What brings travelers to the Galapagos Islands? One of the most common answers is the wildlife. While safaris and arctic treks have their appeal, there's no other destination quite like the Galapagos Islands. Species seen nowhere else on earth exist in this one-of-a-kind sea and landscape.
The Galapagos remains the only place to see many unique wildlife wonders due to their isolation from other continents. Plus, there's no better way to view wildlife than to see them in their natural habitat and behaving in ways that are endlessly entertaining to their audience.
The Most Unique Wildlife in the Galapagos
Although you’ll see a small concentration of species in the Galapagos Islands, there are a few species that are far more unique and endemic. This means that some are only seen in the Galapagos and have adapted to the environment. You may have encounters with dolphins, whales, pelicans, sally lightfoots, sea lions and other more common animals, but some of the Galapagos wildlife that make your trip special are:
- #1: Magnificent frigatebird: The giant red throat of the male magnificent frigatebird is a sight indeed, and one that leaves an impression on travelers. When male frigatebirds are wooing the ladies, they get puffed up in the most eye-catching of ways.
- #2: Galapagos tortoise: The Galapagos tortoises are as iconic as they are big. Most people don’t realize that “galapago” means tortoise in Spanish. Since the islands are devoid of predators, these gentle giants have been able to thrive. Some of them even live well over 100 years. They are highly protected, which is allowing their once dwindling numbers, due to human settlers, to grow once again.
- #3: Waved albatross: The albatross in the Galapagos are the only ones found in the tropics. They also happen to be the largest birds on the islands, and delight people with a sweet “kissing” mating dance.
- #4: Galapagos penguin: This is the only penguin to live north of the equator, and because it does, it's also the smallest. Like many penguins south of the equator, the Galapagos penguin mates for life.
- #5: Marine iguana: The marine iguana is the only marine lizard in existence because they evolved from land iguanas. They found upon arriving to the Galapagos that their only source of food was underwater, so they underwent an evolutionary process to adapt to their environment and survive. Visitors will delight in its vibrant texture and color, as well as find interest in its backstory. For example, did you know that the marine iguana had special nasal passages that filter salt?
- #6: Galapagos sea lions: Sea lions are a favorite attraction on the Galapagos because they interact and play with people.
- #7: Flightless cormorant: The cormorants in the Galapagos are big, likely due to the fact they can’t fly. They are the only cormorants in the world that have lost the ability to take flight, but that’s definitely a fascination for Audubon members.
Birdwatcher, Underwater Aficionado or Animal Lover: When to Visit
Galapagos animals are abundant, and each time of year features different types of sightings and behaviors. While in general there is no bad time to see Galapagos animals, if you want to see specific types, you may want to research a little deeper to find the best time for you to visit.
Some of the best times to visit are as follows, depending on your interest:
- Birdwatchers: Birdwatchers will benefit year-round. The species are prolific, with everything from the mockingbird and Darwin’s finches to the famous blue-footed booby.
- Snorkelers and Divers: The waters surrounding the islands are full of marine life. According to several dive sources, the best time for serious divers to visit and see more unique sea life throughout the year.
- Animal Lovers: Those who come to see Galapagos animals will find any time of year will do. However, come in August through November to see the sea lion pupping and pups or December to watch the giant tortoises hatch. Other highlights are humpbacks in June and the potential of penguin play during May through September.
The Trip of a Lifetime
Imagine cruising the Galapagos Islands with every day taking you to a different destination. It’s even better when you are hosted by people who know and love everything the islands have to offer visitors, and that can share interesting information about the Galapagos animals.
The Galapagos Islands are the ultimate vacation, where nature is always beautiful, pristine and busy. It is a trip of a lifetime that will stay in your memory long after you’ve returned home.