The highest point of this hill is about 110 m and the route extends on a track of 790 meters.
No one knows the precise age of this island, but by its geological arrangement and general features it is quite young. The scarce plants found on the this site are called pioneers because they are the first to reach the island and settle. E.g. Tiquilia nesiotes, Tiquilia fusca and Chamaesyce spp.
The primary attraction is the geological interpretation that can be given to this site.
The geological structures and soils here are very delicate. Due to wear caused by use, the Galapagos National Park has built stairs to minimize additional erosion and better manage visitors.
There are two beaches for visitor connected by a path. The beach to the south is beautiful for walks and to observe stingrays and sharks, but swimming is not allowed there. The north beach is one of the best sites for snorkeling; in addition, most of the year it’s mild and is an ideal place for swimming. Occasionally you can observe penguins fishing.
- Stay within the paths. The geological features and soils here are very delicate.
- Do not approach penguins to closely when they are resting because it can change their natural behavior. photograph them from the panga. Stay in the beach area.
- LA PLAYA
The Bartolomé visitor site, is a top visitor site in the Galapagos Islands because of its great uniqueness.
offering magnificent landscapes and the principal highlights being the beaches, the dunes and Pinnacle Rock. Among the species present, the most snapped are the sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), which choose this place as a nesting site and the Galapagos penguins.
This site has two beaches: North Beach and South Beach. The north beach is the landing site where you can swim and snorkel. South beach is reached by a small trail along the mangroves and over the great sand dune.
- It is prohibited to walk on the rocks on both sides of the bay, because you could easily disrupt the penguins.
- Do not get near the penguins when they are resting on the ground.
DAPHNE MAYOR ISLAND
Located in Daphne Island off the north coast of Santa Cruz Island. Daphne is a volcanic tuff cone, formed by successive explosions produced by the combination of lava and water.
On this island, Dr. Peter Grant has made a long-term study of Darwin’s finches, which is why you can see these birds are banded.
The palo santo present herein Bursera malacophyla is endemic to the Daphne Islands, North Seymour and Baltra.
The blue-footed booby nests inside the craters and the masked booby nests on the flanks of the cone and the edge of the craters and the tropical bird that nests in cavities in the cliffs.
- A special authorization in writing from the Galapagos National Park is mandatory to visit Daphne Island.
- GARDNER BAY
Gardener Bay is located on the north coast of Española Island. The visiting area is defined by two unique white sand beaches.
The key highlight of the site is the colony of sea lions, which occupy the beach in great numbers during the breeding season.
The tortoise population of this island was reduced by human depredation. In 1965 only 12 females and 2 males were found and were transferred to the pens of the Galapaguera on Santa Cruz Island. By the year 1976, in partnership with the San Diego Zoo a third male was brought back. After monitoring several adults were found and by 1991 first tortoises born in the wild were placed back in its habitat. Tortoises are concentrated near Manzanillo Bay on the upper part of the island.
Here are three species of Darwin’s finches: A subspecies of the Large Cactus Finch, which is comparable to the large ground finch, the Small Ground Finch and the Wabler Finch which is another endemic subspecies.
Both resident and migratory birds are observed. This is an significant nesting area for sea turtles.
- The beach is an open area. Caution is required not to step on sea turtle nests or take earth inland where there is vegetation.
- Maintain safe distance from the adult male sea lions, they can be aggressive if suddenly approached.
- PUNTA SUAREZ
Punta Suarez is located west of the Española Island. The trail has an extension of approximately 1 mile.
Española is recognized as one of the oldest islands, with an estimated age of 3.3 million years. The albatross is endemic to Española Island. Albatrosses are abundant in Española from April to November or December.
Española has a high percentage of endemism due to it is isolation from other islands; this means the species in this island have no gene relation with species from other islands, a variety of mockingbird, lava lizards, Darwin’s finches are considered endemic to this island.
The mockingbird of Española is the largest species in the islands and have developed carnivorous behavior. They feed on eggs of seabirds, sea lion placenta and newborn tortoises. The lava lizards are the largest of the 7 species endemic to the Galapagos.
- Do not get too close to the cliffs to avoid falling.
- Do not leave the trails doing so can alter these fragile ecosystems.
- PUNTA ESPINOZA
Fernandina is the third largest island in the archipelago and has a single visitor site: Punta Espinoza, located at the northeastern tip of the island.
Punta Espinoza is a narrow shelf of lava and sand that covers from the base of the volcano to the sea, the last documented eruption on the island occurred in May 2005 and lasted three days. The greatest explosive eruption took place in 1968, where most of the caldera floor collapsed inwards to a depth of 300m.
Punta Espinoza is a place famous for its large colonies of marine iguanas and as the habitat of unique species like the flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin, Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake, to be found nowhere else in the world.
- Be very careful not to introduce organisms or take food of any kind. The area open to visitors is very fragile, stay on the trail at all times.
- At the nesting season for marine iguanas (January to June) it’s important to be cautious not to step on their nests which look like holes in the sand.
- Stay within 2 meters of the cormorants and penguins.
- if the tide is low you cannot use the dock and will have to land on the rocks, be sure to wear the proper shoes.
- DARWIN BAY
Genovesa has remained unaltered by man due to its geographic isolation and lack of fresh water.
Initial highlights for this site are the nesting colonies of the common frigate, the Nazca booby and the swallow-tailed gulls. We also find here nests of red-footed booby, which is the largest nesting colony of Galapagos for pelagic bird.
Swallow-tailed gulls feed at night on squid and fish. They usually nests in cliffs and rocks, but at this place they do so on sand to camouflage their black spotted eggs. When they nest on black substrate, they add pieces of black coral and on white substrate they add small lava rocks to their nests.
The Great Frigatebird is abundant here and is one of the main attractions of the island. Genovesa has no reptiles, possibly due to lack of proper conditions for the nesting of these vertebrates.
The Galápagos Mockingbird and the Large Cactus Finch are tagged because Dr. Peter Grant has made long-term studies of behavior and evolution of terrestrial birds. The Genovese mockingbirds have been studied for their cooperative behavior. As for the Large Cactus Finch, on this island there are two sets of the same species that differ in their singing. Females are attracted to chanting similar to their ancestral males, behavior that demonstrates the evolutionary divergence within a species.
- At this site during high tide, most of the trail is covered with water. Do not wet your shoes, in order to complete the journey without any discomfort and problems.
- Do not step on the vegetation, or get into the area of Salt Bush , the Swallow-Tailed Gulls nest under these bushes and on the beach.
The birds on this site are usually very tame and it seems that the proximity of the visitors do not bothered them much. However, as a rule, do not approach them, keep within 2 feet away.
- EL BARRANCO
The visitor site of El Barranco is located in the southern part of Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island. The trail is on volcanic rock that has a length of 1.5 km and the tour can be done in about 2 hours.
The youngest area of the island, from a geological point of view, lies in this area. The cliffs located in the south are composed of very fragile lava. The natural erosion that has occurred in these lava flows has become the ideal place for nesting Storm Petrels.
You can see two species of petrels that nest in cavities and holes in the lava. One is the wooden petrel, which feed during the night, and the other is the Galapagos petrel that is active during the day, the latter is endemic, it is estimated that its population is over 200,000 pairs. One of its main predators is the short-eared owl.
The red-footed booby nests only in the outer islands of the archipelago, Punta Pitt, Gardner (Floreana), Wolf, Darwin and Genovesa. Also present on this island is the masked booby.
During the panga rides along the cliffs fur seals can be seen and several species of seabirds.
- The second half of the trail is very delicate. Keep within the trail.
- Be careful during the landing because of high tide and the waves can hit the panga and create an imbalance.
- URBINA BAY
The visitor site Urbina Bay is located at the east base of the Alcedo volcano. The trail starts on the beach where a wet landing is made, the tour is approximately 3200m, and runs through sand substrates, pumice rock, lava, coral and vegetable formations in a coastal area that has had a lift; in addition, burrows of land iguanas can be seen.
The trail passes through the foundations of what was a coral structure. During the uprising that occurred in 1954, 6 km of reef were elevated 5 masl, the coast was extended 3/4 of a mile out. It is said, in that same year and after the uprising, there was an eruption in the northeast side at a height of 650 m of Alcedo Volcano, but there is no concrete evidence. There is an area where there rhyolite (igneous rock that occurs at the violent exit to the outside of the earth) on this site where no vegetation grows due to the acidity that this type of substrate. This extrusive rock forms when magma of the same chemical structure as granite, acidic or felsic magma, reaches Earth’s surface.
It is an ideal place to observe spiny lobster (Panulirus penicillatus) and green (Panulirus gracilis).
- Protect your camera equipment well as the landing can be problematic due to the strong waves that occur often on this site.
- Bring water for the hike because the trail is long and the place is very hot.
- TAGUS COVE
The visitors site of Tagus Cove is located west of Darwin Volcano on Isabela Island. The route of the trail is about 1800 meters.
This was a favorite spot for pirates and whalers, a tradition is still observed that has continued since that time: the inscription of the names of boats. At the start of the walk, going up and passing the staircase, is a small cave where we find inscriptions dating to the 1800s.
Its name originated from a British warship that went through the islands in 1814 looking for Galapagos Tortoise for food.
The road, mostly gravel, leads into the interior, along Darwin Lake. During the walk, you can see various land birds; we can identify the characteristic vegetation of the arid zone. Finally, we observe the lava fields of Darwin Volcano.
Darwin Lake contains saltwater and its depth is approximately 9m. It has no fish or other special life. The lake lies within a tuff cone.
Due to explosive eruptions must have occurred at the site, the substrate has a large amount of volcanic rocks of different sizes, among the most common are little balls of nearly spherical shape known as the “lapilli” or petrified rain. These are formed for two reasons:
- When there is an explosion of volcanic ash, boiling lava coming into contact with water, heats and evaporates, then the ash that is in the air is wet and solidifies in the form of small balls that fall as rain.
- Also forms when it rains shortly after an eruption.
- Take care when landing due to strong waves.
- Apart from the ground path, a panga ride is very interesting and entertaining. The panga should keep its distance from birds, especially penguins who are easily frightened.
- No littering is allowed near the shore. This applies even more here, since due to wind garbage accumulate in the coves.
- BREEDING CENTER “ARNALDO TUPIZA”
The Tortoise Breeding Center of Isabela is located 1.5 km from Puerto Villamil.
There are 330 species in this center between juvenile and adult tortoises.
From the population of Cerro Paloma, there are 4 males and two female Galapagos, which, so far, are the only survivors. The raising of this breed of tortoise is of particular interest since genetic analysis performed in 1994 based on blood samples has determined that tortoises from this Galapaguera are different from the others. This is compounded by the fact that one of these two females are infertile, as shown by analysis of absent follicles. However, in 1998, the second female nested and now finally has 9 Galapaguitos of Cerro Paloma.
Cazuela tortoises are not in as serious danger of extinction. In their home there are still adults and juveniles. The main problems we have in the field are the competition for food by feral goats, trampling of nests by wild donkeys.
- It is advisable to combine a visit to the Breeding Center with some other activity in the vicinity of Puerto Villamil e.g. Las Tintoreras or Sierra Negra.
- THE WETLANDS
The visitor site “Wetlands”, is a complex of trails that include the following sites:
Cerro Orchilla, a lookout which you can access via a staircase; from this site you can see the bay and the town of Puerto Villamil, Sierra Negra Volcano, the Cerro Azul Volcano, islets and rocks. These sites form spectacular scenery.
El Estero is a 227m path of lava rocks, 1.5 meters wide. It consists of a picnic site where the people come to do leisure activities. On this site you can see the four species of mangrove found in Galapagos and a small majagual forest. It forms part of the stories and legends of the penal colony era on Isabela.
Tunel del Estero, a path 75m long and with adequate lava plates ending in a staircase inside a lava tunnel. Above the tunnel you can see the intertidal landscape that offers a tapestry of Galapagos Sesuvium between “El Túnel del Estero” and Love Beach.
Love Beach, has a rocky sea access, is a site frequently used by the community of Isabela.
Los Tunos Viewpoint and Pozas Verde are paths with several lookout points that allow observation of birds and plants.
La Playita: Is a path that leads to a small beach that is part of the greater beach in Villamil.
You can see several ancient tombs in the cemetery, tombs that have been built with unusual materials, represent a historical account of Isabela and its first inhabitants.
The main attraction of these sites is the variety of flora and fauna can be observed.
- Various species of birds nest on these sites, stay away from the lagoons where are these birds are.
A panga is needed to reach the site. Access is easy and people can land during high or low tide. The approximate travel time from Puerto Villamil to The Tintoreras is 10 minutes.
The islet Las Tintoreras is located south of Puerto Villamil. It has a small bay of completely calm turquoise waters, where you can appreciate sea lions, sea turtles, marine iguanas, rays, etc. The bay is connected to a crevice of crystal clear water, that’s shallow and when the tide is low, the entrance closes. In this crevice, you can see how reef sharks swim along with other small fish and sea lions.
Most of the trail is lava AA, except for a white sand beach and a black stone beach. At the first beach are colonies of sea lions, it’s also a nesting site for marine iguanas, during the nesting season.
In the first beach you can see some Nolana galapageia plants, a rare endemic plant in the area. What’s more, Nolana is not common in Ecuador, since this species is typical of the coastal zone and belongs to a genus whose distribution is restricted to Chile and Peru.
The second beach is entirely surrounded by mangroves, button mangrove and white mangrove.
Throughout the trail you can see many marine iguanas in the rocks or under the mangroves. Las Tintoreras is one of the few places where the iguanas breed successfully because of the absence of non-native animals that could kill the youth.
- Various parts of Las Tintoreras are ideal for nesting marine iguanas, so during the nesting season be very careful with the nests.
- PUNTA MORENO
Punta Moreno is located on the north coast of Isabela Island between the volcano Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul volcano. The distance of the trail is about 2100 meters, and runs along a lava flow Pahohoe (solidified lava in the form of corrugated or an accordion) into a complex of coastal lagoons.
The vegetation found in the area is small and concentrated mainly in the mangrove area and around the lakes. It should be noted that the three kinds of cacti are found here.
The main attractions at Punta Moreno are coastal lagoons amid black lava flows where there are several species of birds. It has a panoramic view of three volcanoes, the most active of the Galapagos that are Sierra Negra, Cerro Azul of Isabela Island and La Cumbre of Fernandina Island.
The population of wild dogs that existed on this site fed on marine iguanas, sea lions and other marine species and drank the abundant brackish water present here. These dogs were eliminated in 1980.
- Do not frighten the Flamingos. They are sensitive to noise and get scared easily. Stay within the group.
- The road to the large lagoon is long you have to cross 700m of broken lava, where it is difficult to walk. Wear comfortable and appropriate shoes for this type of hike.
- SIERRA NEGRA / VOLCAN CHICO
Volcán Chico is located northeast of Sierra Negra volcano, there is access by footpath and horse trail, which are clearly signposted.
Volcan Chico is a fissure of some parasitic cones, composed of slag and lava. This fissure had its last eruption in November 1979. Its activity lasted for a period of two weeks. On 13 April 1963, Chico Volcano had even stronger eruption, the activity lasted one month, and at that time, the lava flows fell to Elizabeth Bay and covered a large sector east of the Sierra Negra volcano, consuming large sections of vegetation.
Volcan Chico is just northwest of the caldera, so it is not affected by the drizzle that always percipitates into the southeastern sector of the high islands. This is one of the reasons why Volcan Chico is in perfect condition and visitors can appreciate it when there is good visibility and sunshine.
In the northeast side of the caldera of Sierra Negra volcano, on 22 October 2005 an eruption occurred that lasted one week. The lava flow covered much of the interior of the caldera and in some places rose more than two meter.
The Sierra Negra volcano is considered the oldest of the volcanoes on Isabela. According to some geologists, the wider and shallower a caldera, the more ancient. This conclusion is reached by theory and observations which indicate that volcanic processes in calderas tend to break down its edge, filling it. This activity is characterized by tremors and eruptions that are going on for over thousands and millions of years.
- From Puerto Villamil you have to ride a vehicle, after a journey of 45 minutes, arrive at the site “El Cura” where horses are taken to skirt the eastern side of the caldera of Sierra Negra to the site named “Los Jaboncillos” a place where horses are tied to continuing the journey on foot to Volcán Chico.
The Mosquera Islet is located between the islands of Baltra and North Seymour. It is a reef of rocks and coral (the result of an uprising) and a great white sand beach. Its narrowest width reaches about 160 meters and has an estimated length of 600 meters.
In most of the perimeter there is base of lava rocks, as evidence of the lava uprising, except in the southwest side where the landing occurs.
This island has one of the largest populations of sea lions. You can also observe several species of shorebirds. There have been occasional reports at this site of Orcas feeding on sea lions.
- This island has one of the largest populations of sea lions. Ensure to keep distance from the sea lions.
NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND
North Seymour is located north of Baltra (or South Seymour). The total distance of the trail is 2 miles.
Seymour North, Plaza Sur and Plaza Norte, Baltra, northeastern Santa Cruz, Santa Fe and part of Española, were formed by uprisings of underwater volcanic lavas. They were part of a volcanic lava table deposited in sheet form along cracks located on the ocean floor. The uprisings occurred sporadically and lasted more than a million years to reach its current level.
All marine fossils found in the archipelago are found in these islands and the best example is the North Channel side of Baltra. The fossils date from the Pleistocene, and specifically in the case of Baltra, one can say that these volcanic tables were close to the surface about a million years ago.
By the end of 2008, 600 iguanas have been accounted for on North Seymour, of which 400 have been repatriated and 200 were born in the wild. In contrast, on Baltra Island, the population has surpassed the 1,500 samplings.
The vegetation is bush and hosts the largest nesting colony of Great Frigatebirds in Galapagos. Importantly, the Galapagos is the westernmost distribution for this species. The common frigate is also present.
- The frigates here are surly and its preferable to keep some distance from the nests.
- The site requires walking slowly to avoid disturbing the animals.
The visitor site is located on the east coast of Rábida Island, consists of a red sand beach, a coastal lagoon behind the beach, and a loop trail. The approximate distance of the trail is 1.1 kilometers.
The color of the rocks and sand on the beach is due to the very porous volcanic material, which with the help of environmental factors (rain, salt water and sea breeze, has acted as an oxidizing agent.
The main attraction of the place is the red sand beach, scenery, aside from the vegetation of the arid zone and the presence of native and endemic species.
The population of goats present on this island was eradicated in 1975.
- The beach area is open, but do not get too close when the pelicans are nesting, or disturb the sea lions.
- Do not leave the trail and keep quiet, and avoid sudden or rapid movements. The flamingoes can be frightened and fly off easily if you get close.
SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
- CHARLES DARWIN STATION
The Galapagos breeding program is conducted by GNP staff with the collaboration of scientists from the CDRS. The eggs are brought from the Galapagos Islands of Pinzón, Santiago and Santa Cruz to the station. The eggs are incubated artificially; the galapaguitos are born and reared until the age of 5 years, when they can survive the effects of introduced predators (rats, pigs and dogs). Then they are returned to their native areas.
Since 1970, more than 2000 galapaguitos have returned to the native areas. Over 400 are in breeding and will promptly be returned to their place of origin. For this to succeed, it needs the corresponding control programs and eradication of non-native animals to continue. A good example of success that this program can have is Española Island. The entire population of Galapagos tortoises of this island, two males and twelve females, were brought to the station for the captive breeding program, since their number was so low that they could not find each other on the field.
In 1976, a third male from Española was sent from San Diego Zoo, USA, to be added to the program. Over 1000 galapaguitos of this race have been returned to Española, an island that can now be considered free of non-native animals, due to the eradication of goats in 1978. It should be noted that the galapaguitos from Española are repatriated at one and a half years old now that there is no danger. Great effort and many financial resources are needed to achieve results like those of Española on other sites.
The main function of the CDRS is to promote scientific research in the islands and the associated logistics. This research forms the basis of any conservation program. It also has a commitment to assist in the training of scientists from Ecuador. The station is directly dependent on the Darwin Foundation, an international body that collects economic funds from different parts of the world for conservation programs and advice to the GNP.
- CERRO DRAGON
The visitors site at Dragon Hill is located in northwestern Santa Cruz Island, and consists of a trail that runs through three different environments at just 1,600 m long.
It gets its name because in 1975, was one of the only places in the Santa Cruz Island where there were land healthy state. That same year, the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation initiated a program to conserve land iguanas. The iguanas on North Seymour (originally from Baltra), iguanas from Cartago Bay (Isabela Island) and iguanas of Santa Cruz Island were studied and then transported to pens especially designed for these animals to breed in captivity. By 1979 first iguana were born.
The entire iguana population of Cerro Dragon was transported to the Venice Islet to keep the away from the wild dogs which in those days abounded in the place. Soil from the base of Cerro Dragon was also transported to Islet to create an appropriate environment for nesting iguanas. It was necessary to separate the Venice Islet from Santa Cruz Island with a barbed wire fence to prevent predator dogs from crossing to the Islet, which is separated from the island by a very narrow channel. Several iguanas that were reproduced in Venice were returned to Cerro Dragon in 1990.
- Dragon Hill has been open for tourism since 1993. The repatriation of land iguanas to this site presents a good option to avoid the overhead of tourism in the South Plaza Island.
- The beach is very rocky. At high tide it’s a nice place for snorkeling.
- PLAYA LAS BACHAS
The visitor site Las Bachas is located in northern part of Santa Cruz Island, it consists of two beaches that have a combined length of about 1 km long.
The name Las Bachas originates from the Second World War, when the American army left two barges discarded on the beach, the first settlers could not pronounce the name correctly in English, which resulted in Las Bachas Beach.
The predominant vegetation is of the coastal zone. It represents one of the main nesting sites of sea turtles on Isla Santa Cruz. It is a good place to see flamingos, as well as migratory and aquatic birds.
- The Galapagos Green Turtle nest in the sand dunes. Be careful not to step on turtle nests.
- The pond behind the first beach usually has some flamingos, Common Stilts, White-Cheeked Pintail ducks and is an excellent place to observe migratory birds. The lagoon must be approached in silence, these birds are nervous and can become disturbed.
- EL CHATO RESERVE
The reserve comprises of two areas, La Caseta and Cerro Chato. The area is open: no guide is required, but it is recommended to take one, because it is easy to get lost in this sector.
The trail that starts in Santa Rosa is surrounded by tall grass and follows the boundaries of some farms. Depending on the season it can be muddy. The rocks are slippery. Be careful.
If desired, you can rent horses in Santa Rosa, if so horses must be tied before coming to la Caseta or El Chato. If the group is interested in bird watching, walking is best for viewing.
La Caseta is used by the rangers who work in the Galapagos conservation program. Their functions include building stone walls around nests to keep pigs from digging and eating the eggs; and hunting of pigs, goats and dogs.
- TORTUGA BAY
Turtle Bay is a beautiful white sand beach, so named because it is a nesting site for the black turtle.
It can be reached by panga or walking from Puerto Ayora (2.5 km from the Baltra Avenue until the end of the Brava Beach). Estimated time for the walk is 50 minutes.
Before arriving at the control booth, there is bicycle parking racks and once at the booth, register with the park ranger present.
There is vegetation on the bottom of the transition zone of the dry zone and coastal zone. In the dunes present at the top of the beach grows Nolana galapagensis, an endemic plant that helps stabilize sandy areas.
Sand dunes and a rocky point divide the beach, creating a protected area and good place for swimming, “the gentle beach”.
Access to this site is from the 08h:00 to 17h:00.
It is an ideal spot for surfing and snorkeling. The Municipality of Santa Cruz, in coordination with the Galapagos National Park and other institutions, carry out recreation activities at this beach during the festivals of Santa Cruz Island, for which preventive measures are taken to avoid any impact.
- This site does not require an accompanying guide (as long as it’s not an organized group).
SANTA FE ISLAND
The visitor site Santa Fe, is located on the northeast end of the island bearing the same name.
Of the two species of land iguanas present in Galapagos, the Conolophus subcristatus inhabits Plaza Sur, Santa Cruz, North Seymour/Baltra, Isabela and Fernandina, however the species Conolophus pallidus only lives in Santa Fe. It is distinguished mainly by the larger and paler color (hence its scientific name).
Of the six endemic species of rats that lived in the Galapagos two survive at present, in Fernandina (Nesorysomis narboroughi) and in Santa Fé (Oryzomis bauri).
Another added attraction is the presence of giant tunas that have a trunk wider than in any other island.
- Parts of the trail are pending. there are places very steep and with loose stones.
SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND
- INTERPRETATION CENTER
The work of the Interpretation Center in San Cristobal is one of the components of the project “Plan of Interpretation and Environmental Education for the Galapagos Island
The tour offered by the Center for Interpretation’s facilities takes us through the history of the islands in the context of nature, humankind and conservation.
The Museum of Natural History explains a series of natural circumstances such as the volcanic origins of the islands, their remoteness from the continent, its ocean currents, its special climate, the arrival of different species, and their establishment, among others.
The Human History exhibit narrates chronologically the most significant events related to the discovery and colonization of the Galapagos.
The second level describes the reality of today’s Galapagos: the problems and the struggle of several institutions and individuals to conserve Galapagos.
The Center has an outdoor theater and a cinema.
- CERRO BRUJO
Cerro Brujo is located on the north coast of San Cristóbal Island; the trail at this visitor’s site can be done in about three hours, including the panga ride. Its main attraction is the powder-like sandy beach, other than species of flora and fauna.
It is an eroding tuff cone that at several locations is composed of lava type a – a. It is formed by low-viscosity lava that contains little gas and breaks while it solidifies and is pushed by lava continuing to flow from behind.
In the lagoon located at Cerro Brujo, the people of Port Baquerizo Moreno mine salt for preserving cod, beef and tortoise. Today it is a place for watching lake and coastal birds.
Cerro Brujo offers an excellent landscape, where you can see Kicker Rock (geologic formation), the southern part of Upper San Cristobal and the coast adjacent to Cerro Brujo.
- It is a good place for swimming and snorkeling.
- ISLA LOBOS
Isla Lobos is about an hour by boat from Port Baquerizo Moreno. The length of the trail is 850 meters and the estimated travel time is one hour.
There is a small population of blue-footed boobies and common frigate birds nesting on this site. You can observe the two species of sea lions present in the archipelago.
During the tour you go through a dry vegetation zone, substrate of volcanic rocks and a sandy area.
During the panga tour brown pelicans and several species of shorebirds can be observed; although, snorkeling, it’s common to see juvenile sea lions, manta rays and sea turtles.
- There is an indicated path, we must be very strict that visitors stay within these limits.
- Most of the trail passes through rocky terrain very difficult to walk.
- PUNTA PITT
Punta Pitt is located at the east end of San Cristóbal Island. The trail includes an olivine beach approximately 90 meters and a trail that ascends to the top of a volcanic tuff hill passing through several natural viewpoin.
The trip is 1,400 meters with an estimated time of two hours.
Punta Pitt is composed of volcanic tuff substrate. High winds present there have led to natural erosion.
This is the only site in the Galapagos Islands, where you can watch the three species of boobies and 2 species of frigates nesting in the same area. The reason that there are three species of boobies at Punta Pitt is due to the geographic location; there is enough food so there is no competition between them. The blue footed boobies nests in the interior (rare in the cliffs), red-footed boobies nest on bushes and masked boobies nest in the cliffs. Another added attraction is the presence of sea lion.
Staff of the Technical Office of San Cristobal, conducts periodic inspections of non-native animals especially cats and rats, this in order to avoid them eating the lava lizards and the chicks of sea and land birds.
- Parts of the path are difficult to walk on, you have to climb a steep ravine, which can be very slippery.
- SULLIVAN BAY
This site is of great geological interest. It is located southeast of Santiago Island, the landing can be performed either in the rocky shore (dry landing) or the white sand beach (wet landing). The length of the trail is approximately 1.5 km; travel time is one hour and a half.
The area is covered by Pahoehoe lava flows (solidified lava in corrugated or accordion form). It was very active in the last 25 years of the nineteenth century. The Sullivan lava formed in 1897. This flow is a geologically very young. The magma formed is flat, but the movement of underground lava, the rapid cooling and other eruptions led to the break in many places.
These formations have a thickness of 1.5 m and did not cover much of the previous relief forming “kipukas” (Islands of vegetation surrounded by newer lava tides). Islands consisting of reddish yellow hills that protrude from the black lava that surrounds them. These elevations are tuff cone-shaped small volcanoes, similar to hornitos and with grooves that appeared long before the lava flow.
These hornitos are in the area near the sea and the right side of Red Hill, and were created when the lava was still hot and liquid gas still remained trapped in small cracks below the surface of the magma, when eventually the gas found an outlet and the lava, liquid and glassy was ejected.
At 150m from the beginning of the path molds of some trees can be found, details of the crust indicate that they were trees growing in small crevices where soil and moisture accumulate in sufficient quantity so they can grow.
- On this site, many geological features have been damaged, especially the glass bubbles of lava (hornitos). do not touch sensitive formations, and do not collect anything.
- PLAYA ESPUMILLA
The Espumilla visitor site is on the northern coast of Santiago Island in James Bay.
During the last presence the El Niño phenomenon, one of the two lagoons in this site, underwent a process of sedimentation, thus causing the disappearance of a representative colony of flamingos.
The main attractions here are a palo santo forest, beach and the landscape. The beach is an important site for nesting marine turtles.
One of the main predators of sea turtle eggs were pigs, which were eradicated entirely on Santiago island.
The presence of goats in Santiago had jeopardized the vegetation of this island, in time came there came to be around 120,000. Thanks to the creation of the Isabela Project eradication this introduced species was achieved.
- Until 1982, there was a brackish water lagoon behind the mangroves, but due to the effects of El Niño 1982-83, it was totally altered. The trail continues into the dry zone and in the end, one can observe land birds of all types and the landscape is very beautiful.
- PUERTO EGAS
The visitor site Port Egas is a black sand beach located on the west side of James Bay and northwest of Santiago Island.
South of the beach is Sugarloaf Volcano, which has deposits of volcanic tuff, the same that has favored the formation of the black sand beach.
El Cráter is just north of this site, it has a saltwater lagoon, which during the summer dry season becomes a salt mine. Between 1928 and 1930, there was the first exploitation of salt; there were no major achievement. Then in 1964 a new attempt was made that lasted for some time.
These settlements caused environmental damage, because native and endemic wood was used as firewood and they introduced plants and animals.
This site is called Puerto Egas, because the last attempt was made by the company of Hector Egas, which failed because the price of salt in the continent was very cheap, and did not justify its exploitation in Galapagos. The project was abandoned and they left their infrastructure.
In 1928 a couple named Conway tried to settle in the upper part, near James Bay, but did not fare well. They wrote a book called “The Enchanted Islands,” published in 1947.
- It is not permitted to go down into the crater of the salt mine. Lagoon birds nest there and resent any intrusion.
A small islet located near the south-east coast of Santiago. It’s shaped like a Chinese hat when seen from afar. It is an island consisting of a cone type “Splatter” (lava ejected as drops and falls close to where it came from, which forms a cone inclined) that forms the summit and many lava tubes that go down to the coast.
On the west you can see pillow-type lava formations, which are an indicator that the flows were formed under the sea and have been raised upward, which is why coral heads are found on the lava.
This visit provides an excellent opportunity for the interpretation of geological features such as lava tubes and lava flows.
The trail is 700 m and the minimum time it takes this trek is half an hour.
- It is prohibited to climb to the summit. Lava flows from this island are extremely fragile and easily eroded.
- Sombrero Chino is separated from Santiago Island by a small channel of turquoise waters. The adjacent lava flow on Santiago Island, is not visiting area.
- It is very nice to snorkel near the shore of Santiago island. There is a variety of marine species.
SOUTH PLAZAS ISLAND
South Plazas is located east of Santa Cruz Island, and forms part of two islands known as Islas Plazas. The landing is on the north coast of the island in a channel that separates it from North Plaza Island. South Plazas has an area of 13 hectares and a height of 25m.
There are about 1,000 sea lions that inhabit this island. On the cliffs located in the south – east of the island, there is a group of lone sea lions, mixed juvenile and adult old and retired
Land iguanas on Plaza Sur, are smaller than those at other sites. They nest during the hot season. Throughout the island are several hybrid iguanas, a result of crossing a male marine iguana and a female land iguana. These iguanas are unique, recognizable at first glance by their black or gray color, with a land iguana’s crest, but face and tail of the marine iguana. During consecutive dry years, the iguana population may decrease due to lack of food and water.
In 1961, seven goats were exterminated from the island.
- Do not approach the edge of the ravine.
- Do not allow approach male sea lions.
- It is strictly forbidden to swim from the dock to the shore of Plaza Sur, male lions are constantly patrolling their territories and swim there can be extremely dangerous.