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Española Island


Galapagos boobie

Española’s isolated position as the Galapagos's southernmost island may be its greatest asset. Its remote location has prevented genetic flow between Española and other islands; as a result, many of its animals are found nowhere else in the world. Española's most unique fauna are its birds; conspicuous colonies of the waved albatross, one of the Galapagos's largest and most comical birds make this island a highlight of the archipelago. Also expect to find hundreds of gregarious marine Iguanas and sea lions, making for a complete Galápagos Islands experience.

VISITOR SITES

There are two visitor sites on Española: Punta Suarez and Gardner Bay.

PUNTA SUAREZ

Visitors arriving on Española's southern tip (dry landing) may well have to dodge the lolling sea lions, which lounge on the sand and surf the rough waves near the rocky beach point. Beware of the aggressive beachmaster pacing the shallow shores—this male sea lion is protective of his harem of 20 to 25 females and will fight for his territory.

Considerably more easy-going are the dozens of marine Iguanas that warm themselves on the black rocks partitioning the two small beaches. Although young and female iguanas are all black, adult males have a reddish tinge and develop an additional greenish hue during breeding season.

The Española mockingbird has a longer, curved beak and is the only carnivorous mockingbird species; they feed on sea lion placentas, sea turtle hatchlings, marine iguana eggs, and insects. With no natural source of drinkable water on Española, the intrepid birds have even been known to drink the water-rich blood of baby boobies. Farther along the trail are more unique bird species, including blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls, one of five seabird species endemic to the Galapagos.

However, the most famous wildlife spot on the island is the nesting area of the waved albatross. Almost all 12,000 of the world's pairs breed here (Apr-Dec), combining elements of grace, ungainliness, and sheer comedy in a way only the albatross can. These yellow-beaked curiosities have quite the mating dance, a spectacle that can last up to five days and involves strutting, stumbling, honking, and a good deal of thumbwar-like beak-fencing.

The main trail around Punta Suarez also passes the island's famous blowhole, where incoming waves are forced out of a narrow volcanic fissure in the rock. A seaside cliff on the southern end of the trail provides the perfect vantage point from which to watch spray soar over 25m into the air. From the cliff, visitors can also chuckle at the albatross's clumsy attempts to land and take off. Since their awkward webbed feet make it impossible to take flight from inland, they must first walk to a cliff in order to take off.

GARDNER BAY

Gardner Bay, on the northwestern side of the island, is a white-sand paradise. If seaside bliss isn't enough of a draw, dancing sea lions offer another source of entertainment at this pristine beach. Divided into two sections by an outcropping of lava rock, the long, open shoreline is one of the few places in the Galápagos that is completely safe to explore without a guide (although park regulations require your guide to stay nearby). Venturing past the rocky partition to the other beach, however, is prohibited.

Gardner Bay is an excellent place to checkout your snorkeling equipment (especially for those who flew in to San Cristobal, as this will be your first full day). Once your check-out is complete, however, the really good snorkeling is off Gardner Islet and Tortuga Rock, the islet in the distance that, oddly enough, looks like a tortuga (turtle). Keep an underwater eye out for sea turtles, stingrays, and colorful parrotfish.

 

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