and carrion at times. The Galapagos Islands can be very dry in the dry season, making fresh water an issue. The land iguana will gain liquid from the prickly pear cactus, and this creature also eats the cactus too. At other times of year water is obtained from standing pools.
When having young, female land iguanas will go a long distance if needed to find a suitable spot for a nest. The females lay around 20 eggs and these are buried at the nest. The female then guards the eggs from predators, but also from other land iguanas that might uncover them when seeking out a spot for their own nest. Males are also protective of the nest and will attack other land iguanas that enter the nest area. Once the eggs hatch (between 85 to 110 days) they are at risk from other species for several years until they grow bigger and better able to defend themselves.
Land iguanas like the sunshine and will often be seen bathing in the sun. Finches
can often be seen picking the ticks of the land iguanas’ backs.
One Insider recommendation if you want to see land iguanas is to make sure that your Galapagos Islands cruise or land-based trip includes the islands and visitor sites where these can be seen. We can help you with trip planning to help with this. You are less likely to see land iguanas in the midday sun, and they are most active at other, cooler times of day. If you want to plan or book your Galapagos Islands cruise or land-based trip, we are ready to help, some of our favorite cruise options to make sure you get to see land iguanas are the Infinity Galapagos boat and the Cormorant Yacht. Our land based Galapagos package also will offer excellent chances to see plenty of land iguanas. We are experts in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands so, why not get in touch today to book your Galapagos adventure?