Located in the southern part of the Galápagos archipelago, known for its diverse wildlife and pristine landscapes, Floreana Island boasts an unconventional postal system that draws visitors into a unique experience. While the Galápagos are renowned for sea lions and penguins, Floreana Island's post office stands out as a historic and peculiar attraction, allowing tourists to become carriers in one of the world's most extraordinary and uninhabited locales.
Long before the Galápagos became a haven for ecotourists, it served as a crucial stopover for 18th-century whalers navigating the vast oceans. Homesick sailors, weary from months or years at sea, devised an ingenious postal system on Floreana Island. They erected a barrel and left their letters, creating a makeshift post office for passing ships to deliver. Captain David Porter's 1813 account mentions the post office, describing a crew member retrieving papers from a box with a black sign reading "Hathaway’s Postoffice."
This unconventional mail delivery system persisted over the years. Fishermen, two decades later, documented bottling notes for transport back to America by fishing vessels. This tradition continued, intertwined with the consumption of giant sea tortoises, which, sadly, led to their depletion by the time Charles Darwin arrived in 1835.
Today, Post Office Bay continues to witness the passage of thousands of letters through its historic postal system. The simple wooden barrel, possibly originating from the 1890s, is adorned with notes and mementos left by travelers—transforming it into a kind of glorified birdhouse. Visiting vessels from around the world have replaced the original barrel, and driftwood bearing painted names and dates surrounds the site, commemorating the deliveries of letters from times long past.
Tour groups frequently make a stop at Floreana Island to explore ancient lava caves and participate in the unique post office tradition. Visitors sift through the letters, picking up those headed near their final destinations. The charm lies in the opportunity to hand-deliver or mail the letters, with tour guides asserting that slapping a stamp and dropping it in a mailbox is akin to cheating. This playful nod to the past connects modern travelers to the seafaring whalers who initiated this distinctive postal system centuries ago.
There are several yachts that include the Post Office bay in their itineraries, here are few of our favourites at Voyagers travel:
In essence, the Galápagos' Post Office Bay stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of human connection, turning a simple barrel into a symbol of communication that transcends time and continues to captivate those who venture to this remote island.