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Top 10 Galapagos wildlife

For wildlife lovers, the Galapagos Islands are a must visit. Discover ten of our favourite animals to spot on the islands.


Sea turtle

A standout highlight of a small group tour to the Galapagos is snorkelling with green turtles. These beautiful creatures can frequently be seen gliding gracefully through the calm waters. Visit the turtle nesting grounds of Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island on our Volcanoes and Galapagos tour and you may be lucky enough to see turtles coming up the beach to lay their eggs. 

Marine iguana

The Galapagos are home to the only marine lizard on Earth. It likely evolved its marine lifestyle because of the sparsity of nutritious vegetation on land, opting instead for seaweed. Darwin was not a fan, when he first saw them he wrote: “The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2-3 ft), disgusting clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea. I call them ‘imps of darkness'”. You'll spot marine iguanas all over the islands, sunbathing on the rocks, and you may even find one swimming along the water's surface when you're snorkelling. On land, look out for their sneezes, which they do frequently to expel salt from glands near their noses.

Galapagos giant tortoise

These giant tortoises are so iconic that the islands were named after them ("galapago" means "tortoise" in Spanish). They are the largest tortoise species in the world and live for an average of 100 years. Many of these enormous creatures live up in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Visit the highlands on our Machu Picchu and Galapagos tour to see the tortoises in the wild. We also visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, to learn more about the tortoise and visit the nursery, which homes young tortoises until their shells are hardened enough to resist attack from predators.

Galapagos penguin

The Galapagos penguin is one of the smallest penguins in the world and the most northerly; in fact its the only species found north of the equator. Take our boat cruise of the North, West and Central Islands and we'll visit the islands most inhabited by these penguins, so you'll hopefully get to spot them from the boat or during one of your stops on land.

Blue footed booby

The blue footed booby is one of the most famous creatures in the Galapagos due to their funny name and comical appearance. The birds' mating ritual is also an entertaining affair, as males lift their feet up and down in a strutting display for the females. They are not found exclusively on the Galapagos Islands, but about half of the world's population breeds here.

Magnificent frigatebird

There are few birds easier to recognise than male magnificent frigatebirds. They have a giant red throat pouch which makes for a bright, stunning display when fully inflated to attract females during mating season. The brighter the pouch, the more attractive they appear to females.

Sea lion

You'll likely see sea lions all over the place in the Galapagos, even laying across the benches in towns! Look out for adorable baby sea lions, who look very content curled up on the warm sandy beaches for a snooze. And sea lions are not shy in the water either; go snorkelling and you'll probably get the chance to get up close with these playful creatures. 

Flightless cormorant

This flightless bird, endemic to the Galapagos and only found in the western islands, is the only cormorant in the world which has lost the ability to fly. Look out for these birds on our boat cruise of the North, West and Central Islands.

Waved albatross

The waved albatross is the largest bird in the archipelago. Espanola Island is the sole breeding ground for the entire world population. Visit Espanola on our boat cruise to the Central, South and Eastern Islands to spot these majestic birds, which have a wingspan of up to two and a half metres. Visit between September and November to witness the colonies at their busiest, and you may even spot a fluffy chick or two.


Last but not least, Darwin’s favourite - the finch. Perhaps not as exciting as the others, however the finch played a key role in the development of Darwin's theory of natural selection. There are around 13 different species today that are endemic to the Galapagos, all evolved from a single species.


Explore the Galapagos with us

Keen to see these magnificent creatures in real life?

Choose from small group land-based tours or boat cruises aboard the Yolita II. 
View all Galapagos tours

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