San Cristobal Island is the fifth largest island in the Galapagos and lies farthest East. It is where Darwin first landed back in 1835 and where the first permanent settlements were founded. Today the main port Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the capital of the Galapagos province and houses many government offices, the Ecuadorian Navy, and an airport with daily flights to the mainland of Ecuador. Conservation challenges the island faces include invasive plants like blackberry and guayaba and insects like the blackfly.
Lobos Island is an islet about an hour away from San Cristobal. Blue-footed boobies will nest here seasonally. In recent years frigate birds have begun to nest here. Sea lions are abundant, as well as marine iguanas. It is a very calm and tranquil site with beautiful views, including Kicker Rock off in the distance.
La Galapaguera, this Interpretation Center has been open to the public since 1998 and offers extensive information about the history of Galapagos, all ecosystems, geology, and flora and fauna. Giant tortoises are also bred here by the center and roam about in a semi-natural habitat created by the centers’ employees. Within the center are meeting rooms, interpretational panels, auditoriums, exhibits, and much more.
In Espanola Island lies the southernmost island in the Galapagos, as well as the oldest. It is estimated to be about four million years old Because it is so far away from the other islands it has the most endemic species. It is a wonderful opportunity for some great photography of endemic bird species that are found only on Espanola and awesome landscapes created by millions of years of erosion.
Gardner Bay is one of the best beaches in the Galapagos. The white sandy beach is home to a large colony of friendly and playful sea lions. Three different types of finches can be seen. The Espanola Mockingbird is very friendly, but probably looking for food. At one point in time, tourists must have given it water or food, which taught them bad habits. The site is also where green sea turtles will come to nest their eggs between January and March.
Suarez Point is a phenomenal site where you will get to see many of Espanola Island’s endemic species. The trail will pass by the only Waved Albatross breeding site. If you are lucky you might see a young albatross take off for its first flight for up to five years at sea. Older birds stay at sea for months at a time, only coming back to breed. They have the same mate for life and will meet each other each year, only here to reproduce. Other species that can be seen are marine iguanas that stay brightly colored year round, Galapagos doves, Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropic birds, and Darwin finches.
Floreana Island is one of the most interesting when it comes to human history. The first Galapagos resident was an Irishman who lived on Floreana from 1807 to 1809. It is the site of the first post office within the islands created by whalers in the 1700’s. Later it became the first island to be colonized by Ecuadorians, but to this day is still very isolated. Surrounded by mystery, in the 1930’s various disappearances occurred and is thought to be because of tension between a baroness and her three servants who arrived after an already settled husband and wife, who gave birth to the first to be born in Galapagos and another couple of a doctor and female companion who lived of the land from their garden. The small population of today lives off the land with homegrown farms and gets their water from rain-filled ponds during the rainy season. There is one hotel with the only phone in the port of Velasco Ibarra where most residents live, the rest live up in the highlands. Transportation is limited and is only available every two weeks.
Cormorant Point is another fun and interesting visitor site. Two beaches can be visited and flamingoes can be seen wading through brackish lagoons looking for shrimp, which gives them their bright and vibrant colors. One of the beaches look green because of olivine crystals and the other is appropriately called Flour Beach a powdery white, made from fine pulverized coral.
Devil’s Crown is a visitor site that boasts the best snorkeling opportunities. Below the surface are amazing volcanic structures that have submerged over time. Hundreds of different colorful fish species can be found here among the coral reefs. Sharks, rays, sea turtles, hammer head sharks and sea lions are also common visitors. It is an underwater spectacle that cannot be missed.
Post Office Bay is a completely human influential site, Post Office Bay is the first official post office created by passing whalers in the 1700’s. To this day visitors continue the tradition as many leave addressed messages on post cards in the barrel to be sent by future visitors while picking up post cards left behind by previous visitors to send when they return home. It is a fun exchangeable activity many visitors enjoy.
On the northern part of the island, Baroness Lookout Point has a beautiful landscape and historic view. It was named after the supposed Austrian Baroness that was the subject of many mysterious disappearances and well-known stories of loathing by those on Floreana.
Charles Darwin Research Station conducts many different research projects and provides assistance to other researchers and governmental institutions and agencies, especially the Galapagos National Park. Many of the results are later published online, in magazines, and popular scientific journals. The research station also plays a big part in educating the community and public schools in Galapagos. There is also the longtime running Giant Tortoise restoration program that includes various stages of the giant tortoise from eggs, hatchlings and adults.
The Highlands of Santa Cruz is a very interesting site due to the rich wildlife, hills, ferns, volcanoes and lava tubes present. Exploring the lava tubes is a surreal and unique experience. Here you can see all the different agricultural zones that are present in the Galapagos in one place. The variety of birds makes this a bird watchers delight.
Santiago Island is the second Island visited by Charles Darwin was originally named after England’s King James the second. The island was a good source of salt, water, and food for whalers and buccaneers passing. There was a salt mine inland that was used to salt fish and tortoise meat. Land iguanas used to populate the island but are now extinct. From Darwin’s own notes he wrote that land iguanas were thriving quite well since there was no place to even pitch a tent. Santiago Island today is now one of the most visited islands.
Sullivan Bay is a satellite island of Santiago. This is one of the best places to see the Galapagos fur seal. There is not much wildlife to see here, but the old lava formations are quite a site to see with tuff cones, pyroclastic cones, and other volcanic landscapes.
Bartolome Island is another satellite island that derives from Santiago Island. It is home of the famous Pinnacle Rock and is named after James Sullivan, a friend of Charles Darwin who was also aboard the HMS Beagle. Of all the islands, this is the most photographed and is also featured in the 2003 movie “Master and Commander”.
Pinnacle rock is a volcano cone formed by magma expelled by an underwater volcano. The sea cooled the hot lava and as it exploded from contact, the pieces formed together this huge rock of many, many layers of basalt. The huge rock also has a beach where a small population of green sea turtles will nest. Galapagos penguins gather here and swimming can offer beautiful sights of colorful schools of fish and curious sea lions.
Genovesa Island is a horseshoe-shaped island was formed by the eruption of a shield volcano with large slopes formed by gradual lava flows. It is known as “Bird Island” due to the wide variety of birds that can be seen. The only reptile on the entire island is the marine iguana and it is one of the very few places red-footed boobies gather in one large mass.
Darwin Bay is the result of the shield volcano where one of the sides of the caldera collapsed after years of erosion. It is one of the places in the Galapagos where red-footed boobies can be guaranteed to be seen. Over 200,000 red-footed boobies are estimated to be living in the trees and bushes of Genovesa.
El Barranco is better known as Prince Phillip’s Steps, a steep and rocky path leads up to a cliff with a marvelous view. There is also a Palo Santa forest that is home to nesting red-footed boobies and other birds.
Egas port is also known as James Bay. It is home to quick-footed Galapagos lava lizards, Galapagos fur seals along the grottos and tide pools and is a great snorkeling site.
Buccaneer Cove is better known for excellent snorkeling opportunities and was once known as a refuge for British buccaneers or pirates. The underwater formations are amazing and many different species of fish gather here.
We will also visit Espumilla Beach where marine iguanas lounge and the Sally-Lightfoot crabs attract the hunting herons and perform the dance of predator and prey right before your eyes. Snorkeling is highly recommended as you could find yourself face to face with an octopus, moray eel, shark, or a variety of other species of tropical fish.
In Carrion Point, there is no place to land here so either a panga ride or snorkeling will take place. It is a sheltered lagoon with beautiful turquoise water on the Northern coast of Santa Cruz at the entrance of the Itabaca Channel.
Your cruise has officially come to an end. We hope you enjoyed your Galapagos Cruise! We will now transfer you to your scheduled departure from Baltra Airport to mainland Ecuador. Safe travels!