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7 Fascinating Creatures of the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands and wildlife are synonymous – you can't really mention one, without referring to the other – people travel from all over the world to dive and snorkel around the islands, see the oldest tortoise in the world and spot rare and exotic birds. Located 525 nautical miles off the coast of Ecuador, this archipelago of volcanic islands are celebrated for their vast number of endemic species, which were famously studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle in the 1830’s.

To this day the isolated nature of the Galapagos Islands combined with the foresight of the Ecuadorian Government to introduce early protection laws, has helped the survival of some incredible creatures. Naturally this makes for an absolute haven for photographers and wildlife enthusiasts!

We think our land-hopping Galapagos tour, the ‘Tortuga’, is the best way to experience the Island’s diverse land and marine wildlife. Rather than on a cruise tour, by land hopping you get to spend quality time at each location, immersing in the local culture and viewing the wildlife through various activities, like hiking, biking, kayaking, snorkelling and scuba diving.

Here’s a bit of teaser information about some of the fascinating creatures in the Galapagos Islands – your local naturalist guide will be able to fill you in with all the missing details too, they're incredibly knowledgeable!

Galapagos Tortoise

When it comes to status, these guys are heavy hitters! They're the largest of the tortoises, the 10th heaviest living reptile in the world and among the longest-living vertebrates. To the Galapagos National Park Service’s credit, there’s a strong conservation program for the Galapagos Giant Tortoise, which is run through the Charles Darwin Research Centre, a place you'll visit on Santa Cruz Island.

Galapagos Islands Tortoise

Galapagos Island Giant Tortoise

Marine Iguana

These wizened old creatures are only found on the Galapagos Islands. Perhaps unfairly Charles Darwin described them as “hideous-looking” and “mostly disgusting, clumsy lizards”, but he was certainly impressed with their ecological adaptations, with each island hosting marine iguanas with unique colour, size and shape characteristics.

Marine Iguana

Galapagos Islands Marine Iguana

Blue-Footed Boobie

You just can’t go past these feet, it goes without saying, that the bluer the feet, the more attractive the mate. The same colour as a boat shed in Newquay, the blue-footed boobie also use their feet to cover their chicks and keep them warm. When they are fishing these birds fold their wings behind their backs and plunge into the water from as high as 80 feet.

Blue Footed Booby

Which do you prefer? The blue or the red-footed boobie?

Red-Footed Boobie

We couldn’t mention the blue, without mentioning the red, right? Amongst the smallest of the boobies, the red-foot feeds at sea, nests on the ground and perches in coastal trees. The boobie species are thought to have taken their name from the Spanish word ‘bobo’, which means stupid (harsh!). One can only assume that the early European colonists first saw these unwary birds in their less graceful environment, on land! Which do you prefer? The blue or the red-footed boobie?

Red Footed Boobie

The name for a group of boobie is a ‘flock’. Image courtesy of

Sally Lightfoot crab

Also known as the Grapsus Grapsus, the Sally Lightfoot crab is a rather helpful creature on the island. They are often seen cleaning ticks off the marine Iguana’s skin. They have five sets of legs, rainbow colouration, and an amazing ability to climb up wet slippery rocks, jumping from one rock to another; making the Sally Lightfoot one of the most photographed creatures on the island.

Sally Lightfoot crab

Sally Lightfoot Crab, Grapsus Grapsus

Green Sea Turtle

About 150 million years ago the ancestors of the green sea turtle decided the grass was greener (or the seaweed tastier?) under water and so, as evolution goes, they became underwater creatures. They’re one of the few species so ancient to have watched dinosaurs evolve and become extinct.

Galapagos Turtle

You’re most likely to see a green sea turtle in shallow water, often inside reefs, bays and inlet.

Hammerhead Shark

Hammerhead sharks are extremely shy around humans, but when it comes to hunting small fish, octopuses, squid and crustaceans they’re amongst the most aggressive of all shark species. Likewise, when mating they are incredibly violent, the male will bite the female until she submits to him. The shape of their head helps when hunting prey, for example they can pin down stingray to the ocean floor, rotate and then bite.

Hammerhead Shark

Hammerhead sharks are one of the very few animal species that is able to get a tan – their skin becomes tanned if in shallow water for a length period of time! Image courtesy of

True Vacation

“This was the best trip I have ever been on! I am a school teacher and have the luxury of summers off. Last summer I was sitting around without plans and thought, “I need to go on a trip!” I have not been on a big trip before because I was skeptical of traveling alone. I have few friends who share my passion for international travel and have the finances and circumstances to justify a vacation like this. The first decision I had to make was to decide where I wanted to go. Choosing the Galápagos was easy because my favorite animal is a tortoise! After going on the vacation, I have no complaints other than I wish I could have stayed there longer. Our local Galakiwi guide, Pepo, was so knowledgeable about the islands and I learned so much about the history, animals, plants, and culture of the Galapagos. I built incredible relationships with everyone on my trip that made me realize that as humans, we are never alone. There is always going to be someone just as adventurous, just as silly, just as goofy, just as nervous, just as shy, and just as crazy as you! I will definitely be going on another Active Adventures trip in the future. I felt very well taken care of and never had to worry or think about what I would eat or what activities were planned for the day. I have already recommended this company to all my friends and family. BEST VACATION EVER!”
Texas, United States
Tortuga, July 2018
Read Reviews

Galapagos Wildlife by Month:

Galapagos wildlife

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The Seven ‘Wonders’ of the Galapagos Islands

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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