Sea Lion, Galapagos Islands

Wildlife on the Galapagos Islands

Visiting the archipelago, you will see highly-adapted species, some endemic to individual Islands.

The wildlife on the Galapagos Islands, both on land and in the water, is exceedingly unique. Visiting the archipelago, you will see highly-adapted species, some endemic to individual Islands. There are many unique characters on the Galapagos Islands, below are some of our favourites.

Blue Footed Booby ,Isla de la Plata,Ecuador
isla de la plata, ecuador

Blue-footed boobies

The clumsiness and unassuming charm of the blue-footed booby is bound to win you over! The light-hearted and comical whistling and honking of their courtship ritual is wonderful to watch. The name ‘booby’ comes from the Spanish term ‘bobo’, which means ‘stupid fellow’ or ‘clown’. (Espanola, San Cristobal)

Waved albatross grooming on Espanola Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Galapagos Islands

Waved albatross

Most ornithologists consider the waved albatross to be endemic to the Galapagos, with only a few pairs nesting near the Ecuadorian mainland. The elegant and beautiful courting ritual of the waved albatross is transfixing to watch as they clash their beaks together in graceful rhythm. (Espanola)

Photographing Sea Lions, Galapagos Islands
Photographing Sea Lions, Galapagos Islands

Galapagos sea lions and fur seals

Differentiated from seals by their external ears and method of moving on land, Galapagos sea lions are irresistible. The soft, dewy-eyed look of the newly born pups will have you reaching for your camera. Whilst in the water, these underwater acrobats will swoop playfully around you, twisting and somersaulting effortlessly. (Plaza Sur, Espanola, Santa Fe, Rabida & Santiago)

Battling marine iguanas, Galapagos
Galapagos Islands

Marine iguanas

Slouched arrogantly on the rocks, their spiky black scales give them a punk-like quality. Supercilious and disdainful they stare with contempt at the approach of camera-touting groups. They are the only example of their species found in the world and can be submerged for up to an hour in the sea feeding on plankton along the rocks. (Espanola, Fernandina & Santa Cruz)

Galapagos Tortoise, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
Galapagos tortoise

Giant tortoise

One of the island’s most celebrated residents, the giant tortoise is the world’s longest-living land animal with an average lifespan of 177 years. The tortoises are popular with all visitors to the Galapagos and a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island will give any visitor a great understanding of these unique and fascinating animals.

Frigate bird, Galapagos Islands
Frigate bird, Galapagos Islands

Magnificent frigate bird

Similar to the great frigate species, the magnificent frigate has a vibrant red pouch used for attracting female counterparts. These birds are highly manoeuvrable and famous for waylaying other birds as they return to their nests after a days’ fishing.

Sea Lions, Galapagos Islands
Sea Lions, Galapagos Islands

Marine life

Furthermore, the marine life of the Galapagos is truly incredible. From awesome whale sharks, hammerhead sharks to the endemic Galapagos penguin (the only penguin to live on the equator), the diversity is astounding. Dolphins will jump and surf at the bow of your boat and at certain times of the year, you may be lucky to have some amazing whale sightings.


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Galapagos marine iguanas on a beach, Tortuga Bay, on Santa Cruz Island.

Snorkelling with sea lions and marine iguanas in the Galapagos

Blowing bubbles back and forth with Sea Lions whilst they gracefully showed me their underwater acrobatics, whilst Penguins darted past me with great speed. I swam a little further out to sea and came across the unusual sight of a Marine Iguana swimming with a unique upright technique, and a green turtle gracefully gliding past me.  Incredible – such unusual and amazing marine life encounters in just one snorkelling adventure

Charles Darwin Research Centre, Santa Cruz, GPS

Charles Darwin Research Centre

Visit the Charles Darwin Research Centre to learn about the biology, ecology and conservation of the archipelago.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Galapagos Habitat, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands

Live the Island Life

Instead of (or in addition to) cruising, stay on one of the archipelago’s four inhabited islands for a slower paced experience and more interaction with the local Galapagos people.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Origin exterior, Galapagos

Charter a Boat

In the company of an expert naturalist guide and a professional crew, privately charter a vessel to explore the islands with family or friends for a feeling of complete exclusivity.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Beach, Scalesia Lodge, Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands

Walk Barefoot on Sandy Beaches

Stroll down red or white sand beaches, stopping to sit next to slumbering sea lions and watch penguins frolic in the turquoise surf.

Galapagos Brown Pelican Eating, Galapagos Islands

Puerto Fish Market

Visit Puerto Ayora’s little fish market to watch as cheeky pelicans and sea lions wait for scraps.

Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands

Kayak in the Ocean

Move around the bays, stopping to watch sea lions and turtles, while kayaking over the tranquil water.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Rays, Genovesa Island, Galapagos Islands

Snorkel with Marine Life

Don flippers and jump in the water to swim with playful sea lions, curious penguins and resting whitetip reef shark.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Volcan Chico, Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands

Volcanic Tunnel Adventure

Walk (and crawl) through giant hollow lava tunnels, long tubes left behind by the liquid magma that formed these islands.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Lunch on deck, Galapagos

Dine on Deck

Indulge in fresh and tasty meals served al fresco, perhaps washed down with a chilled glass of white wine, while the boat sails past dramatic coastlines.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Need Inspiration?
Browse our Galapagos holiday ideas.

Our Galapagos Islands experts have created and curated these holiday ideas to get you started. Take the time to search through them and find something to spark ideas for a unique adventure.

Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Roxy Dukes

Wildlife is Roxy’s passion, so where better to immerse than in Darwin’s land? Having stepped on all but one of the islands in the archipelago and having personally visited our hand-picked selection of hotels and boats, there is little she does not know about the Galapagos Islands.

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John Faithfull

Half of the appeal of the Galapagos Islands is underwater, and a few minutes in the company of a five-metre manta ray off the coast of Isabela Island remains one of John’s most vivid memories of this incredible archipelago.

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Paul Bird

The moment a blue footed booby makes its dive and plunges like a dart into the water is special, but to see hundreds do this at once was a breath-taking experience that Paul was not prepared for.

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