Espanola Island



Espanola Island

Española is the southernmost of the Galapagos Islands and is also one of the oldest at an estimated four million years. Española is a classic shield volcano, created from a single caldera in the center of the island. Over thousands of years, the island slowly moved away from the Galapagos hot spot where it was formed and the volcano became extinct. Erosion began to occur, eventually resulting in one of the flattest islands in the archipelago with one of the lowest elevations.


The quantity and variety of wildlife found on Española make its two visitors sites among the most popular in the archipelago. Because Española is one of the most isolated islands in Galapagos, it has a large number of endemic species — the Española mockingbird, the Española lava lizard, and the waved albatross, to name a few. The Española giant tortoise species was rescued from the brink of extinction and is now one of Galapagos’ greatest conservation success stories. Starting with only 14 individuals found on the island in the 1960s, scientists and resource managers at the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos National Park have since released nearly 2,000 young tortoises on Española where they are now thriving. Española is probably most well-known for being the sole breeding ground for the entire population of the world’s Waved Albatrosses. A species once on the brink of extinction.

Espanola Island


Punta Suarez, a popular site, boasts an amazing variety and quantity of wildlife. Lazy sea lions greet visitors, completely unperturbed, often forcing one step over them to get to the walking trail. Groups of young sea lions play endlessly in the shallow water, waiting for their mothers to return with food. Brightly-colored red and green marine iguanas, the only iguana that remain this brilliant shade year round, line the coastal areas.


The trail passes by a small beach occupied by more sea lions and large and colorful Española Lava Lizards. It then cuts through some saltbush, where Galapagos Hawks, Española Mockingbirds, three species of Darwin’s finches, and Galapagos Doves all go about their business. Impressive nesting colonies of Blue-footed and Nazca boobies make their nests right along the path near the western cliffs of the island. Swallow-tailed Gulls and Red-billed Tropicbirds dash in and out of the cracks in the cliffs. Continuing inland, the trail leads to a cliff on the southern side of the island overlooking the ocean where waves crash into a lava fissure, creating a blowhole that sprays water nearly 30 m into the air at high tide.

Espanola Island


The highlight of this visitor site — and perhaps one of the highlights of the Galapagos Islands — is strolling along the edge of the Waved Albatross breeding colony. With a population of 25,000 to 30,000, nearly the entire world population of the adult birds can be found on Española between April and December. In January, the entire colony leaves to fish for three months before returning. The young albatrosses will remain at sea for about five years before returning to Española to seek their mate. Gardner Bay features an expansive white sand beach (one of the longest in Galapagos at 2 km) attracting many napping sea lions. This is a great place to swim or snorkel with the company of Green Sea Turtles and large colorful tropical fish, including Yellow-tailed Surgeon fish, King Angelfish, and Bump-head Parrotfish. Sea lions dart about in underwater caves as well as the occasional massive Manta Ray or Spotted-Eagle Ray and White-tipped Reef Sharks nap on the ocean floor in rocky areas.




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