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Islands and Visitor Sites
Tourism, as any other human activity, can alter the Islands delicate equilibrium and their fragile ecosystem. For this, the Galapagos National Park has designed a little more than 50 sites that can be visited, always accompanied by a National Park Naturalist guide, and in organized and perfectly controlled tours.
As a whole, in these sites you can find the greatest variety of wildlife that can be seen in the Islands. For this you have to follow the established trails, along with your guide, and always observe the rules and regulations in order to guarantee everyone's safety and that each visitor leaves as little impact as possible. "Take only pictures and good memories, and leave only footprints". In every tour, two sites are visited daily, and almost all of them are reached by landing tenders that yachts carry for this matter.
Most of the landing sites are on sandy beaches, where you will have a wet landing. The trails are, most of the time, of cinder dust or any other volcanic material that heat up under the burning equatorial sun, therefore it is indispensable that you bring along good walking shoes or sandals. Don't forget to bring enough sunblock.
Some Islands have excellent beaches, where you can swim, and places where you can practice snorkeling. For this activity, there are flippers, masks and snorkels in the yacht, but it is advisable to bring your own equipment to avoid any inconveniences.
This, along with San Cristobal is the arrival port to the Islands. Here is the first Airport of Galapagos, where you will be received by one of our guides and driven to your previously chosen yacht.
With an area of 986 Km2, this is the second largest island of the Archipelago. Its highest point, Crocker Hill, goes up to 864 Mts. above sea level. Its principal city is Puerto Ayora, which is the place with the main economic activity, and also the center for tourism in Galapagos. Here functions The National Park's office, as well as the Charles Darwin Scientific Station , where you can visit the Van Straelen Exhibition Center and the incubation and raising of the Giant tortoises, where you will observe the baby tortoises before their repatriation to their natural habitat, and you will also meet Lonesome George, the only survivor of the Pinta Island subspecies.
Another interesting site is Tortuga Bay, a beautiful beach surrounded by mangroves where you can observe sharks, Manta rays, marine iguanas and several sea birds. Beaches such as this one, surrounded by nature, and without the track of humans, are the example of the unrivalled beauty of Galapagos.
Bachas are two adjacent white sand beaches, where people can swim and practice snorkel. In a close by lagoon, you can watch flamingos. Black Turtle Cove is a salt-water lagoon surrounded by different mangrove species and in its quiet crystal clear waters you can observe marine turtles, sharks and rays.
Lava tunnels, of more than a kilometer in length, were made by the solidification of the surface of a lava flow. When the flow stops, the liquid lava inside keeps on flowing, leaving the exterior surface solidified and forming the tunnels.
Here you can watch land iguanas, in a small Opuntia cactus forest. A trail will take you, from the sea lion colony, to the cliffs, where you can observe sea birds, such as frigates, Swallow tail gulls, boobies, red billed tropic birds, pelicans, and so on.
This is the perfect place for marine bird watching, like blue footed boobies, frigates, swallow tailed gulls, all of these nesting in season. The sound, the variety of their activities, the colonies sizes, is part of one of the most fascinating experiences in Galapagos. In the other side of the Island, you will be able to see sea lions, playing with the waves, which afterwards crash against the rocks that are covered with marine Iguanas.
This is the most photographed island in the Archipelago, and its pictures are the most shown next to Galapagos' name. In fact, a walk through an unusual lava landscape, and then up some wooden stairs, will take you to the top, from where the view is more spectacular than what the images suggest. There is a beautiful crescent shaped beach where you can snorkel among the endemic penguins from Galapagos, marine turtles and tropical fish schools.
Puerto Egas is one of the most popular sites of the islands. There is a wet landing on a black sand beach and then the walk goes along the shore, where black lava formations, tide pools, caves and entries will captivate you with their shapes and colors, and so will the wildlife you will find in this place. Big marine iguana colonies feed from green seaweed that contrast above the black lava from the shores, next to the red Sally light foot crabs that attract lava herons which are their predators. At the end of the road you will meet a colony of fur seals, and walking to the interior you can always see some Darwin's finches, large billed fly catchers, Galapagos doves, Galapagos mockingbirds, dark billed cuckoos and the Galapagos Hawk. The most interesting lava formations are at the other side of the island, at Sullivan Bay. Here you can see Pahoe-hoe lava formations, tree-trunk molds and lava bubbles on the surface. A fabulous place for those interested in Vulcanology.
This volcanic Island has a cone shape that resembles a Chinese hat. In it you can find several marine iguanas and often penguins. There are also opportunities of snorkeling, and swimming in the canal, with sea lions. Also you will see hawks and interesting lava flows.
In this island you can enjoy the observation of pelicans nesting at the end of a beach of unusual red sand, where a sea lion colony calmly rests. A short walk will take you to a lagoon where there can be found a few flamingos and pintail ducks. In this Island nine species of Darwin finches inhabit.
After landing on a beach next to a sea lion colony, a short walk will bring you to one of the widest Opuntia cactus forest in the Islands. Here you will find Cacti of close to 10 m. in height. You will also see a different land Iguana species, endemic to Santa Fe, as well as rice rats, also endemic.
This is the smallest island inhabited by humans in the Archipelago. The visit to Post Office Bay can be interesting for those who are interested on the human history of the Islands. One of the most interesting places of the island is Punta Cormorant, with its green beach due to olivine crystals. A short walk takes you to a lagoon where you can see flamingos next to a few other wading birds. A spectacular place to snorkel and dive is the Devil's Crown, the top of a partially submerged volcano that resembles a black crown. Over the tops of the rocks that emerge from the sea, red-billed tropicbirds and Audubon Shearwaters are nesting. Under the water you will find thousands of colorful fish, rays and coral formations.
One of the most interesting places, and one of the best in the whole archipelago, is Punta Suarez, where you will be able to see a subspecies of marine iguanas with red and green spots, endemic to Española. You will also see the blue feet boobies and the masked boobies, Hood Mockingbirds also endemic to Española; swallow tailed gulls, oystercatchers, red-billed tropicbirds, but the most relevant attraction is doubtlessly the Waved Albatross Colony, a species also endemic to Española. Gardner Bay is one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the Islands, with excellent opportunities of swimming and snorkeling around the nearby small, rocky islands.
The second largest town is also the Province Capital: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The Galapaguera, Cerro Brujo, Punta Pitt and Turtle Bay are places that can be visited and where you will find giant tortoises, flamingos and the 3 types of Galapagos boobies nesting together.
This is one of the most intact islands against human presence, due maybe to the distance. Prince Philip's steps is an ideal place for bird lovers, because here you will find a large colony of red foot boobies, masked boobies, frigates, red-billed tropicbirds, storm petrels, swallow-tailed gulls, Galapagos doves, lava gulls, Darwin's finches and short eared owls. Darwin Bay is the semi submerged crater of what once was the caldera of a volcano; a coral beach with sea lions make it a perfect place for swimming, snorkeling and diving, where you can even get to see hammerhead sharks.
This island doesn't have open visitor sites, but there are great diving places on its surroundings.
This is the largest Island on the Archipelago, and it's made by five active volcanoes, one of which, Wolf, is the highest point in the Galapagos. There is also a sixth volcano from which only half of it is left, suggesting an impressive volcanic disaster in bygone eras.
Among the west side of the island we have Tagus Cove, right in front of Fernandina, where the first sailors frequently anchored, and left their ships names painted in the rocks. A boat excursion around the cliffs will let you see Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants, pelicans and boobies. There are also good snorkel possibilities. Bahia Urbina is formed by an uplift of the bottom of the sea in 1954. You will find here flightless cormorants, pelicans, penguins, blue-footed boobies and marine and land iguanas, as well as Alcedo tortoises, if you get lucky. At the bay you will find rays and sea turtles.
A little more to the south, at Elizabeth bay, you will be able to snorkel, and dive, you will also find rays and sea turtles, a dinghy ride on the hidden lagoons will give you the opportunity to observe dozens of sea turtles on a pristine and peaceful environment. After this, still on the dinghy, a trip around the "Marielas", where penguins roost and nest.
To the southeast lies Punta Moreno, where one lands on an impressive lava flow, and there can be found several species of pioneering plants. Walking on this flow will take you to several sunken brackish water ponds, with moor hens, pin tailed ducks, frigates, pelicans, and occasionally flamingoes and pied bill grebes.
At the south easternmost point lies Puerto Villamil, which is surrounded by the largest and most beautiful brackish water lagoons, flanked by dense vegetation, and is probably the best place in the Galapagos to observe lagoon birds and where more than twenty species of migrant waders have been seen.
This island has remained almost intact in the face of man's presence in the archipelago, due to it's remoteness, making it probably the most pristine Island in the Galapagos, where at least up until today, no introduced species are found. Volcanically, this island is the most active and it's very young volcanic landscapes are impressive. Here you can find formations of pahoe-hoe and aa lava, which gives you an idea of how everything started in this planet. The only visitor's site is Punta Espinosa, where one can see on the shores, the largest concentrations of marine iguanas in the Archipelago, as well as flightless cormorants, sea lions, penguins, sally lightfoot crabs, lava lizards, hawks, and mangrove forests.
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