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map of the Galapagos islands

What lives where and how to get there

An ecological paradise bursting with wildlife you simply won’t find anywhere else on Earth, the Galápagos islands are a natural treasure for the whole world to enjoy. Spread across 18 principal islands, three smaller ones, and dozens of tiny islets live the creatures that inspired a young Charles Darwin to pen his theory of natural selection, which promptly turned the scientific community on its head. Needless to say, there’s a lot of fascinating stuff going on here. Have a look at what lives where to ensure your cruise is everything you want it to be.

The Western Islands

Isabela & Fernandina

The largest and youngest of the Galápagos Islands, the less-visited western islands contain some of the archipelago’s largest colonies of birds and marine iguanas and boundless snorkelling opportunities. If you’re looking for wildlife, come here first.

Things to do

  • Hike to the caldera of Sierra Negra, a 1,124m (3,687 ft.) shield volcano
  • Visit massive colonies of seabirds and marine iguanas
  • Hike through lava fields and over black lava flows
  • See the five largest volcanoes in the Galápagos

The Southern Islands

Floreana & española

The southern Galápagos islands are home to top-notch snorkelling and quirky tradition. Volcanic bays and unusual land formations provide shelter for a dazzling array of birds and fish, and the charming simplicity of Post Office Bay always raises a grin or two.

Things to do

  • Relax on white-sand beaches on Gardiner Bay or scale the volcanic landforms
  • Post a letter and take one home from Post Office Bay, the visitor-supported hand-delivery mail system
  • Discover exotic marine life at Isolte Champion, a snorkeller’s paradise

The Central Islands

Santiago, santa cruz & surrounding islands

The Galápagos’ central islands are perhaps the best spot from which to witness the full scope of the archipelago’s incredible natural diversity on the land and (with a snorkel) under the sea. While close together, each of these small islands has developed in isolation from its neighbours, spawning an amazing collection of plants and animals.

Things to do

  • Come face-to-face with 100-year-old Galápagos tortoises in Santa Cruz.
  • Enjoy the view from Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island
  • Explore hidden snorkelling spots and white- sand beaches on Santiago
  • Swim with sea lions in the waters off North Seymour

The Northern island


It’s hard to tear your eyes away from the water in the Galápagos, but you’ll want to look skyward on Genovesa. Home to an amazing concentration of bird life, this tiny rock is no slouch under the waves either, boasting a rich variety of aquatic animals that rival their winged neighbours.

Things to do

  • Snorkel the sunken crater of a volcano while keeping an eye out for sea turtles and reef sharks
  • Hike the trail that leads to El Barranco for a top-notch vantage point, passing massive colonies of seabirds along the way
  • Explore the largest nesting colonies of red-footed boobies and frigatebirds

The East Island

San cristóbal

An aquatic haven of biodiversity, you’ll find just about every kind of creature (including snorkellers and scuba divers) imaginable off San Cristóbal’s clear waters. The land and sky are equally amazing, too, playing host to colonies of boobies, frigatebirds and volcanic landscapes.

Things to do

  • Sail through mysterious Kicker Rock and dive
  • Hike at Punta Pitt in search of three distinct species of booby
  • Relax on the white-sand beaches of Cerro Brujo