Baltra Islands

Baltra Island

Also known as South Seymour, Baltra is a small, flat island located near the center of the archipelago that was formed by a series of uplifts of submarine lava, resulting in flat plateaus. The island was of little interest to humans until the 1930s, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited aboard the USS Houston, as the US government sought to establish an air base, that was eventually built in 1942, in the Pacific to protect the western approach to the Panama Canal. At the end of the war, the United States turned the base over to the Ecuadorian government, which offered each head of household in Galapagos one of the buildings. Many carefully deconstructed their building to provide building material for their own homes on both Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal. Ecuador used the base to establish their own airstrip in Galapagos, with the first commercial flights arriving in 1963. Today Baltra Island, home to one of two airports connecting Galapagos with mainland Ecuador, is the point of arrival for most travelers to Galapagos.

Baltra Island

Baltra is arid and its vegetation dominated by salt bush, prickly pear cactus and Palo Santo trees. There are no visitor sites currently on Baltra as it primarily serves the Ecuadorean navy, but from the shoreline a large number of birds, including boobies and frigates, which reside on the island can be seen. The closest on land visitors site would be a small, flat sandy islet almost devoid of vegetation known as Mosquera that sits in the channel between Baltra and North Seymour. It has one of the largest populations of sea lions and is also a beautiful spot to observe Lava Gulls, coastal birds, and Sally Lightfoot Crabs.

Baltra Island

Land iguanas are not native to Baltra, but were transferred to the island from North Seymour between 1931-32 by a team of scientist. By 1954 the iguanas were, again, void from the island. US soldiers are often pointed to for their extinction, but it has been indicated that they were already in poor health. Ultimately combination of the introduction of goats who destroyed the iguana’s habitat areas as well as predators such as cats and dogs were responsible for their disappearance.

By 1997, scientists recorded 97 iguanas living on Baltra, 13 of which were born on the island. Within another decade, a total of 420 iguanas were living and reproducing on Baltra and the population is now considered healthy.


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