By Allie E. Almario
Our Galapagos expert Allie Almario, who’s traveled to these islands close to 20 times, admits to having a few personal favorite visitor sites. Of course, every visitor site is already hand-picked by the Galapagos National Park for its wildlife or landscape diversity, so there are no “bad” visitor sites. You’ll always be guaranteed a great experience no matter what islands your ship sails to on its itinerary.
Here is the second round of some of her favorite choices.
1. Española or Hood Island
At Punta Suarez, you will find one of the world’s densest and most interesting concentrations of wildlife including sea lions, marine iguanas with unique copper red patches, swallow-tailed gulls, lava lizards, finches, the endemic long-billed mockingbird, blue-footed and masked boobies, and oystercatchers. Española is also the only place where, between the months of April and December, the majestic waved albatross breeds. A highpoint of Allie’s experience here is watching the mating dance of these intriguing birds.
Along the southern shore of Española rise high cliffs, home to many of the sea birds. Look for the iconic “blowhole,” where, depending on the surf, water spouts up to 75 feet into the air.
On Allie’s earlier visits to the islands, she remembers when a naturalist guide pointed out that the mockingbirds learned they could beg for fresh water from hikers. To demonstrate this, he pulled out a water bottle and filled the cap. He was suddenly surrounded by several mockingbirds, which hopped onto his arms and shoulders to wait for their turn to drink out of the bottle cap. Needless to say, this isn’t allowed any longer.
2. Fernandina Island
Fernandina’s only visitor site, Espinosa Point, lies on the island’s northeast corner across from Isabela’s Tagus Cove. The largest colony of marine iguanas in the Galápagos nests nearby. Allie reports that sometimes the trails are so littered with marine iguanas that it will take more than 15 minutes just to tiptoe carefully through the path to get back to the embarkation point.
Look for the flightless cormorant nesting site. Each nest—a creative mix of seaweed and twigs—is where you’ll find a female sitting patiently while her partner is hunting for their next meal. Have your camera ready – vermillion flycatchers perch in the mangrove branches.
3. Floreana (Charles Island)
Patrick Watkins, a whaler from Ireland and the first official inhabitant of the islands, chose to settle on Floreana. The island also played host to a group of idealistic Norwegians, who lost their life savings in efforts to do everything from farming to fish canning. The 20th century brought Dr. Ritter, and Dore Strauch, his ex-patient turned lover; Margaret and Heinz Wittmer, and their 12-year old son; the “Baroness” and her adoring collection of three lovers; and a rather unusual variety of visitors and prospective settlers. After assorted deaths and vanishing people, the island was left with only Margaret Wittmer, her daughter, and grandchildren.
We recommend you watch the documentary, The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden (2014). Allie worked with filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller on the documentary, and traveled with them to Floreana to scout out film locations that were only opened to them with special permission. One of the most popular visits is to Post Office Bay. Bring a postcard for a loved one and leave it behind, then search through the collection of cards for anyone who might live near you to mail as a favor when you return home!