Española Island

One of the day tours that you can take from San Cristóbal is to visit Española Island – and this would be our first visit to an uninhabited island. Española – which used to be called ‘Hood’ island – is one of the oldest islands of the Galapagos (around 4 million years old), and the furthest south of all the islands. The Galapagos were formed by a series of volcanic eruptions, and so the islands are all different ages.

The main reason to visit Española is to see the colony of waved albatrosses.These are very special albatrosses that are critically endangered, and breed only on this one island. There are only around 35,000 of them left. They are the only species of albatross that live in the tropics. They are found breeding on the island all year round – except from January to March.

Most day tours to uninhabited islands follow the same pattern – a walk on the island in the morning, and then a snorkel in the afternoon – or the other way around, with the snorkel first, and the walk second. Lunch is served on the boat inbetween the two activities.

It took around two VERY BUMPY hours to reach Española in our small boat. We had been warned about the roughness of the boat rides, and had taken seasickness pills in advance 🙂 They worked very well 🙂

Landings on the islands are either ‘dry’ – with a wharf to pull up to – or ‘wet’ – where you have to jump off the boat into the sea and run up the beach. In both cases, you are taken ashore in a small ‘zodiac‘ boat, as the main boat usually can’t get close to the island. The first landing of our Galapagos trip was ‘wet’ – the waves were quite rough, and we had to time our exit from the boat fairly precisely!

This was our boat for going to Española.
The first zodiac load heading for the island.

Once we were all on the island (our group was about 10 people), then we started the walk. The guide explained things about the various birds that we saw, and the walk lasted a couple of hours. We got some GREAT views of the albatrosses – including some chicks – and quite a few other birds as well.

Española Island.
We were greeted by our friends the marine iguanas, as soon as we arrived.
We also saw another marine iguana swimming! 🙂
Our landing beach on the island.
A nasca booby – more about them in a later post…
Waved albatross chick.
Española is hot, dry, and desolate.
Albatross chick.
YES – it was very hard to stop taking pictures of the albatross chicks.
Then we found an adult albatross.
A red-billed tropicbird in flight.
Española also has its fair share of marine iguanas!
This albatross is midway through moulting.
Three nesting adults.

About halfway through the walk, we got an extra bonus! We saw a couple of Galapagos hawks. There are only around 300 of these in the world – and they are only found in the Galapagos.

A Galapagos hawk.
Galapagos hawk in the distance.
The other Galapagos hawk.

The walk went around the edge of the island, and before we headed back across the island to complete a loop, there was an area with a blowhole.

The blowhole was only slightly impressive… 🙂
Another nesting adult albatross.

Just after the blowhole, there was an area with very strong winds – this was an amazing place, as you could see the albatrosses flying overhead on the strong currents.

Albatross in flight.
Another flying albatross.

After the flying albatrosses, we made our way back across the island and got yet ANOTHER surprise – a giant tortoise! 🙂 🙂 It was hiding under a bush with only its head poking out.

Española giant tortoise.

The walk was nearly over, but there were still a few more albatross chicks to see…

Albatross chick.
Here it is again! 🙂
One more albatross chick to see before leaving the island.

After all the excitement of the walk, the afternoon snorkel was a bit of an anti-climax. We were in the water for about 30 minutes, and we only saw a few fish. It was also ABSOLUTELY FREEZING! We had wetsuits on – but we were still freezing cold!

The water being very cold, would be a recurring theme for all of our snorkels! (even with wetsuits on). We did get one final bit of excitement though – on the boat ride on the way home we saw dolphins! 🙂 A great way to end the day!

Bottle-nosed dolphin as seen from the boat. Yes, they are hard to get pictures of!

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