The beauty of the Galapagos Islands is not something that can be explained- only experienced. The archipelago has 1336 km. of coastline, varying from floury white beaches to rocky cliffs, contrasted by crystalline waters. Moving further inland, Galapagos landscapes offer striking volcanic formations, arid deserts and rich sub-tropical forests, which are inhabited by some of the most unusual life on the planet. This life shows a bewildering yet spectacular indifference towards human beings, “leaving you with this notion that you are visiting an area the animals clearly still consider to be theirs,” as Sir David Attenborough noted. The Galapagos Archipelago is not your typical holiday island destination, but it is one that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome Island
As you approach the northern beach of Bartolome Island, this magnificent spear-shaped obelisk will loom over your dinghy on the right-hand side. This dramatic pillar formed when magma flowed into the sea, bursting upwards to form the shape we see today: an explosion frozen in time. Pinnacle Rock is the most photographed location in the Galapagos Archipelago, and some may recognize it from the movie “Master and Commander.” A short hike up to the summit of Bartolome offers an excellent vantage point to see the geological formation from above.
Just behind Pinnacle Rock is one of the Galapagos’ hidden secrets. A breeding colony of Galapagos Penguins has claimed a cave nearby. Tourists may have the opportunity to snorkel along the northern beach and enjoy the penguins as they torpedo through the water. Green Sea Turtles, sea lions and various tropical fishes are also found in these waters.
Darwin Bay, Genovesa Island
Darwin Bay formed from the partial collapse of a volcanic caldera, eventually submerging one side of the volcano and forming a turquoise crescent dominated by steep rocky cliffs that climb upwards from the coral beach. Tourists are able to enjoy a relaxing dip in the crystalline water or snorkel along the walls of the caldera and observe the abundant marine life, which includes sharks, sea turtles and Manta Rays.
The rocky cliffs above are home to a world in themselves. Genovesa Island is also known locally as ‘Bird Island,’ due to the vast quantity and diversity of birds that live on the island, and these cliffs provide an excellent example of this avian splendor. A relaxing stroll allows guests to see Great Frigatebirds, Red-Footed Boobies, mockingbirds, Lava Herons and Swallow-Tailed Gulls, among others.
The Galapagos Blowhole, Española Island
The western point of Española Island treats visitors to a stunningly unique example of Old Faithful. Thanks to a fissure that has formed in the lava just so, the ocean waves are thrown upwards to a height of almost 90 feet as they come crashing against the rocks at high tide. The colorful Christmas Iguana of Española may also be seen around this site. The Española marine iguana has been gifted this rather unusual nickname due to the striking green and red colors it takes on during December, which also happens to be the iguana’s mating season. Visitors to the island may also have the pleasure of seeing the famous Galapagos Albatross, Darwin Finches, Nazca and Blue-Footed Boobies, and other world-renowned Galapagos fauna.
Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island
Gorgeous white-coral sand and crystal-clear water juxtaposed against deep black rocks make this a stunning beach for tourists to relax on after a day of exploring. Visitors are welcome to wade in the beach’s turquoise waters or grab some snorkeling gear and observe the vibrant marine world just offshore. A short walk from the beach are a couple of briny lagoons that serve as feeding grounds for a variety of wading birds, including stilts and the stunning Galapagos Flamingo.
This beach also played a small role in World War II, and its name is actually derived from a mispronunciation of the barges once found along its shore. Today, nothing more than the remains of a floating dock provide evidence of the mysterious history this island holds.
Ancient lava flows at Punta Espinoza, Fernandina Island
Formed from the continual eruption and erosion of lava pouring from the earth’s crust, Galapagos geology is one of the hidden wonders of these islands. With examples of both a smooth pahoehoe lava field and a rougher a’a lava flow, tourists can walk across these flows and experience a volcanic eruption that froze in mid movement. This island is also the youngest in the archipelago and the most volcanically active. As a result of its relatively young age, it is the most pristine island in the Galapagos, with no introduced mammals. Instead, guests can enjoy some of the most unique life the islands have to offer, including the delightful Galapagos Penguin, the Flightless Cormorant and Galapagos Hawk.
Adrián Peñafiel is Corporate Commercial Officer at Metropolitan Touring. Metropolitan Touring shares the wonders of South America with the world’s explorers through memorable experiences in unique cultures and natural environments.
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