Floreana Island has the most interesting human history of the Galapagos Islands. It is where the first “post office” was established in 1793 by whalers, and it was the home to the first Galapagos resident — a bold Irishman named Patrick Watkins who lived there from 1807-1809. Floreana was the first island to be colonized by Ecuadorians in 1832 when a a penal colony was established, which didn’t last long because of the lack of fresh water. A fish canning plant was established there by Norwegian immigrants in 1924. A few years later, Friedrich Ritter, a German doctor, arrived with his female companion Dore Strauch. Later a pregnant Margret Wittmer, her husband Heinz and her son Harry arrived in 1932. Floreana is most well-known for being the site of several mysterious disappearances in the 1930s — the one receiving the most attention being that of a supposed Austrian baroness, who had arrived with her three servants shortly after the Wittmers. Nowadays, the majority of Floreana inhabitants make their living by farming and with tourism. There are approximately 120 inhabitants, almost all of them living in the small village of Puerto Velasco Ibarra. The main water source for Floreana is a natural pond that fills up with rain water during the rainy season. Transportation to and from Floreana is very limited.
Full day tour starting from Pto. Ayora (Sta. Cruz)This day tour to Floreana Island starts at 6:30 AM with a short walk to the pier of Puerto Ayora, from where a local aquatic taxi will take us to the first class Galapagos Element Wind Speed Yacht with which we will start sailing to the small town of Puerto Velasco Ibarra located on Floreana Island. With little luck and during the navigation, we may be able to observe marine turtles, manta rays, several species of marine birds and perhaps whales. Once we arrive at Pto. Velasco Ibarra, a local water taxi will transport us from the speed boat to the pier of the town.
There, we will have great chances to meet sea lions and marine iguanas enjoying the morning sun! Then, we will take a local transportation known as “Chiva” and start a 30 minute ride up to the highlands of Floreana Island. The chiva will ascend following a mud road surrounded by typical dry vegetation of the coastal area. Later, as we ascend, it will transform into a lush, green vegetation. In this area, we also find some farms with plantations of bananas, coffee, cocoa, and other tropical plantations. Our short drive will end at the “pampada” from where we start a nice walk that permits us to observe the typical flora of the area. On our way, we will also encounter some giant Galapagos tortoises. They are very sensible and shy, so when we approach them, they will immediately hide into their carapaces.
It is very important not to touch or feed these amazing animals. Our walk will continue until we reach a rocky area at base of the hill and where we find the place known as “Asilo de la Paz” (Peace Asylum), a historical place where the German Wittmer family settled down when they arrived to Floreana in 1932. During our walk we will observe the caves they used as their home before moving to the place which is now known as Puerto Velasco Ibarra. The whole ambiance of Asilo de la Paz is of complete tranquility, with a landscape of exuberant green vegetation, and if weather permits, we can enjoy awesome views of the surrounding hills and perhaps of the Pacific Ocean. After this visit, we descend to the point where we meet the chiva which will transport us back to town where we will enjoy a lunch prepared in a small, local restaurant.
After a short rest, we go for a 1 km walk to the place known as “La Loberia”, a bay of beautiful scenery. The main attraction of this place is the presence of a small colony of sea lions (Zalophus Wollebacki). There is also a great chance to observe marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus Cristatus) resting on the rocky areas. In the water of the bay we will be able to observe marine turtles (Chelonia Midas Agazzisi). We will also have time to spend snorkeling, or just taking pictures and then we return to for some free time before boarding our Galapagos Element Wind Speed Yacht for our navigation back to the city of Puerto Ayora.