A huge part of why you visit the Galapagos Islands is definitely to see the animals! For starters, almost all of the animals you find in the Galapagos Islands can only ever be found on these islands.
Then there’s also the fact that this island is key to Charles Darwin’s Theory of evolution. This island was visited by the man himself during “the Voyage of the Beagle” (Lloyd’s current obsession – he’s actually reading the book written by Charles Darwin; documenting Darwin’s adventures to the Galapagos Islands as well as many other places – see the full list of places Darwin visited here).
This island chain has sat in relative isolation from the continent of South America and therefore has been left mostly untouched and hence un-ruined from human contact. Due to this isolation, you can experience a unique ecosystem, landscape, and food chain that have evolved here for thousands of years. This isolation is in large part why the animals are fascinating – they’ve been able to evolved very differently from animals anywhere else in the world due to lack of major predators and a fairly reliable ecosystem (a perfect example is the giantism found in the tortoises).
Okay, you get my drift now – the animals in the Galapagos Islands are not just your average animals – they’re absolutely unique, totally amazing and if you’re even in the least bit interested in animals (or indeed safaris) then you definitely need to head to the Galapagos Islands! The scenery here is pretty spectacular so there’s that too!
Anyway, back to my point – when you do visit the amazing Galapagos Islands, here are the 11 animals you need to look out for!
Sidebar: You’d be totally forgiven for ignoring the blurb about each animal and just focusing on the photos of the animals instead, these animals are all natural works of beauty and absolutely fascinating! 😍😍😍
1.) Giant Tortoise
The legendary Giant Tortoise is what draws many-a-visitor to the islands! As the largest species of tortoise, these giants can weigh up to 417kg and can live in the wild for over 100 years. This beautiful and immense creature is found on most of the Galapagos islands including Isabela, Floreana, Pinta and Santa Cruz. At Rancho Primicias you can see these gentle giants up close and personal.
2.) Sally Lightfoot Crab
The Grapsus grapsus is a beautiful species of crab that has a bright red, orange and yellow coloration with shades of light grey on its legs and facial area. This delightful crab (then again, I find most crabs delightful funny- I think it’s got something to do with all that sideways walking) can be found on many of the islands including San Cristobal, and they are usually found near the water on rocky outcrops.
3.) Marine Iguana
This species of Iguana is found only in the Galapagos Islands and actually forages for food underwater which is unique for any kind of iguana. The Marine Iguana can actually dive in the water up to depths of 9m and can be found in practically all of the rocky shores of the islands. Various colours of the iguana exist – some are bright green and orange, others have a beautiful red undertone, whilst most are a simple shade of patterned brown.
4.) Galapagos Sea Lion
This Sea Lion breeds only on the Galapagos Islands and is distributed widely across the different regions of the archipelago. Sea Lions by their nature are hugely curious, and it is not uncommon to see these animals sitting on benches in Puerto Ayora. In the water, these mammals are simply stunning to watch and it is a true pleasure to snorkel with these beautiful creatures.
5.) Galapagos Penguin
This is the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild and is endemic to the islands. Standing at an average height of 49cm, this breed of penguin is quite small in comparison to the larger Antarctic varieties but it is just as beautiful and interesting. This species is found primarily on Fernandina Island and Isabela, but you can see them in the waters surrounding the archipelago.
Random penguin fact: You never get penguins and polar bears in the same place. Polar bears can be found in the arctic (i.e. up North) and penguins in the Antarctic (i.e. down south) – I blame years of TV adverts (especially the Christmas ones) and childhood cartoons for making me believe (at least for a little while), that polar bears and penguins co-existed and co-habited the same place on the planet.
6.) Lava Lizard
This type of Lizard is native to the Galapagos and is a beautiful little reptile with brilliant colours. The Microlophus Albemariensis is the native species to the Galapagos Islands and can grow up to 100mm in length. You can find this wonderful little creature on the islands of Isabela, Santa Cruz, Santiago and Santa Fe.
7.) Darwin’s Finch
This species of Passerine bird has a remarkably unique beak and was a key part of the afore mentioned “Theory of evolution” by Charles Darwin. Endemic to the Galapagos, this tiny bird can be seen on most of the main islands and has an extremely short beak with beautiful gray and brown plumage. During a trip to the islands, make sure you take your binoculars (or you camera zoom lens) to spot this stunning bird – they’re tiny!
8.) Blue-Footed Booby
This amazing bird is actually native to the Pacific Ocean but regularly lands at the Galapagos Islands. As you would expect, this species of booby has wonderful bright blue feet, brown wing feathers, and a white head – the contrast is quite spectacular. They’ve also got mad-dancing skills 💃🕺😆 – which you can catch during mating season. If you time your visit right, you can see the Blue-footed Booby nesting (hence easier to photograph) or diving into the waters to catch food.
9.) Waved Albatross
This type of Albatross only arrives at the Galapagos during breeding season – for the rest of the year, they reside primarily on the coast of Ecuador. This fantastic bird builds its nest on areas of lava using boulders and thick brush – if you are extremely lucky, you may even get to see the rare courtship ritual that has been witnessed by only a handful of people.
10.) Lava Gull
As the largest gull in the world, this species is endemic to the Galapagos Islands and is considered to be the rarest gull in the world. The Lava Gull has a beautiful black head and a light gray plumage and stands as tall as 55cm. This bird was first documented on Santiago Island but it is also found on Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Genovesa.
11.) Green Sea Turtle
Swimming with sea turtles is another once in a lifetime opportunity that you can experience whilst in the Galapagos. The Green Sea Turtle can be found in the waters surrounding these islands and has a beautiful patterned head and fins. When snorkelling around the various Galapagos Islands, you should be able to easily spot these wonderful animals and watch them go about their daily business in their natural habitat.