Right along the equator in the Pacific Ocean is a group of volcanic islands: the Galápagos Islands. Part of the Republic of Ecuador, the Galápagos have a fairly small number of human residents (about 35,000) and an incredible amount of wildlife residents. The diversity of plant and animal life has made the Galápagos Islands a dream destination for wildlife viewers. For those who are able to reach this remote archipelago, you’ll see some of the most incredible birds, reptiles, flora, and fauna in the world. Here are just some of the many types of wildlife you’d see on an expedition to the Galápagos!
Flying above you, by the beach, or perched in the trees, is an abundance of colorful and rare birds for you to see! Probably one of the most famous families of birds, the Galápagos finches, also known as Darwin’s finches, is a family of about 13 different species. They were named after Charles Darwin, who used these birds to develop his theory of evolution in 1835 during the voyage of the HMS Beagle. While these birds are all very similar, each of the species has small adaptations for them to survive in each of their habitats. You can spot the sharp-beaked finches on the central and western islands, and the smaller ground finches on the larger central islands.
Another feathered resident of the Galápagos is the blue-footed booby. This marine bird is perfectly named given the bright blue hue of their feet. These birds also have quite a funny mating ritual!
One more bird that you’re also bound to see while exploring the Galápagos Islands is the Galápagos penguin! These small flightless birds are endemic to the islands (this means that the Galápagos are the only place in the whole world where they live). They’re are also the only species of penguin to live north of the equator, and this is because some of the currents are cold enough for them to survive, even in a tropical habitat! On these islands, you’ll have no shortage of bird-watching opportunities!
When you begin exploring the Galápagos, the first thing you’ll notice is how lush the all the plants and trees are in this tropical archipelago. You’ll see the tall black mangrove trees, the endemic cutleaf daisy, and plenty of different species of cacti. But if you look beyond the beautiful flora of these islands, you’ll also see all the wildlife that have made the Galápagos their home.
First up: the Galápagos giant tortoise! Endemic to the islands, these tortoises can outlive almost any other vertebrate on Earth, with some of the tortoises living to over 100 years old. What’s more, the islands themselves owe their name from the tortoises! Before Darwin discovered the islands, the Spanish arrived in 1535 and named the islands “Galápagos”, the Spanish word for “tortoise.”
Up next: the Galápagos land iguana. These reptiles have a yellowish coloring on their bellies and a brown color on top. The iguanas also have a symbiotic relationship with many of the bird species on the island, in which the birds eat the parasites that live on the iguanas’ skin, which keeps the reptile healthy!
Another smaller reptile you might spot on a Galápagos expedition is the lava lizard. Named after the bright red of their chins, these little lizards can be found on branches. During mating season, the male lizards can also be seen doing “push-ups” to attract females and can look very funny! On the Galápagos, the reptiles rule the land.
Beyond the land, there’s plenty more to see! There are tons of colorful and beautiful species to view in the water. One of the friendlier species is the Galápagos fur seal. This endemic species can be seen lounging in the sun on the beaches all day, as they do their hunting and feeding at night. The best time to see these creatures is in October, right after all the pups have been born. As cute as they are, it’s suggested to keep your distance, as the alpha males can get aggressive when protecting the pups or their territory.
Another animal you may see swimming at low tide is the marine iguana. While iguanas are typically known for climbing trees, this species prefers to be in the water where it feeds on algae and seaweed! While they may not be the prettiest species in the Galápagos, with their dark grey bodies and white salt-crusted heads, it’s amazing to see them swimming in the water.
Deeper in the ocean, you may also have the chance to see some of the bigger marine species that call the Galápagos Islands their home — bottlenose dolphins, blue whales, Pacific green sea turtles, scalloped hammerhead shark, and the gigantic whale shark. You’ll always see something special in the waters of the Galápagos!
Just like any other wildlife-filled destination, it takes a lot of precaution and responsibility in order to explore the Galápagos Islands safely, both for you and the animals. As a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, you must tread carefully in order to preserve the islands. Only walk in the permitted areas, and always have a certified guide with you. While all the species on the islands are stunning, many of them are on the endangered list. It is highly suggested that you keep yourself at a safe distance from all wildlife species, for both your safety and theirs. Remember, while they are amazing creatures to view and take pictures of, they are still wild animals and can become unpredictable if they are scared, feel threatened, or are protecting their young.
THE EXPEDITION OF A LIFETIME
The Galápagos Islands are a tropical oasis teeming with wildlife. And for those adventurers who take the opportunity to explore them, you will be met with some of the rarest and most beautiful species in the world. It takes patience and sustainable wildlife-viewing techniques. But if you’re willing to wait, the islands will reward you with their abundance of stunning and interesting wildlife.
Interested in seeing what the Galápagos Islands have to offer? Acanela Expeditions offers six-day trips to the Galápagos! Most Galápagos trips are sea-based, meaning that you’ll spend your nights sleeping on a boat, but Acanela’s tours are land-based with frequent boat excursions, allowing you to explore the islands by both land and sea. This is the perfect way to truly immerse yourself in the Galápagos.
If you have a sense of adventure and a desire to see somewhere many might never get the chance to see, join us there!
Post by Demitria Rounis