A Galapagos cruise gives you a wildlife experience quite unlike anything else on earth. Much of the flora and fauna found on the islands is unique, and remarkable, because species have evolved to suit the harsh, remote Galapagos environment. Here’s our brief guide to the most popular native species found on the islands.
Tortoises are the namesake of the Galapagos Islands: galápago means tortoise in Spanish. There are 15 known species of giant tortoises native to the Galapagos Islands, four of which are now extinct.
You’ll find sea lions pretty much everywhere – on the beaches, in the ocean, sunbathing on fishing boats in the harbours and even snoozing on benches. These mammals have never been seriously threatened by humans and love to interact. They swim right up to snorkellers, playfully darting around. It’s one of the few places in the world that such encounters are so readily available and a highlight for many tourists.
Found nowhere else on Earth, these are the only sea-faring lizards in the world. They’re around most islands, usually seen on coastal rocks, warming up their cold-blooded bodies. As with giant tortoises, each island has separate subspecies.
The Galapagos is home to roughly half the breeding pairs of all blue-footed boobies and you can see them all over the archipelago – but the best places to find them on land are North Seymour and Española. The males’ blue feet play a big role in the mating ritual, in which they strut around, showcasing their bright webbed feet to prospective partners – the bluer the feet, the more attractive they are to females (the colour is linked to how well fed the male is).
The endemic Galapagos penguins are the only penguins that live on the equator and the second smallest species in the world. Most of them live in the western part of the Galapagos, on Fernandina Island and Isabela, but you can also see them pottering about on the rocks before it gets too hot or darting through the water around Bartholomew.
There are five frigate species in the world and two of them are found in the Galapagos: the great frigate and the magnificent frigate. Frigates are known as ‘the pirates of the sky’, due to their diet of stolen food, which they bully other birds into regurgitating; they can’t get their feathers wet, so they’re unable to dive for their own catch. The males have a distinctive mating display, puffing up a large bright red sack under their bill to impress the females.