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Galapagos Islands Guide

Description

The Galapagos Islands are a group of volcanic islands lying on the equator and located in the Pacific Ocean approximately1000 km (600 miles) west of Ecuador, South America. The Islands are in fact an archipelago made up of 13 main volcanic islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. The very first island is thought to have formed between 5 and 10 million years ago, a result of tectonic activity. The youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed, with the most recent volcanic eruption being in 2005.

The Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador and are famed for their vast number of endemic species and for the studies made by Charles Darwin that led to his theory on evolution and natural selection.

The first discovery of the islands was in1535 by Fray Tomás de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama. De Berlanga had been sailing to Peru, recently conquered by Pizzaro, when his ship was carried west by currents; his discovery was entirely accidental. De Berlanga saw little value in the islands and he wrote that the land there, inhabited only by birds, seals and reptiles, was "dross, worthless, because it has not the power of raising a little grass, but only some thistles." It is possible that the islands were discovered some 60 years earlier by the Inca king Tupac Yupanqui, as Incan oral history tells of his voyage to the west and discovery of two "Islands of Fire". If there is truth to this, and there are some inconsistencies in the story, it is perhaps more likely that he discovered Easter Island. Many years later, pirates inhabited the islands for the amount of fresh meat available, in the form of the giant tortoises. The giant tortoises were highly prized by mariners because they could be kept alive in the holds of ships for many months without food or water.

By 1790 pirates were being replaced by whalers. Captain James Colnett was commissioned by His Majesty's government to investigate the possibilities of sperm-whale fisheries in the region and visited the islands in 1793 and 1794. Colnett made the first reasonably accurate map of the archipelago and set up a "Post Office Barrel" on Floreana. Whalers, who would be at sea for years, would leave letters in the barrel and ships heading back to England would pick up the letters and deliver them to port. The Post Office Barrel may still be seen today on the shore in Post Office Bay.

Soon whalers from New Bedford as well as England were coming to the Galapagos in large numbers, dozens of ships each year. Like the pirates before them, whalers would hunt tortoises, turtles, birds, and occasionally land iguanas for food.

By the time of Darwin's visit in 1835, tortoises were already disappearing from Floreana and The Santa Fe and Rabida tortoise races became extinct in the nineteenth century. In 1959, the 100th Anniversary of the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, the Galapagos Islands became Ecuador's first National Park and in 1978 the Islands were declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Today, the Galapagos Islands are one of the most popular wild life destinations in the world and can be appreciated by a 4, 5 or 8 day cruise or by a combined land-sea excursion. We offer both types of tours including the largest database of yachts and cruise ships in the world. Our land based tours allow for daily boat trips to various islands returning each night to a hotel of your choice. We also offer specialist diving excursions to remote islands and adventure packages combining kayaking, snorkeling and mountain biking. Due to the enormous variety of places to visit and the number of interesting islands, we have outlined the main sites below which we hope will help you decide the type of cruise or tour you are looking for.

THE ISLANDS

Isabela is the largest of the islands in the Galapagos, more than 4 times larger than Santa Cruz the next largest. Isabela is 80 miles (100 km) in length and though it is remarkably beautiful it is not one of the most visited islands in the chain.

One of the youngest islands, Isabela is located on the western edge of the archipelago near the Galapagos Hot Spot. At approximately 1 million years old, the island was formed by the merger of 6 shield volcanoes making it one of the most volcanically active places on earth. Visitors cruising past Elizabeth Bay on the west coast can see evidence of this activity in the fumaroles rising from Volcan Chico on Sierra Negra.

The Wolf Volcano is the youngest of Isabela's volcanoes and at 5,600 ft (1707 m) the highest point in the Galapagos. Isabela is known for its geology, providing visitors with excellent examples of the geologic occurrences that have created the Galapagos Islands including uplifts at Urbina Bay and the Bolivar Channel, Tuft cones at Tagus Cove, and Pulmace on Alcedo. Just north of Tagus Cove on the western side of IsabelaIsland lies Punta Tortuga, a bathing beach surrounded by mangroves. Here the black sand beach and mangrove swamp were tectonically uplifted in 1975.

Visitors who venture into the swamp have the opportunity to see the tool-using mangrove finch, endemic to Isabela and Fernandina. The mangrove finch holds twigs or spines in its beak and uses the tool to hunt for grubs. If the tool is a particularly useful one for the finch it will save it for future use.

Punta Tortuga offers a spectacular view of Fernandina's volcano. In 1825 the American ship Tabor anchored here at Galapagos Islands Banks Bay to watch an eruption. The close proximity to the eruption and the heat generated caused the boat's rigging to melt. Isabela also has rich animal, bird, and marine life and is home to more wild tortoises than all the other islands. Isabela's large size and notable topography created barriers for the slow moving tortoises; apparently the creatures were unable to cross lava flows and other obstacles, causing several different sub-species of tortoise to develop. Today tortoises roam free in the calderas of Alcedo, Wolf, Cerro Azul, Darwin and Sierra Negra.

On the west coast of Isabela the nutrient rich Cromwell Current upwelling created a feeding ground for fish, whales, dolphin and birds. These waters have long been known as the best place to see whales in the Galapagos with some 16 species of whales having been identified in the area including humpbacks, sperm, sei, minkes and orcas. During the 19th century whalers hunted in these waters until the giant creatures were near extinction. The steep cliffs of Tagus Cove bare the names of many of the whaling ships, which hunted in these waters. To the west point of the northern tip of Isabela, lies Punta Vicente Roca, the remnants of an ancient volcano which has formed two turquoise coves with a bay protected from the ocean swells.

The spot is a popular anchorage from which to take a panga ride along the cliff that are the remains of the volcano or explore a partially sunken cave at the water’s edge.

Masked and blue-footed boobies sit perched along the point and the sheer cliffs, while flightless cormorants inhabit the shoreline. The upwelling of coldwater currents in this part of the Galapagos, give rise to an abundance of marine life which, in combination with the protection of the coves, make Punta Vicente Roca one of the archipelago’s sough after dive spots. One cove is only accessible from the sea by way of an underwater passage. The passage opens to calm waters of the hidden cove where sea lions like to laze on the beach having traveled along the underwater route. The entire area of Punta Vicente Roca lies on the flank of the 2600 foot Volcano Ecuador. This is the Galapagos island’s sixth largest volcano. Half of Volcano Ecuador slid into the ocean leaving a spectacular cutaway view of the volcanic caldera.

Galapagos Penguins and Flightless Cormorants also feed from the Cromwell Current upwelling. These endemic birds nest along the coast of Isabela and neighbouring Fernandina. The Mangrove Finch, Galapagos Hawk, Brown Pelican, Pink Flamingo and Blue Heron are among the birds who make their home on Isabela. Tintoreras, just off Isabela allows visitors to snorkel with the harmless white tipped reef shark (known as Tintorera) in addition to manta rays and if lucky even an eagle ray.

Santa Cruz is the second largest island and is located near the center of the archipelago. It is also the center of tourism in the Galapagos with many hotels, restaurants and shops. Its close proximity to Baltra airport makes the island readily accessible with Puerto Ayora the largest settlement in the Galapagos being the homeport to many yachts. The Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station are also located here making it included as part of most cruise itineraries.

Santa Cruz's human development began in the 20th century, between the two world wars when settlers from the United States and Europe moved to the area.

A large island with a variety of geology, wildlife and vegetation, all of the Galapagos life zones are present on Santa Cruz with the lush Highlands offering a welcome change to some of the more arid zones found elsewhere. The villages of Bellavista and Santa Rosa were established in the highland's humid zone. This region made prime farmland for the new immigrants who planted avocados, coffee, sugarcane, bananas, oranges, lemons, and farmed cattle.

Wild Tortoises roam free crashing through the mist covered guayabillo, pega pega, and grasses of the humid zone. Flycatchers, finch and owl fill the Scalesia Forests near Los Gemelos. Almost every bird found in the archipelago has been seen within the many life zones on Santa Cruz whilst the coastal region offers spectacular scenery. On the north shore of the island, accessible only by sea, is an extensive mangrove lagoon called.

Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Beach). Here among the mangroves, turtles enjoy swimming in the calm waters peaking their heads above the surface while fish, rays and small sharks circle below. To the west of Black Turtle Beach lies Bachas beach whose sand is made of decomposed coral, making it white and soft, and a favorite nesting site for sea turtles. Behind one of the beaches there is a small brackish water lagoon, where occasionally we can observe flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels. A land iguana colony makes the northern Conway Bay their home and sea lions cover Eden Island. Almost every beach on Santa Cruz has their share of marine Iguanas whilst in Puerto Ayora along the southern shore, marine iguanas, pelicans and boobies co-exist with tourist boats and restaurants.

Cerro Dragon, along the northwest coast of Santa Cruz, contains two lagoons where flamingos and land iguanas can sometimes be seen. Vegetation in this area includes Palo Santo trees and Opuntia cacti.

San Cristobal or Chatham is the easternmost island of Galapagos and is also one of the oldest. Eroded volcanic peaks in the northern part of the island and rich vegetation in the southern portion characterize the island. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the principal town is the provincial capital and the second largest settlement area in the islands. Home to one of the Galapagos Islands' two airports many visitors will begin and end their tour here. With a relatively good infrastructure including hotels, restaurants, buses, taxis and visitor information it is one of the easiest islands for people interested in exploring the islands on their own.

Red-Footed, Blue-Footed and Masked Boobies make their home on the eastern side of the island at Punta Pitt. A two-hour hike down shore from Punta Pitt wild tortoises can be seen at La Galapaguera. A short 10 minute bus ride or a nice 30 min walk south from Puerto Baquerizo is La Lobería, home to a large sea lion colony and nursery. There are frequently dozens of sea lions visible at any time. Low tide is one of the best times to visit however, since it is when the mother's bring the pups into the tide pools for swimming lessons. Here you will see the sea lions, marine iguanas and even giant tortoises. El Junco is one of the few permanent fresh water lakes in the Galapagos and is located in the highlands of San Cristobal at an altitude of 2300 ft/700m. The lagoon has a surface area of 648,000 square feet and a volume equivalent to nine million gallons of water. On the way to El Junco you will pass through several vegetation zones and the farming community, El Progreso, before reaching a beautiful panoramic site. It is an ideal spot for bird watching as well as enjoying the landscape. There you will find white-check pintail ducks, common gallinules, miconia bushes and endemic tree ferns. Because of its fresh water, El Junco is one of the few places where you can see frigate birds bathing in order to preen their feathers.

The lake itself is the caldera (collapsed cone) of an extinct volcano and is about 300 meters wide. It is generally accepted that the lake has been in existence since the end of the last northern ice age. It is filled by rainwater and therefore its depth varies with the seasons.

Cerro Brujo is the remains of a tuff cone with an impressive landscape, where it is often possible to see coastal and migratory birds. The primary attraction of this site is the coral sand beach. It is an excellent place to swim and snorkel. Close by is the spectacular Kicker Rock, or Leon Dormido, the jagged remains of an old tuff cone whose flanks are covered with seabirds.

Santiago, also known as James Island is part of almost every Galapagos itinerary. A favorite island for pirates and whalers, Santiago has a long human history as well as some outstanding opportunities for wildlife viewing. Highlights of a visit include the Fur Seal grotto, pink flamingo lagoon as well as the chance to see Galapagos hawks and vermilion fly catchers. Once rich in vegetation, feral goats were released on the island in the 1880's where the goats thrived in the lush environment eating everything in sight and their numbers grew to over 100,000. Their presence has severely affected the island's flora and fauna. Visitor sites are located on both the east and west sides of the island, making multiple visits likely on longer trips. A visit to Puerto Egas on Santiago begins with a wet landing on the dark sand beaches of James Bay. The visit begins with a walk along the rocky coast giving visitors the opportunity to view some of the Galapagos Island's best tidal pools. Sponges, snails, hermit crabs, barnacles and fish including the endemic four-eyed blenny can be seen. The walk also presents visitors with a variety of shore birds, marine iguanas, sally light foot crabs and sea lions.

Fernandina is the youngest of the Galapagos Islands, approximately 700,000 years old. It's location to the west and on the far side of Isabela makes it one of the least visited islands. It still is one of the most active (volcanically) since eruptions still occur every few years which changes the landscape and life on the island. In 1968 the caldera collapsed dropping 1000 feet in a 2-week period. Eruptions in 1995 occurred from a smaller volcano located on the southwest corner of the island. This constant state of volcanic change gives Fernandina its unique feeling. Lacking the native plants and animals of the other islands visitors obtain the feeling of being at the end of the earth. Fernandina is home to a large colony of marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins and flightless cormorants. Punta Espinosa on Fernandina is covered almost entirely by marine iguanas catching the early morning rays. There are also lava lizards perched on top of some of the iguanas and sally lightfoot crabs scurrying about over the entire mass of bodies. This is the largest colony of marine iguanas in the Galapagos.

Floreana or Santa Maria is located approximately 4 to 5 hours west of Española and equal distance south of Santa Cruz; this island has long been a favorite site of visitors including pirates, whalers and early settlers.

One of the oldest islands, Floreana illustrates the aging process of a volcanic island. Unlike the younger western islands, Floreana's volcano has been long extinct and is in the advanced stages of erosion. The erosion process gave the island the nutrients and soils necessary to sustain plant life. The combination of this rich soil and a good water supply have given the highlands of Floreana a diversified landscaping of native and introduced flora.

Floreana is best known for its colorful history of buccaneers, whalers, convicts, and colonists. In 1793 British whalers established the Post Office Barrel to send letters to and from England. This tradition has continued over the years, and even today visitors may drop off and pick up letters, without stamps, to be carried to far destinations.

Punta Cormorant offers two highly contrasting beaches; the landing beach is of volcanic origin and is composed of olivine crystals, giving it a greenish tinge. At the end of the short trail is a carbonate beach of extremely fine white sand. Formed by the erosion of coral skeletons, it is a nesting site for green sea turtles.

In the 1930's Floreana was the setting for intrigue and mystery. A German dentist and his mistress, a young family (the Wittmer family who still live on the island) and a self-styled Baroness with three men came to settle in the island. Shortly after the baroness and her lovers arrived chaos began. They terrorized the other inhabitants while planning to build a luxury hotel. Eventually the Baroness, her two lovers and the dentist all turned up missing or dead. There has been much investigation searching for what really happened on Floreana, but there have never been any answers.

Española, sometimes know as Hood is approximately a 10-12 hour trip from Santa Cruz, is the oldest and the southernmost island in the archipelago. The trip across open waters can be quite rough especially during August and September.

Its remote location help make it a unique jewel with a large number of endemic species. Secluded from the other islands, wildlife on Española adapted to the island's environment and natural resources and the marine iguana's here are the only ones that change colour during the breeding season.

Normally Marine Iguanas are black in colour, a camouflage, making it difficult for predators to differentiate between the Iguanas and the black lava rocks where they live. On Española, adult marine iguanas are brightly colored with a reddish tint except during mating season when their colour changes to more of a greenish shade.

The hood mockingbird is also endemic to the island. These brazen birds have no fear of man and frequently land on visitor’s heads and shoulders searching for food. The hood mockingbird is slightly larger than other mockingbirds found in the Galapagos with a longer and more curved beak. The hood mockingbird is the only carnivorous bird of the species and feeds on a variety of insects, turtle hatchlings and sea lion placentas. Other highlights include the waved albatross as the island's steep cliffs serve as the perfect runway for these large birds which take off for their ocean feeding grounds near the mainland of Ecuador and Peru. They abandon the island between January and March. Española is the waved albatross's only nesting place and each April the males return to Española followed shortly thereafter by the females. Mating for life, their ritual begins with the male's annual dance to re-attract his mate. Once the pair is reacquainted they produce a single egg and share the responsibility of incubation. The colony remains on Española until December when the chick is fully grown. By January most of the colony leaves the island to fish along the Humboldt Current. Young Albatross do not return to Española until their 4th or 5th year when they return to seek a mate.

Española's visitor site at Gardner Bay is a favorite destination for swimming and snorkeling as well as offering a great beach. Punta Suarez is one of the highlights of the Galapagos Islands with a large variety and quantity of wildlife including brightly colored marine iguanas, lava lizards, hood mockingbirds, swallow tailed gulls, blue footed and masked boobies, Galapagos hawks, a selection of finch, and the waved albatross.

Baltra Island was established during World War II as a US Air Force Base. Crews stationed at Baltra patrolled the Pacific for enemy submarines, and protected the mouth of the Panama Canal. After the war the facilities were given to the government of Ecuador. Today the island continues as an official military base as well as the main airport serving the islands. Upon arrival Galapagos Park Fees is collected at the Kiosk. Arriving visitors are met by their naturalist-guide or other crewmember holding a sign with the name of the boat. A short bus ride from the airport is the harbor where the boats wait for passengers to begin their tours. Baltra does not have any visitor sites.

North Seymour is a small islet that lies to the north of Baltra. The two islands are very similar in appearance both created from geological uplift and having typical arid vegetation including prickly pear cacti, Palo Santos trees and salt bushes.

The visitor trail on North Seymour is approximately (2 km) in length crossing the inland of the island and exploring the rocky coast. Along the way the trail passes colonies of blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds.

The magnificent frigate bird is a large black bird with a long wingspan, and a hooked beak. It is extremely fast and has excellent vision and are best known for the large red pouch on their necks. During mating season the males thrown back their heads, inflate the pouch (sometimes to the size of a soccer ball), and shake trying to capture the attention of female frigates.

Boobies and Frigates share an interesting relationship by sharing the same nesting area. Blue- Footed Boobies nest on the ground making their nests from the twigs of the Palo Santos Trees, while the magnificent frigate bird nests just above them in the saltbushes.

Bartolome is a small island located just off Sullivan Bay east of Santiago. A desolate island with few plants, this is the most visited and most photographed island in the Galapagos. The island consists of an extinct volcano and a variety of red, orange, green, and glistening black volcanic formations.

The best known of the island's features is the Tuff Cone known as Pinnacle Rock. This large black partially eroded lava formation was created when magma expelled from the volcano reached the sea. When the seawaters cooled the hot lava it caused an explosion. The exploded particles eventually fastened together forming a rock composed of thin layers. Bartolome's Pinnacle Rock has become one of the best recognized and most photographed sights in the islands.

The northern beach is a popular snorkeling site where visitors have the opportunity to swim with fish, sea lions and Galapagos penguins. Much larger animals can be found near the southern beach including stingrays, spotted eagle rays, white-tipped sharks, and black-tipped sharks.

Seasonally Bartolome is the mating and nesting site for the green sea turtles occuring between November and January.

Females come ashore at night during high tide to lay more than 80 eggs at a time. The females dig a pit with their flippers near the high water mark. After laying the eggs she covers them with sand before returning to the sea. The process may take 3 to 4 hours.

The Plazas Islands are twin islands located off the east coast of Santa Cruz. North Plaza is closed due to scientific research and South Plaza is the visitor site. Both islands were formed by geological uplift. The islands tilt to the north and as the island's southern portion having a greater degree of uplift; they contain cliffs with spectacular views.

Visiting South Plaza begins with a dry landing followed by a rocky trail which circumnavigates the island. The island is home to enormous prickly pear cacti and the endemic succulent sesuvian. These succulents with almond-shaped leaves are green during the rainy season December-May and become red during the dry season giving the island an unusual appearance.

South Plaza has one of the largest populations of land iguanas in the Galapagos. The iguanas seem to be everywhere once you land feeding on the fruit and pads of the cacti. South Plaza is also home to marine iguanas living along the coast and a hybrid iguana whose fathers are marine iguanas and mothers are land iguanas. As the walk continues along the sea cliffs swallow-tailed gulls, frigate birds, Audubon shearwaters, red-billed tropicbirds, brown pelicans, blue-footed and masked boobies are frequently seen. Beneath along the shore a colony of bachelor sea lions can be seen.

Rabida is located south of Santiago and is one of the most volcanically varied islands in the chain. Geologically, it consists of eroded hills and lava emitted from spatter cones that have resulted in the island's striking colors. A visit begins with a wet landing on the deep maroon colored northern beach.

Marine iguanas and sea lions are often seen resting in the shade of the caves nearby. Behind the beach is the salt brush home where the brown pelicans make their nests. Rabida may be the only opportunity visitors have to see pelicans nesting up close. On the cliffs above the pelicans blue-footed and masked boobies can be seen.

Following the path, visitors arrive at a small saltwater lagoon where pink flamingos, Bahaman pintail ducks and common stilts are frequently seen feeding. Rabida offers the best lagoons in the islands for viewing flamingos.

Continuing up the rocky red cliffs a short 15-20 minute walk leads to a cliff overhang with a fantastic view of the cove with the ocean, lagoon and scarlet cliffs. Returning back to the beach, Rabida offers some very good snorkeling opportunities with sharks and manta rays commonly seen.

Santa Fe is home to one of the most beautiful coves in all the Galapagos, and is located in the southeastern part of the Galapagos, some 2 1/2 hours from Santa Cruz and 3 hours from San Cristobal. Santa Fe was formed from an uplift (rather than a volcano) giving the island a relatively flat surface rather than the typical conical shape of the other islands.

Santa Fe is home to a number of endemic species, which have bounced back from near extinction including the Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake, rice rats, a variety of finches and the Galapagos mockingbird.

Visits to Santa Fe begin with a panga ride across the lovely turquoise lagoon. Once ashore there are two trails starting from the same point, offering very different experiences. The first is a short hike leading to a forest of prickly pear cactus. The trail leads out along the coast into the Opuntia forest. A member of the cactus family their name comes from the pear shaped fruit the plant produces. Santa Fe's trees are the largest in the Galapagos.

The second trail also starts at the beach, but heads in the opposite direction. Hiking up a steep cliff side it is possible to see the endemic land iguanas. These iguanas are the largest on the island and their golden color is similar to the cactus fruit they eat. The path continues past the iguanas to the top of the cliff where there is a breathtaking view of the cove below. Once back at the beach there is normally plenty of free time to snorkel back in the lagoon. Playful sea lion pups and florescent fish make for fascinating company. You may also visit a submerged rock where several manta rays and marine turtles can be found.

Sombrero Chino is a tiny island just off the southeast tip of Santiago. Its name (Chinese Hat) describes the island's shape and visitors who travel to the island will find its special landscape worth the visit. Though centrally located it is one of the least visited sites in the area with National Park Service restrictions limiting the number of visitors to Sombrero Chino. Multi-day cruises with 12 passengers or less are the only ones permitted at this site.

The landing is on a beautiful crescent-shaped white sand beach, home to sea lions and sally light-foot crabs. The trail on Sombrero Chino explores its volcanic origin, one of the most evident in the islands. The lava rock is very fragile and tends to break off when people walk over it so it necessary to bring good shoes. Patches of Pahoehoe lava, cracked lava and lava tubes can be found on the island. While the path does not lead up the striking red rust sides of the Sombrero to the caldera, it does venture high enough on the island to offer some spectacular views of the waves crashing below. Snorkeling in the waters near Sombrero Chino is fabulous with white-tipped sharks frequenting the area, as do the playful Galapagos penguins and sea lions.

Genovesa Island also known as Tower Island is an oasis for sea birds is located in the northeast part of the Galapagos and is a relatively small island which is in fact a low-lying volcano rising just above the ocean surface. To reach this remote location visitors journey across rough open waters for a lengthy 8-10 hour, all- night sail from Puerto Ayora. Having arrived at Tower, entering into Darwin's Bay can be a challenge for the captain and crew, who must cross a shallow-narrow channel into the caldera itself to anchor at the base of the steep crater walls. Once inside the volcano birds are visible by the thousands.

Tower attracts an enormous number of pelagic seabirds such as great frigate birds, red-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and storm petrels which all breed here by the thousands. Though there are two official visitor sites on the island, due to conservation concerns visits to Prince Philip's Steps are limited. Vessels with 12 passengers or less are the only ones permitted by the National Park Service.

Darwin Bay was created when the island's large crater collapsed below sea level. Landing on the white coral beach in the middle of the bay requires a wet landing and once ashore the number of birds seems overwhelming, masked boobies soar overhead; great frigate birds display their pouches while resting on the nearby rocks and plants, mockingbirds scamper quickly across the sand. It's easy to see why Darwin Bay is a favorite of birders.

Beyond the beach a series of tidal pools carved out of black volcanic rock offer wandering tattlers, lava gulls, whimbrels and turnstones a place to fish. Yellow-crowned, black-crowned and lava herons and white and yellow warblers have also been seen in the area.

Pinta Island is an elongate shield rising from a northwest trending submarine ridge. The summit, at 850 m elevation, has a small collapsed pit but no caldera is present. Pinta once had a thriving tortoise population, but the population was decimated by whalers and fisherman. The introduction of goats to the island by fisherman in 1958 may have been the last straw. At present, there is only one surviving member of this race, a male named "Lonesome George" who is held at the Darwin Research Station. At present mating with other ‘saddleback tortoises’ have failed so it seems that when "Lonesome George" dies, so will the Pinta race of Galapagos giant tortoises.

Darwin Island is an eroded volcano located on a volcanic ridge which extends from the northwest part of the Galapagos Platform to the Galapagos Spreading Center, some 150 km to the north.

Darwin is only 165 m above sea level and the island is only the tip of a much larger volcano that rises more than 1000 m above the sea floor. The volcano is now extinct; and the island has been calculated to be almost 400,000 years old. There are several smaller volcanoes located along the Wolf-Darwin lineament that do not reach the sea surface. This small islet is inhabited only by sea birds and is rarely visited. It is however, a wonderful place for snorkeling and scuba diving, Darwin is well-known among divers for the diverse and abundant marine wildlife. Here divers are virtually guaranteed to see large schools of hammerhead sharks which are rare in the main group of islands.

Wolf Island in the very far north west of the Galapagos Archipelago is not included on the standard cruises due to its overnight 14-hour navigation. However, both Wolf and Darwin Islands are considered the best diving in the Galapagos islands, some say in the entire world. As you approach Wolf island the boat will be surrounded by the big Pods of Dolphins that seem to be residents to the Island. Wolf is a very small island with high cliffs full of bird life: such as red footed boobies, great frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls, Nazca boobies & terns. The underwater topography is either boulder slopes or walls that offer the most outstanding number of tropical fish of the Galapagos waters. This island, along with Darwin, are magnets for Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks which normally have a lot of parasites, and the fish from the slopes will swim to the Hammerheads and remove and eat their parasites. Wolf and Darwin islands are cleaning stations and feeding stations for amberjacks, whale sharks, trumpet and coronet fish, butterfly fish, tangs and marbled rays. Rocky cliffs reach below the surface of the water and the unusual currents that are found in these nutrient rich waters make the site as unpredictable as it is exciting.