The Galápagos Islands are home to a variety of endemic species, meaning they can be found nowhere else in the world. It is said that about 80% of the land birds, 97% of the reptiles and land mammals, and more than 30% of plants are unique to the Galapagos.
The most famous endemic species are the Giant Tortoises, also known as the Galápagos tortoises, which are found mostly in the highlands Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isabela, and Española island. Their shells are either dome-shaped and saddle-backed. In the past there were more variations of carapace (shell) shapes, when more species of tortoises existed. About four species of them went extinct. The creatures are synonymous with the Galapagos Islands, literally. When the Spanish discovered the archipelago, they called the tortoises “Galapagos.”
Another popular reptile is the Marine Iguana, which is rather large for a lizard and has the ability to forage in the sea. Unlike other lizards, it can spend up to 1 hour underwater. Pink Land Iguanas can also be found and they have pale pink skin with black dots. This species lives exclusively around Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island and was recently discovered.
The Waved Albatross is an enormous bird that spends most of its life in flight over the ocean. Every year they return to Española Island. They are known for their distinctive yellowish-cream neck and head, which provides a stark contrast to their brownish bodies.
Another unique bird is the Blue-footed Booby which is characterized by, you guessed it, their blue feet and brown wings.. These birds nest in shallow depressions that they clean with white excrement. The Red-footed Booby adults have red feet, but the color of the plumage varies, and their bill and throat pouch are pink and blue. Spaniards called these birds’ bobos, meaning stupid, because their behavior seemed ridiculous.
The Nazca Boobies have a yellow iris, orange and pink beak, a black face, and grey feet. The Nazcas are known to lay two eggs at a time but usually only one survives.
Lava Lizards are the most abundant reptiles on the Galápagos Islands. There are seven known species and they’re found on all but three of the islands in the archipelago. They look like miniature iguanas with colorful features.
The Galápagos Penguin is the second smallest species of penguin on Earth. They have a black head with a white border that runs from behind the eye, around the ear and chin, and down to the throat. Visitors can spot them on the shores, laying on top of rocks, or swimming happily in the ocean.
Galápagos Sea Lions have a small crest and a short muzzle and they weigh between 110 to 550 pounds. These are the largest animals in the Galápagos, they’re fairly social, and are often spotted sunbathing on the sandy shores. They can also be found napping on rocks or gliding gracefully through the surf.
As you would imagine, it is extremely important to preserve the Galapagos’ ecosystem. Without conservation efforts, these unique animals can become extinct. If you want to contribute to the cause and make as little an imprint as possible on the environment, consider staying at an eco-friendly hotel and pick up after yourself. Ikala Galapagos Hotel for example, focuses on maintaining sustainable practices and uses solar energy for electricity. Don’t wait any longer, plan the trip of a lifetime today!