Bird-watching#6 in Best Things To Do in Galapagos Islands
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The Galápagos Islands served as the site of Charles Darwin's famous flora and fauna observations and the inspiration behind his groundbreaking "On the Origin of Species," so it's hardly surprising that the islands are considered one of the world's best spots for bird-watching. In fact, the region is home to 45 types of birds you won't see anywhere else (think: Galapagos penguins and Darwin's finches), not to mention other unique species like waved albatrosses and blue- and red-footed boobies.
You'll find birds on all of the Galápagos' islands, but for some of the region's best bird-watching, travelers recommend heading to Isabela Island (for Galapagos penguins) and North Seymour Island (for blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds). Other islands worth checking out include Española Island (for waved albatrosses and Darwin's finches) and Genovesa Island (for red-footed and Nazca boobies). Santa Cruz Island is also popular because of its variety of land birds. If you want to avoid a long boat trip to reach a bird colony, several visitors suggest heading to Isabela Island's Las Tintoreras, a smaller island situated across the bay from Puerto Villamil.
You can look for birds on your own or join a guided bird-watching cruise offered by operators like Tropical Birding, Andean Birding and WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide. Tour prices vary by company but generally cost $4,000 to $7,500 per person and include lodging, island transfers and meals. Keep in mind that Galapagos National Park entrance fees and flights to the Galápagos from Quito may not be covered by tour rates. Half-day tours that combine bird-watching with snorkeling are also available from Puerto Villamil via companies like Nature Galapagos & Ecuador and Andando Tours. These tours often cost less than $100 per person. To learn more about bird species found on the Galápagos Islands, visit the Galapagos Conservancy's website.
More Best Things To Do in Galapagos Islands
#1 Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz Island)
Outdoorsy types don't flock to these two white sand beaches simply to bake in the warm equatorial sun. Travelers visit this isolated strip of Santa Cruz Island's southern coastline for some quality face time with the Galápagos' marine turtles. If you visit between January and February, you may even catch sight of the black turtles laying their eggs (hatchlings emerge and make their way to the sea between April and May). Even if you're not a turtle-lover, you can still get up close and personal with the other beach combers like marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs.
While most recent travelers describe their visits to Tortuga Bay as a highlight of their trips, some do caution that it can feel like quite a trek to get there from Puerto Ayora, especially in the hot sun. Also, remember that the beach closest to the bay's entrance (Playa Brava) has strong currents, so it's not suitable for swimming. If you want to swim, continue walking to the bay's other beach (Playa Mansa).
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