Can be spotted on: Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, Rábida, Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Santa Fe, Floriana, San Crisóbal, Española, and South Plaza
Known for their bizarre-looking blue feet, these incredibly popular marine birds are endemic sub-species to the Galápagos along with the red-footed booby. Males take great pride in their extravagant feet, showing off in their intricate mating ritual by lifting them up and down while strutting before a female. Blue-footed boobies also use their feet to cover their chicks and keep them warm, with both parents caring and feeding for them. Main breeding colonies are found on Española Island and North Seymour, however they can be spotted throughout the archipelago’s waters as they dive dramatically into the sea to feed.
Can be spotted on: All islands
Endemic to the archipelago, the marine iguana is one of the most remarkable species for its evolutionary changes. Arriving in the Galápagos as terrestrial iguanas, the iguana underwent astonishing adaptations, evolving into their marine status, thus spreading around the whole archipelago. Not only are there no other ocean-going lizards, they can’t be found anywhere other than the Galápagos Islands. Crucial adaptations made it possible for this species to survive in these remote islands such as a reduced heartbeat, blood vessels near its skin and an over developed supraorbital gland which allows them to extract excess salt from the blood flow by sneezing it out several times a day. Although the marine iguana can be found on all islands, they vary significantly on each island. A visit to Genovesa island guarantees spotting the smallest and blackest marine iguanas, while visitors to Fernandina and Nothern Isabela will spot the largest iguanas and the most colourful subspecies inhabit Floreana and Española.
Can be spotted on: Española Island
With a wingspan up to 250cm, the Galápagos Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) is the largest bird in the islands. Breeding virtually exclusively on Española Island with close to 35,000 breeding pairs, they have been considered endangered since 2007 due to their small breeding range. Unlike other animals in the Galápagos, the albatross’ breeding cycle can be fairly predictable as they must leave Española to head back to mainland Peru before the winds fade away in January. This is due to their large, heavy body mass and lack of muscle making them dependant on wind to take off and glide instead of flapping flight. Once the seasons switch back to the cooler, dryer months the albatross returns once again. The most spectacular fact about the albatross is that it mates for life even though the pair head off in separate ways once the breeding season is over. Returning to the exact same sport they courted the following year.
Can be spotted in: Isabela, Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Santiago, Española
One of the most iconic Galápagos animals, the giant tortoise is the largest living species in the world, weighing up to 250kg. Native to seven of the Galápagos Islands, they led the 16th-century Spanish explorers to apply their Spanish name to the whole archipelago. They play an important role to the islands, as the dominant plant eater, in the wild they slowly make their way through the plant cover. The shape of their shells varies on each island and on Isabela from volcano to volcano. Islands with humid climate have larger tortoise with domed shells and shorter necks; dry climates have lead to somewhat smaller tortoises with ‘saddle-back’ shells and longer necks. They can be seen in their natural habitat in the highlands of Santa Cruz, also at breeding centres in Puerto Ayora and Cerro Colorada on San Cristóbal as well as inside the Galápagos National Park at Urbina Bay.
Can be spotted on: Isabela, Santiago, Rábida, North Seymour, Genovesa
The Galápagos Fur Seal is the world’s smallest species of pinniped, barely exceeding 1.50 metres in length. Unlike other fur seals, the Galápagos species prefer rocky coasts, where they can avoid direct sunshine and cool off between volcanic crevices. Breeding from August through to November, females bear only one pup at a time. No other seal species has such a slow reproductive rate with pups taking a longer time to become independent compares to other species. While on a cruise it can be possible to see them at Puerto Egas, Punta Vincente Roca, North Seymour and Genovesa, as well as the option to swim/snorkel with them.
Can be spotted on: Fernandina, Isabela, Bartolomé, Floreana and Santiago Island.
The Galápagos Penguin is another endemic species which has undergone extraordinary adaptations. The islands unique locations which intersects the cold Humboldt Current and cold water from the depth of the Cromwell Current allows the sub-Antarctic birds to survive in the tropical Pacific waters. With a population of a little over 1,000 individuals, the Galápagos penguin is the rarest penguin in the world, therefore being classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Larger colonies of the penguins can be found in the west of Fernandina and Isabela, but smaller colonies live on Floreana, Bartolomé and Santiago Island too.