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Wildlife

More than anything, the Galápagos Islands are famous for their wildlife: as a living laboratory of evolution, illustrating as nowhere else on Earth, the ongoing process of Natural Selection first discovered by Charles Darwin as a result of his visit in 1835.

The following is by no means an exhaustive record of Galápagos wildlife. And you may notice a distinct emphasis on San Cristóbal - With good reason - San Cristóbal is our favourite island; it has by far the best fishing and surf breaks, easy access, it’s unspoilt, and not too commercial - That’s why we chose to settle here.

Within minutes of your arrival, you will meet its most ubiquitous inhabitant: the Sea Lion. Then, in no time, you will see Pelicans, Boobies, Lava Lizards and maybe even a couple of Marine Iguanas to greet you on the pier. Overhead you will notice flocks of Frigate Birds wheeling in the sky above you or teeming around a fishing boat returning to port with its catch.
 

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Thanks to a lack of natural predators, the animals are mostly indifferent to the presence of humans. Within a couple of days, you will encounter most of the species which have made the Galápagos Islands famous. And many of them are so curious or bold that it is sometimes easy to forget some absolutely essential rules

  • Don’t touch the animals:
  • Don’t feed  the animals:
  • Don’t crowd the animals:

 

Human scent can be fatal to some animals, particularly nursing sea lion pups who face rejection by the mother. Even at some distance our lotions and perfumes can damage their skin or eyes. Feeding is particularly bad for their health and encourages aberrant behaviour. Finally, if you invade their space, they will become increasingly wary of humans and, in some cases, may bite.
 

Be sure to study and obey the Rules for Visitor to the Galapagos National Park

 

 

On the Shoreline...

Sea Lions

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There are two species of sea lion in Galápagos

  • Galápagos Sea Lion and;
  • Galápagos Fur Seal (actually a type of sea lion)

Galápagos Sea Lions (Lobo Marino or just Lobo) are everywhere: on the beaches, out at sea, on the street, on your beach towel!

Despite the name, Fur Seals have external ears and can fold their rear limbs under their bodies: both features not found in true “seals”. Fur Seals favour more isolated locations and cooler water. 

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The Sea Lion is such a prominent feature of San Cristóbal that it has become an icon, particularly for tourism - Promoted as  “La Cara de San Cristóbal” - “The Face of San Cristóbal”. How much you agree with this accolade depends on whether you are a resident, a tourist, or a fisherman (to whom they provide serious competition)..

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Sea Lion Etiquette

Juvenile sea lions, which are still being fed by their mothers, are naturally inquisitive and playful and are drawn to their human counterparts. The biggest risk here is to the sea lion - Although it is very tempting, humans must take care not to touch them or they face rejection by the mother as a result of human scent transmitted to the fur.

As the pups mature, their behaviour towards humans becomes increasingly unpredictable and you should give them a bit more space, particularly on land. In the water, they may still approach and check you out and there is no need to be concerned as long as you let them set the bounds. If you start chasing them, that’s another matter - They may bite.

You probably want to steer clear of the big machos (males). They are territorial and aggressive if approached. Mothers are protective of their pups and also need more space.

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Marine Iguanas

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Marine Iguanas (Iguana Marina) feed underwater, on algae, and must return to land regularly to warm up again in the sun. 

Although vulnerable to predation by feral cats, rats and dogs, Marine Iguanas have fared better in the populated islands than their land-living cousins. They can still be seen in Puerto Baquerizo itself, albeit in small numbers. The recently constructed Malecon (boardwalk) provides better isolation than before and their numbers are steadily increasing. Outside the port, they are easily found on the rocky shoreline, particularly in nearby Punta Carola.

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Crabs

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There are several species of crab (cangrejo) in San Cristóbal

In town, you will see numerous Sally Lighfoot Crabs on the rocks, just above water. They start life black and bloom into full colour as they mature.

Ghost Crabs and Hermit Crabs are common to many of the sandy beaches on San Cristóbal, particularly: Cerro Brujo and Playa Ochoa.

 

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On Land...

Tortoises

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In common with other islands, San Cristóbal has its own unique species of tortoise (tortuga). The only surviving local population can be observed in wild, at Galapaguera Natural, or at the Galapaguera Cerro Colorado, where they are protected and bred.

At the Interpretation Centre, a short walk from the Suites, you can also meet Pépé - Surely the worlds’ fattest tortoise. Pépé was raised as a pet, outliving several generations of his owners before the Park moved him to a special pen at the Interpretation Centre.

 

Lava Lizards

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Each island has its own variants of Lava Lizards (lagartija). They eat mostly insects and some plants. You can usually get quite close and it often seems you might step on one until it takes last moment evasive action. You can often see males defending their territory by doing push-ups.

 

Land Iguanas

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Land Iguanas, of which there are 3 species, inhabit the arid zones of several islands. They feed primarily on cactus, and eat the entire plant, including thorns. They can grow to 30 pounds and live 50 to 69 years.

Iguana populations suffered major predation by introduced cats and dogs but populations have been recovering thanks to human intevention.

 

Snakes & Bugs

Snake & Bug

Galápagos does have snakes, but no poisonous varieties. And, of course spiders, beetles, ants etc. Because they are carried so easily by travellers, Insects are amongst the most frequent of invasive species.

 

 

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In the Air...

All the Boobies

Punta Pitt, at the northern tip of San Cristobal, is the only place on Earth where you can see 3 species of Booby:

  • Nazca Booby (piquero enmasquerado)
  • Blue-footed Booby (piquero pata azul)
  • Red-footed Booby (piquero pata roja)

Nazca Boobies are ubiquitous in the port and most parts of the Island. Once thought to be a subspecies of masked booby, they are a distinct species.

Blue-footed Boobies favour more isolated surroundings but can still be found close to town, in places like Isla Lobos and Punta Carola.

Red-footed Boobies are generally confined to Punta Pitt.

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Brown Pelicans (pelicano) will be amongst the first and most abundant birds you will encounter on arrival at San Cristóbal.

Frigate Birds (fragata) are seen in considerable numbers wheeling in the thermals onshore and offshore, diving to plunder food from other birds or skimming over the water with beak open to scoop up small fish on the wing. Although they never land on water, you may be lucky enough to catch them taking a splash to rinse their feathers in the fresh water of the crater lake: El Junco

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The male frigate inflates his neck-pouch to attract mates in breeding season.

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A Great Blue Heron, Galapagos Night Heron and Galapagos Lava Heron:

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Waved Albatross

Española, which you can visit from San Cristobal, is home to 97% of the world’s population of waved albatross.

They mate for life and with a wingspan up to 8 feet, albatross can glide efforlessly for hours.

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In the Water...

Turtles abound in the port and beaches all around San Cristóbal so you are quite likely to meet one, maybe several, when swimming or snorkelling.

Several species of whale frequent the waters around San Cristóbal, including Minke, Humpback and Orca. You may also encounter Whale Sharks on a diving, snorkelling or fishing excursion.

Dolphins are frequent companions to trips between the islands and when out fishing. 
 

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Reef Fish: If you go snorkelling or diving, you will see everything from the weird and wonderful Batfish, , Moray Eels, shoals of Surgeonfish, Damsels, Grunts and Groupers, to Stingrays, Manta Rays, and Sharks: Galápagos Shark, Whitetip Reef Shark and the iconic Hammerhead.

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Then, of course, there are the game fish for which San Cristobal is famous:

  • Striped Marlin, Blue Marlin & Black Marlin
  • Tuna
  • Wahoo
  • Grouper
  • Jacks
  • Dolfinfish (Mahi Mahi)
  • etc......

       Visit our Vivencial Fishing Pages

 

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