Few places in the world have been as important in the advancement of human knowledge and our understanding of life on planet Earth as the Galapagos Islands have been. Among other things, these small volcanic islands located about 500 miles west of Ecuador served as Charles Darwin’s inspiration for the theory of natural selection (note that although he isn’t as widely credited, Alfred Russel Wallace also proposed a similar theory at about the same time).
Because of the islands’ remote location and the fact that they each differ in subtle ways and harbor distinct collections of species, they remain important to scientists and conservationists. But they’re also a fantastic destination for wildlife lovers, who simply want to enjoy the beautiful species the islands harbor.
Below, we’ll discuss Galapagos National Park below, detail some of the wildlife species native to the islands and provide some tips for making the most of your visit.
Birds of the Galapagos Islands
The Islands’ birds are some of the most noteworthy and beautiful inhabitants.
The bird life of the Galapagos Islands is quite diverse, and each of the various species that call the islands home inhabit slightly different ecological niche. This is best illustrated by Darwin’s finches – a group of about 15 different small bird species. Each one bears a beak that differs slightly from the others and is specifically designed to exploit a different food source.
A number of sea birds also live on and around the islands. This includes the great frigatebird, the lava gull, and the swallow-tailed gull, among others. However, the most notable sea bird that calls the islands home is likely the blue-footed booby. This medium-sized bird is best known for its vibrant blue feet, which the birds use to attract mates.
Reptile Species of the Park
Several unique reptile species call Galapagos National Park home.
Because of its remote location, the reptiles living in the Galapagos Islands are quite unique. Some of the most noteworthy reptiles living on the island are three species of iguana. Two of the species – the Galapagos land iguana and the Galapagos pink land iguana – are terrestrial species who feed on the land. However, a third species, known as the marine iguana, actually obtains its food from the ocean – a rare trait among lizards.
Nevertheless, the most famous reptiles living in the Galapagos Islands are the tortoises named after the islands. These tortoises – which form a species complex made up of about a dozen closely related species – are some of the largest tortoises in the world. Like Darwin’s finches, each of the species in the Galapagos tortoise species complex exhibits a slightly different set of adaptations.
Fish and other Aquatic Life
While the terrestrial animals get most of the attention, the park is also home to several fascinating aquatic species.
Many people who visit the Galapagos Islands enjoy snorkeling or scuba diving in the surrounding waters to observe the many types of aquatic life in the area. The surrounding reefs are home to a diverse array of fish, including the Galapagos damsel, the king angelfish and the Galapagos batfish.
A variety of sharks and rays also frequent the waters surrounding the islands. This includes the golden cownose ray and spotted eagle ray, as well as whitetip reef sharks and scalloped hammerheads. However, the most spectacular resident shark species found around the island is undoubtedly the whale shark, which typically lives slightly farther off-shore. These gigantic sharks are the largest fish species in the world, but they’re quite peaceful and survive by eating plankton, small fish and krill.
Wildlife Viewing Tips
Maximize the number of species you observe by employing the tips listed below.
Visiting the Galapagos Islands requires a lot of time, effort and money. So, you’ll want to be sure to make the most of your time once you arrive. Specifically, this means you’ll want to see as many of the amazing creatures you can during your visit. Just try to employ the following tips to make the most of your Galapagos adventure.
- Binoculars are a must. Some of the animals living in the Galapagos Islands, such as the giant tortoises, are large and easy to see. However, many of the others are small, skittish species, which won’t allow you to approach them. This includes most of the island’s birds, among other species. But by bringing a pair of binoculars, you’ll be able to see many of these species in great detail.
- Take advantage of the park staff. The employees working on the islands will be much more familiar with the local fauna than you are. So, be sure to ask them for wildlife viewing tips. They can often point out some of the best places to see different species and share the best time of day to look for them.
- Be sure to follow the rules. The Galapagos Islands enforce a number of very strict rules designed to protect the local wildlife species. The penalties for breaking these rules can be quite harsh. They may even require you to leave the island. So, familiarize yourself with the local rules and follow them to the letter to ensure your trip doesn’t end poorly.
Share Your Experiences!
The Galapagos Island National Park is a truly unique location. And, because it is such a historic and important site, all wildlife lovers should make it a priority to visit the islands. Several of the park’s animal species are endemic to the island, so this is the only place in the world you can see some of them.
Have you ever had the chance to visit the Galapagos Islands? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Let us know about the wildlife you had the chance to see, and any tips you may be able to offer visitors. Your tips may help improve the experience of some other animal lover while visiting the islands.