Things to Do in Galapagos Islands
The translation of Leon Dormido, a giant rock formation rising sharply out of the ocean, is 'sleeping lion.' The remains of a lava cone split into two parts, in English it is also known as 'Kicker Rock.' The formations have eroded due to hundreds of years of weather and sea and now tower 500 feet above the water below.
Located off the coast of San Cristobal Island, boats that visit the rocks can navigate through the narrow channel between the two formations. Much marine wildlife does the same, and this is one of the most common places to see Galapagos sharks as well as turtles, rays and sea lions. It's an excellent spot for diving and snorkeling, as the mild current sweeping between the two rocks often means diverse groups of reef fish. Frigate birds are also common, and many other species can be seen above the water. Whether you conclude that the rocks resemble a lion or a boot, Leon Dormido is a Galapagos icon for a reason.
Isla Bartolome, located off the east shore of Sullivan Bay, is a small but beautiful island most famous for its iconic Pinnacle Rock, arguably one of the most recognizable landmarks of the Galapagos. This incredible geological site is a staggering rock face, formed from an eroded lava formation from the eruption of an underwater volcano. Visitors can summit the island via a 600-meter (about 2,000 foot) trail and enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of Pinnacle Rock, Sullivan Bay, Isla San Salvador (or Santiago), and Isla Daphne. Photographic opportunities abound at this ideal spot.
Visit the north beach for wonderful snorkeling opportunities. Swim with beautiful fish and Galapagos penguins, or visit the southern shore to see white-tipped sharks, spotted eagle rays, and stingrays. Keep your eyes out for the green sea turtles, especially if you’re there during mating season (typically November to January).
More Things to Do in Galapagos Islands
Santa Cruz is easily the most central island for Galapagos visitors. Welcoming overnight visitors (only four of the islands do so), it can serve as the perfect home base from which you can explore the islands. Though it is not the largest island, it is certainly the most popular urban center. In addition to being the most cosmopolitan, however, Santa Cruz also offers beautiful beaches and wildlife.
Test out the waters by snorkeling in Tortuga Bay, Punta Estrada, or Las Grietas, the three most popular beaches for interacting with the underwater world. If you’d like to try your hand at surfing, there are plenty of opportunities, most notably at Tortuga. When you’re ready to dry off, check out the incredible lava tunnels around the island, or visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, the unique conservation organization dedicated to preserving the incredible Galapagos tortoises, as well as sharing information about them with visitors.
Cerro Brujo or “Wizard’s Hill” is one of the best white sand beaches in the Galapagos for walking, bird watching and encountering wildlife. It gets its name from its shape's resemblance to a wizard's hat. One of the first landing spots of Charles Darwin, who formed part of his evolutionary theory in the Galapagos, Cerro Brujo is home to blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, brown pelicans, frigate birds, Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea turtles and rays. Sea lions can be seen alternating between playing in the turquoise waters and basking in the sun on lava rocks, while the nearby lagoon offers the best bet for spotting diverse coastal and migratory groups of birds.
Outside of enjoying a walk on Cerro Brujo, activities like snorkeling and kayaking allow visitors to view the wildlife of the area, and the lagoon here, used as a salt mine, is also worth exploring.
Anyone who is looking to make the most of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos cannot miss an opportunity to see the Canal del Amor, or the Love Channel. The complete natural adventure, Canal del Amor is not considered a visitor site, but has a spectacular turquoise channel bedded in between mountainous rock. At the channel you can also spot shore birds and reef sharks, or if you have the means, have a swim or go snorkeling, and explore its diverse and plentiful aqua-life and flora.
In the same afternoon, from here you will be able to explore the beautiful La Loberia island and of course, Port of Punta Estrada, where you can get to know the sea iguanas.
Being the largest of the Galapagos Islands, Isla Isabela is one of the most intriguing tropical islands in the world. Approximately 1 million years old, the island is composed of six volcanoes, all of which but one are active. The unique geology of the island has drawn visitors from all over the world to see the surface uplifts at Bolivar Channel and Urvina Bay, as well as the incredible tuff cones at Tagus Cove. Also enjoy the amazing wildlife that dominates Isabela, including the famous Galapagos tortoises, as well as hundreds of tropical bird species, penguins, marine iguanas, Darwin’s finches, and cormorants. Also be sure to check out the tortoise breeding center.
Along with incredible flora and fauna to explore, visitors who wish to stay on Isabela will find the settlement of Puerto Villamil to be laidback and welcoming. The white, sandy beaches and quiet lagoons are the quintessential Galapagos experience.
A must-see while in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, the biological research station known as the Charles Darwin Research Station is a great way to take in some interesting facts about the environment of the Galapagos many take for granted while relaxing on the beach and having a pina colada. On display, the center has available information on local conservation, habitats, and other interesting relevant statistics.
Certainly the station's most impressive attraction is the tortoise breeding center, where you can see tortoises of all shapes and sizes, including the famous Lonesome George, at 90+ years old, and the last remaining member of the Pinta Island subspecies. Access to the tortoises is quite open and visitors can feel free to walk amongst them as well enjoy a last-minute photo-op.
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