Where to Spot Galapagos Wildlife
Galapagos is known for their amazing wildlife and if you’ve made that conscious decision to spend quite a bit of money to visit these magical islands, then I am sure you’re excited and looking forward to seeing these incredible animals!
During our trip to Galapagos, unlike most travellers who visited the islands on luxury cruises, we chose to do it on our own to save money, therefore, the number of islands we got to see was very limited. Nonetheless, we were still able to see 25 different types of animals so if you’re planning to travel like we did… no worries…I guarantee you will still see plenty!!
Based on my experience, I’ve come up with a list of all the animals we saw and the best locations to spot them. Of course, animals are unpredictable so it really depends on your luck but hopefully these will give you a better idea of where to start! And for those outdoor enthusiasts who were fortunate enough to experience these incredible islands, feel free to leave comments below on where you think is the best places to see these animals!
Giant Galapagos Tortoise
- Where: El Chato Reserve; Tortoise Breeding Center on Isabela Island; Charles Darwin Research Station at Puerto Ayora
I’m sure one of the main reasons you want to go to Galapagos is to see Giant Tortoises and me, just like all of you, that was definitely one of my most anticipated animals to look out for! The number 1 place to see them is definitely El Chato Reserve! We came across several tortoises throughout our visit but the most amazing experience of all was walking alongside a 180 year old Giant Tortoise! It literally felt like I was walking next to a dinosaur! What’s also nice about this place is the tortoises are free to roam the lands (I guess up to a certain extent) but at least you don’t see them inside a fenced area!
The Tortoise Breeding Center on Isabela was also pretty neat. We saw baby tortoises munching away and several types of different species of adult ones. Here are some videos of our visit:
Finally, you can also see a few of them in captivity at the Charles Darwin Research Center. There’s also a couple of baby ones too!
- Where: North Seymour Island; Las Tintoreras on Isabela Island
If you want to be 1 meter away from these adorable blue-footed boobies then make no mistake and book a trip to North Seymour Island!! When we went in April, we were lucky to see 3 of them in total but they were not scared of us at all so we were able to watch them up close without really disturbing them. One woman wanted to take picture of a female and male booby but she approached it too much and scared the male. Luckily for us, the little guy started walking and it was the most adorable walk EVER! See how cute he is!
If you can’t make it to North Seymour Island, then you might be able to catch some from a distance when you go on a dingy ride at Las Tintoreras when visiting Isabela Island. Unfortunately, you’d only be able to see them from afar but it was amazing to see them diving into the water to catch their prey. They looked like arrows piercing through the air into the water… definitely very different than the silly looking bird they’ve always been perceived as!
- Where: North Seymour Island
If you’re hoping to see Frigates up close, North Seymour Island is your place to go! You visit the island by walking through a looped trail which allows us to walk through Frigates’ nesting area. The trail literally passes right through this breeding area so you can see nests arm distances away from you! With our naturalist guide providing us information on these birds, It really felt like we were watching a Discovery Channel documentary Live! See for yourself here:
As shown in the video above, we saw male Frigates doing their mating dance right in front of us. We also got to see baby Frigates squawking for food and their mommies trying to regurgitate!
- Where: Puerto Ayora Port
You would assume a bustling port with tourists arriving and departing from all different islands would scare all animals away but surprisingly, it’s one of the best places to see them! On one of the last days in Galapagos, we were sitting along the port in the afternoon and all of a sudden, I noticed several paper looking objects moving very close to shore…and lo and behold, a school of golden rays surfaced right in front of us! They were circling around the area so we followed it around. They’re such beautiful creatures!
- Where: North Seymour Island; Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora
On our day trip to North Seymour Island, we were able to see 2 land iguanas, one was just lying there but the other one was munching leaves. These reptiles are known to have little motion to preserve energy so we were lucky to see one in action!
Another location to see land iguanas are in Charles Darwin Research Station. When we visited in April 2015, there were 2 fat iguanas in captivity sleeping in a fenced area. They weren’t doing much but it was one of the first animals we saw right after we arrived in Galapagos, therefore, I was still very excited!!
- Where: Tortuga Bay; pretty much everywhere there’s water
The first animal we saw in Galapagos was a marine iguana. We were on our way to Charles Darwin Research Station and at the entrance, there was a small beach and there it was, a marine iguana right in front of us! We were so happy to see this exotic creature! However, from that moment on, we saw them so often that they weren’t that special anymore! Lol
If you love reptiles and would love to see more of these creatures, a great place to see groups of these marine iguanas is at Tortuga Bay. If you walk past the huge white sand beach for surfers only, there is a patch of land fenced off for marine iguanas to rest. Look! We even took a nice little nap next to them!
- Where: Diving/Snorkeling near North Seymour Island
I’ve never done scuba diving before so instead of following everyone else, I was snorkeling along the sides of our boat. The water was a bit cloudy but I still managed to see some tropical fish swimming underneath me. I took a break and went back on board and that’s when the captain of the ship signaled me to come to the top deck as he spotted a few hammerhead sharks fairly close to our boat. Since they stayed mostly in the water, I was only able to see the outline of them but nonetheless, I was able to recognize them! The divers, on the other hand, saw some white-tipped sharks but no hammerheads. I did rub it in their face a little as I mentioned my special encounter with them! 🙂
- Where: Fisherman Wharf in Puerto Ayora; North Seymour Island; Port at Isabela Island; Port at Puerto Ayora
The best place to spot sea lions is without a doubt at the Puerto Ayora Fisherman Wharf! We saw sea lions stealing fish from fishermen, walking up the stairs, begging for food…they were adorable!! Watch the videos below to see them in action!
We also saw some baby sea lions with their mommies on a beach on North Seymour Island. There was one baby trying to eat sand….so cute!
Another great location to see sea lions are at ports. We saw many when we arrived at Isabela Island and at the Puerto Ayora Port. They love sleeping on benches so you can definitely find them sleeping there!
- Where: Isabela Island
When we took a dingy ride towards Las Tintoreras during our day trip to Isabela, we passed by several groups of penguins. They were mostly standing on the rocks or jumping off them. Unfortunately, we were only able to observe them from a distance but nonetheless, it was still a great sight to see the only species of penguins who live in the northern hemisphere!
- Where: Garrapatero Beach on Santa Cruz
We were planning a relaxing day in Galapagos so we decided to go to Garrapatero Beach. The beach was GORGEOUS and on top of that, we practically had the whole beach to ourselves! We swam for a bit and decided to tan and enjoy the sun. All of a sudden, we noticed little red dots appearing on the beach in front of us and moments later, they would disappear. As we looked more carefully, we noticed these creatures had little googly eyes with one claw bigger than the other. Their little claws would rotate in circular motion to create tiny sand balls…really cute! Any sort of disturbance will cause them to go back into their hole so we were lucky to see them since the beach was so quiet!
- Where: Port of Puerto Ayora
We were looking down along the sides of the port and we noticed a bunch of crabs with shades of red and blue…we knew right away they were Sally Lightfoot (don’t they have the cutest name ever? 🙂 ). They would jump from rock to rock…pretty agile little guys.
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