By Allie E. Almario
What’s our favorite Galapagos visitor sites? Oh, there are so many scattered throughout the archipelago’s 13 major islands! But don’t worry, no matter what sailing itinerary you’re on, the Galapagos National Park has already done a terrific job of choosing the best visitor sites for the optimum wildlife viewing and landscape diversity. Even better, they limit the number of passengers who can disembark at each visitor site, ensuring that there are never ever any crowds – except perhaps for a mountain of marine iguanas here and there.
Our Galapagos expert Allie Almario, who’s traveled to these islands close to 20 times, admits to having a few personal favorite visitor sites. Here is Round Three of some of her favorite spots.
1. Punta Pitt and Cerro Brujo on San Cristobal Island
These two sites are located on San Cristobal Island, the provincial capital of the archipelago. It is also the departure point for just a handful of boats touring the Galapagos. Up in the highlands is the only fresh water lake in the Galapagos and the remains of the community of El Progreso. This settlement, founded by tyrant and coffee grower, Manuel Cobos, is also famous for his murder, possibly the convicts he brought in as slave labor. Cerro Brujo’s beautiful beach is inhabited by oyster catchers. Only 400 of these species are found in the entire archipelago.
2. Tower Island
Tower Island is also known as Genovesa. Because of its location in the far north archipelago, Tower Island is one of the least visited of the Galapagos Islands. Darwin Bay’s white coral beach is wonderful for exploring tidepools. Nearby are soft-bristled cacti. No need for hard bristles for protection when few animals try to eat it. Look for lava and swallow-tailed gulls nesting on the cliffs above you. On the east side of the bay, a steep climb up Prince Philip’s Steps leads you to a red-footed nesting site. No need for telephoto lenses here – often, they are found just a few feet away from you, placidly resting on branches.
On Allie’s last visit here, her group of 10 travelers had to wait to disembark on the steps because a young sea lion fell asleep on the landing, blocking the entrance to the staircase. One of the ship crew volunteered to jump off and tried to shoo away a very disgruntled sea lion. It wasn’t easy!
3. Gardner Bay on Hood Island
Possibly one of the most beautiful beaches on the entire archipelago, this spectacular white sand beach at the east end of Hood Island is wonderful for snorkeling with sea lions. Most visits here allow plenty of down time for hanging out on the beach. Don’t be surprised if you fall asleep on the beach – and then wake up to a sea lion taking a nap right next to you! If you are adventurous, an offshore rock is known for white-tipped sharks which prefer to rest underneath it. The beach can be reached via a wet landing.
There’s so many wonderful Galapagos sailing itineraries – you won’t be disappointed no matter which islands you visit.