Galapagos Islands & Ecuador

Galapagos: What to Expect / Highlights

South Plaza Island & Santa Fe Island

South Plaza Island is the southern partner of two small crescent-shaped islands that lie just a few hundred meters off the east coast of Santa Cruz Island. The northern island is used for scientific purposes only. South Plaza is one of the smallest yet richest islands in the Galapagos Archipelago. Only 426 feet wide, it was formed from uplifted seabed, giving it a titled tabletop quality. The turquoise waters of the channel contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. South Plaza Island, although quite small, is actually home to a large Opuntia cacti forest, land iguanas and one of the largest sea lion colonies in the central region of the archipelago. An endemic plant, Sesuvium, inhabits this island and is a great climate indicator as its color is a greenish-yellowish during the rainy season and a bright red during the dry season. You will also be able to see Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, and other kinds of sea birds as well as different types of finches.

Santa Fe Island in the Galapagos was formed from an uplift (rather than a volcano) giving the island a relatively flat surface rather than the typical conical shape of the other islands. Santa Fe Island is home to a number of endemic species including: Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Mockingbird, sea-lion colonies, and the largest of the Galapagos land iguanas.

Cerro Brujo

Go swimming, snorkeling and enjoy panga rides. Cerro Brujo's gorgeous beach is also home to many sea lions and it's also the first coast on which Charles Darwin first stepped foot in the Galapagos!

Floreana Island

Floreana is one of the Galapagos most famous, or shall we say, "infamous" of islands due to many strange stories regarding past settlers. There are many diverse sites to visit including Post Office Bay and the "Baroness's Viewing Point". Marine life also abounds in Floreana's coastal regions making it a fantastic site for snorkeling. Flamingos also populate the island and may be seen during your visit. The Baroness's Viewing Point is the perfect place to take in the special scenery that defines Floreana, and a great spot to learn about the mysteries of Floreana's early settlers. In the 18th century whalers passing through the islands placed a wooden barrel on Floreana Island for use as an unofficial mail box. The tradition continues today as visitors leave addressed postcards in the barrel and sort through left mail to deliver at home. This is one of the archipelago's most famous spots. For adventurous guests, there is an option for a visit inside a lava tunnel. This tunnel has been kept untouched and completely natural.

Sabela Island / Elizabeth Bay & Punta Moreno

Take a panga ride through the Elizabeth Bay mangroves on Isabela Island. It is a wonderful mangrove ecosystem that is a refuge for sea turtles, rays, blue-footed boobies, penguins, herons and more. Moreno Point is located just southwest of Elizabeth Bay on the west coast of Isabela Island. Observe and learn about different types of lava and pioneer plants while being surrounded by some of the most incredible scenery that Galapagos has to offer. In the tide pools green sea turtles or white-tip sharks can be spotted.

Santa Cruz Island / Baltra

This is where the Charles Darwin Research Station is located, where Ecuadorian and foreign scientists conduct research and design conservation projects for the Galapagos terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station operate a tortoise breeding center here, where young tortoises are hatched, reared, and prepared to be introduced to their natural habitat. Here you can see the young chelenoids in all stages of development, and learn how, amazingly, the animal's sex can be determined by the temperature at which its egg is stored. Lonesome George, the Islands' most famous resident, lives here. Lonesome George, or Solitario Jorge, was discovered on the island of Pinta in 1971 by a Hungarian naturalist. The island's vegetation had largely been destroyed by non-native farm animals introduced by human settlers, and only one Pinta tortoise was found still alive. And so Lonesome George was brought to the Station and has lived there to this day. Despite many years of searching, and a $10,000 reward for finding one, no other Pinta Island tortoise has ever been found, making George--who has been unsuccessful at procreating-- perhaps the rarest creature on earth.