Floreana Island

Floreana Island

Floreana Island has, arguably, the most interesting human history of all of the Galapagos Islands. It is the site of the first “post office”, established in 1793 by whalers, and it was home to the first Galapagos resident — a bold Irishman named Patrick Watkins who lived there from 1807-1809.

Floreana was the first island to be colonized by Ecuadorians in 1832, but was short lived as there was not adequate fresh water. The island became inhabited once again in 1924 when a fish canning plant was established by Norwegian immigrants, but again lasted only couple of years. A few years later Friedrich Ritter, a German doctor, arrived with his female companion Dore Strauch, who suffered from multiple sclerosis. A doctor of holistic medicine, Ritter removed all of his teeth and took with him stainless-steel dentures to avoid any dental complications. Together, they set up a very successful garden and lived off the land. The next to arrive was pregnant Margret Wittmer, in 1932, with her husband Heinz and step-son Harry. They built a house and also established an agricultural lifestyle before giving birth to their son Rolf, the first person to be born in Galapagos.

Floreana Island

As more people began to arrive in Floreana, the island seemed to almost push back at the idea of settlement and became most well-known for several mysterious disappearances throughout the 1930s.

Today the majority of Floreana residents make their living by farming. The main water source for is a natural pond that fills up during the rainy season, and during droughts water problems often become quite serious for the population. Transportation to and from Floreana is very limited, with a boat from Santa Cruz Island arriving, on average, every two weeks. Though inhabited, the island is still quite secluded in the scale of things.

Wildlife on the island is currently in the long processing of restoration. With the influx of people, and the invasion of feral goats that came in tow, the landscape and limited vegetation were devastated and no longer fit to sustain Floreana’s native wildlife was left in their wake. Conservation work is now focused on restoring healthy populations of Galapagos racers (snakes), hawks, barn owls, rails, three species of finch, and most notably, the Floreana Mockingbird.

There are several visitor’s sites on Floreana Island. Cormorant Point features two beaches, one of which boasts green sands created by the presence of olivine crystals and the second names Flour Beach which is made of pulverized coral and is a prime Green Sea Turtle nesting site. The main attraction at Cormorant, however, is flamingo lagoon. Pintail ducks, stilts, Large-billed Flycatchers, several species of finch, and many other shorebirds shuffle about around the flamingo filled water.

Floreana Island

Post office Bay is one of the few visitor sites in Galapagos where human history is the main focus. A group of whalers placed a wooden barrel here in 1793 and called it a post office. Traveling seamen would leave addressed letters in the barrel and hope that the next seamen to come along might be headed in the direction of their letters’ destinations. Today, visitors leave their own postcards and sift through the current pile of cards—if they find one that they can hand-deliver, they take it with them. Devil’s Crown is a volcanic crater that has been eroded away by the waves, with a few rocky spikes protruding above the water in a semicircular pattern. Inside the crown, snorkelers find an underwater oasis of coral reefs and the marine species that are attracted to them, such as playful sea lions, colorful King Angel Fish, Balloon Fish, hawkfish, Yellowtail grunts, Tiger Snake Eels, White-tipped Sharks, Eagle Rays, amberjacks, wrasses, Hammerhead Sharks, and sea turtles. The rocky remains of the volcano create a haven for seabirds such as boobies, pelicans, and frigatebirds. Red-billed Tropicbirds nest in the crevices. If you’re up for the challenge and fancy yourself a strong swimmer, there’s a submerged tube roughly 4-5 meters down that leads to the other side of the crater.

Four islets to the east and southeast of Floreana provide great opportunities to see explore in dinghy’s. Sea turtles, sea lions, a high diversity of fish and sharks occupy the islets. Large rock formations and large caves make up the coast line.


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