Darwin Island - Galapagos

Far out Island surrounded by the rich Galapagos marine reserve

Darwin Island is one of the smallest isles that the Galapagos Archipelago holds, at barely 1 sq km, also famously known by its English name, the Culpepper. The present name has been bestowed on it in honor of one of its most famous visitors, Charles Darwin.

A spectacular piece of an eroded volcano that glorifies the beauty of the Pacific Ocean like none other, this isle rises right from the depths of the ocean, vertically, and is visited by many varieties of sea-birds throughout the year like the Darwin Mockingbird, the Swallow-tailed gulls, the Masked boobies and the Red-footed boobies.

Although Darwin island has gathered a good number of years on its back (4 million years approximately), it was visited for the first time not before 1964, first by a helicopter, and then a 3-hour boat journey from the Isla Wolf. This trip, till today, is often a highlight in the tour agenda of many dive visitors traveling to Galapagos Islands, especially for those who are drawn by the mesmerizing aquatic life underwater.

No land visiting facilities exist in this isle as it does not really have a cut-out access for visitors. You can view the exoticness of the island from aboard your yacht itself, which, travelers to the place say is nothing less than a once-in-a-lifetime visual treat.

Also known as the “best dive site” in the whole world, the isle is noted for underwater revelry. A must-visit spot for Scuba divers, Darwin contains a plethora of exotic sea mortals in its depth. The list includes Deep Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Spotted Morays, Eagle Rays, the Galapagos shark, the Scalloped hammerhead shark, Reef fish, Manta Rays and the Whale Shark (seasonally). The Albino Whale Shark is also seen here, but rarely. Rainbow colored fishes like the Sailfish, the Scorpionfish, the Hogfish, the Parrotfish and the Trumpetfish are also found to populate the waters of the Pacific surrounding the isle.

The Darwin’s Arch has great dive-sites on the north-eastern and south-eastern barnacle layered elevations of it, which are believed to be the best in the world even by the most famous of scuba divers of the time.  This is, however, an expert scuba diving location as the waves here are voluminous and there are strong underwater currents to tackle as well. Strong & quick-changing currents in the water here extend a unique diving experience every time you take a dip. Water temperature in the northern isles is colder than its southern counterparts.

Darwin Island: Tours and Excursions Description

It is important to emphasize: You can only visit Darwin Island and this northern part of the archipelago on a Galapagos liveaboard diving cruise

  • The Arch at Darwin Island teaming with bird life is splendid from the surface, but when you get underwater and see what’s beneath it, you’ll have a hard time deciding which side is more magnificent.
  • Dolphins skim across the surface following the pangas to the dive site. When you get into the water you’ll immediately be greeted by hammerheads. Lots of hammerheads, sometimes so many that you can’t count them all. They swim gracefully over the reef sometimes slowing down to be cleaned by King Angelfish. At times you could reach out and touch them, but spooked by the diver’s bubbles, they will quickly turn away, startling everything else around them (including the other drivers!).
  • The arch sits on a plateau just below the surface. The barnacle covered wall drops off to the deeper ocean around it and seems to be the gathering area for every fish in the neighborhood. Creole fish, rainbow chub, bigeye jacks, Moorish idols all swirl in a mystical maze. A large school of jacks hangs at the surface, so thick it looks like a black cloud. Large green spotted eels swim freely across the reefs. So many that you must be cautious not to get too close to the rocks. On the ridge, you’ll find blue striped snappers, coronet fish, and trumpetfish as well as a large parrotfish. In the rubble on the bottom watch for large flounders. Whale sharks have also been spotted here.
  • Because the arch is very much unprotected, the surface can be rough. Strong, quickly changing currents are common here. Differences from one dive to the other can make this dive interesting enough to do many times. The water temperature at Darwin is warmer than in the southern islands by at least several degrees.

Recommended itineraries that visit Darwin Island

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Frequently Asked Questions

What animals live on Darwin Island?

Darwin Island is home to a wide variety of wildlife on both land and in its waters. Divers will be thrilled by the island's diverse shark population, including scalloped hammerheads and whale sharks. The island is home to colonies of land and marine Iguanas as well as frigatebirds and swallow-tailed geese. The vibrant community of sea lions and fur seals is also home to Galapagos Penguins. Darwin Island's unique setting and conservation efforts make it a great place to see a wide variety of animals that have evolved to live in this remote, pristine habitat.

How to get to Darwin Island?

Typically, to reach Darwin Island, most travelers will fly into Ecuador and land in Quito or Guayaquil. Domestic flights will take travelers to Baltra and San Cristobal, the main Galapagos Islands airports. You must take a multi-day liveaboard, which is known for its itineraries that explore the Galapagos Islands and Darwin Island. It is important to prepare well, adhere to Galapagos National Park rules, and understand your itinerary. Darwin Island is home to a wide variety of marine life and birds, including hammerhead sharks, red-footed boobies, and other species. The journey is characterized by responsible tourism, environmental protection, and respect for the environment.

Why is Darwin Island off limits?

Darwin Island and several other Galapagos islands have restricted access to protect their fragile, extraordinary ecosystems. The regulations protect the unique species of animals, breeding areas, and plants that have developed in isolation on the Galapagos Islands and can be disrupted by humans. Controlling access is a way for authorities to stop habitat destruction and the introduction and disruption of wildlife. The Galapagos Islands are committed to sustainable tourism, conservation of the natural and cultural resources of the islands, and a commitment towards the preservation of the Galapagos Islands. This is why they have adopted this approach.

Can you stay on Darwin Island?

Darwin Island is not a place where visitors can stay overnight. It is not possible to stay overnight on Darwin Island because it's a protected area that lacks infrastructure or accommodations for tourists. Darwin Island is best explored by liveaboards, which offer diving or day excursions on the island. Overnight stays are usually spent in inhabited Galapagos islands. The regulations were put in place to protect the fragile ecosystems on the Galapagos Islands and reduce human impact. If you are planning to return soon, please check with local tour operators or the Galapagos National Park Authority for updates and changes.

Where is Darwin Island?

Darwin Island is also called Isla Darwin by Spanish speakers. It's one of the Galapagos Islands. The island is situated in the Pacific Ocean about 0.75 miles (0.12 km) northwest of Wolf Island. Galapagos Islands is part of Ecuador, located in the eastern Pacific Ocean approximately 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) west of Ecuador's mainland. The Galapagos Islands are famous for the unique wildlife that they have. They played an important role in Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution.

What country is Darwin Island in?

Darwin Island is a part of the Galapagos Islands. This archipelago in the Pacific Ocean is located on the Pacific Ocean. Galapagos Islands is a part of Ecuador. Darwin Island, therefore, is located in Ecuador. Charles Darwin was a famous naturalist who conducted research on the islands during the nineteenth century. This contributed to Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection.