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Galapagos Northern Islands

June 11, 2020

How should you plan your trip to the Galapagos Islands? Well, firstly you should think about what is most important to you! Do you have a particular species you want to see? Or maybe there’s a specific wildlife event you have always dreamed of experiencing? For some of our clients, snorkelling opportunities are a big drawcard! And for others, it’s more about finding a moderate itinerary suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

If you are simply interested in seeing this remarkable destination, then honestly, any cruise itinerary will do! Because no matter what cruise you select, you are sure to encounter a fascinating array of unique wildlife.

A traditional itinerary involving the northern routes of Galapagos may include visits to Santa Cruz, Bartolome, Santiago, Genovesa and Santa Fe. Here is a guide to what you will find on each island.

Santa Cruz Island

Everyone cruising the northern islands will set foot on Santa Cruz, because Puerto Ayora is either the start or end point of your cruise. So, you will almost certainly visit the iconic Charles Darwin Research Station, as well as the Highlands of Santa Cruz. This is often a highlight for many clients, as the Giant Tortoise can be found here!

But there is plenty more to see on Santa Cruz! In fact, we highly recommend adding a few nights’ accommodation after your cruise so you can explore the island in depth. From moderate hotels to luxury all-inclusive lodges, there are plenty of options for those keen to spend more time in the Galapagos. For those interested in scuba diving, extending your stay on Santa Cruz will allow time for underwater explorations. And there are more adventure activities on offer, including kayaking, biking and hiking!

Bartolome Island

This may be the smallest island in the central archipelago, but Bartolome contains an impressive diversity of wildlife. This is the result of the Upwelling Phenomenon, where cold, nutrient rich water rises to the surface and providing feeding grounds for an array of marine life.

Bartolome is home to one of the most iconic vistas in all the Galapagos Islands, Pinnacle Rock. After snapping a few photos of this famous landmark, head to the base of the rock to find a colony of penguins, sea lions and marine birds. You might be lucky enough to see juvenile sharks swimming along the shoreline, and Galapagos Hawks circling overhead.

Santiago Island

Santiago contains on the most fascinating geological formations in the Galapagos, an enormous solidified flow of lava. The vast basaltic landscape has been sculpted over the millennia and is a unique sight to behold. In fact, the island itself was formed by two overlapping volcanoes and is the fourth largest of the whole archipelago.

Santiago is an unpopulated island; travellers will be able to spot Galapagos fur seals, Galapagos sea lions, hawks, Darwin finches, mockingbirds and marine iguanas.

Genovesa Island

Genovesa is also known as Bird Island. So it should come as no surprise to learn that this is a fantastic destination for twitchers and amateur birdwatchers alike. Here you can find the most iconic bird species of the Galapagos Islands, including Red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, Lava gulls and Swallow-Tail gulls. The island also features interesting vegetation including the spineless prickly pear cactus, the genus Opuntia and “Palo Santo” forest.

Viewed from Darwin Bay, a former caldera now open to the sea.

Santa Fe Island

Located on the south-east of the archipelago this is the oldest island in the Galapagos. In fact, it is around 4.5 million years old! Due to is geological nature and age; most of the animals on this island are endemic, making it a special place to visit. The Santa Fe marine iguana, mockingbird and lizard are all examples of species found here, and only here.  Other wildlife visitors can observe include frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, marine iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, herons, hawks, sharks, rays.

And apart from its wildlife, Santa Fe is also home to Barrington Bay, one of the most beautiful in the Galapagos and a fantastic place for snorkelling.

Is there a species or island that you are particularly keen on seeing that it not mentioned above? Well, stay tuned and we’ll guide you through the highlights of the southern route.