We spent over 3 weeks in the Galapagos without doing a cruise and saw TONS of amazing wildlife. Here are the best places to check off your Galapagos Wildlife Bucket List!
Sea Turtles: San Cristobal, Isabela, Santa Cruz
The ocean around the Galapagos is abundant with sea turtles! We saw them on every island. For huge ones that resemble the giant tortoise head to Isabela while you can see the bright green smaller ones all over San Cristobal. We also spotted a couple at Laguna Ninfas and from the dock in Santa Cruz. This is probably the easiest one to check off your Galapagos Wildlife Bucket List but it never gets old swimming with these guys.
Sea Lions: San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela
Sea lions are also everywhere in the Galapagos, both on land, and in the water! We saw them on all three islands but San Cristobal has the most by far! Be sure to swim with them by the lighthouse at Punta Carola. They are super playful and love to interact underwater. But be careful, sometimes they can be a little too curious and intimidating!
Marine Iguanas: Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz), Isabela
While these guys are everywhere, the best place to swim with them is the tide pool on your way to Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz. If you’re after some sunbathers head to happy hour on Isabela to see them basking on the wall of the Caleta Iguana beach bar.
Land Iguanas: Santa Cruz
We didn’t see any land iguanas in the wild, but we did see a cool one at the Charles Darwin Center on Santa Cruz. We also read you can see them on Baltra and North Seymour.
Giant Tortoises: Santa Cruz, Isabela
Basically synonymous with the Galapagos, the giant tortoise is a must-see for your Galapagos Wildlife Bucket List. You can spot dozens at all ages at the breeding centers on both Santa Cruz and Isabela. Head to Rancho Primicias in the Santa Cruz highlands to see them in nature and you may even spot one on your bike ride to the Wall of Tears on Isla Isabela.
Blue Footed Boobies, Red Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies: Isabela, Punta Pitt (San Cristobal), North Seymour (Santa Cruz)
These awesome birds are harder to find. You pretty much need a tour to see them. We got up close and personal with a couple of blue-footed boobies on the Tuneles Tour in Isabela. We also saw the red-footed booby and Nasca booby from a distance during lunch at Punta Pitt on the 360 Tour on San Cristobal. You can spot blue-footed boobies on Santa Cruz as well. We saw them while kayaking.
Frigate: North Seymour (Santa Cruz), Punta Pitt (San Cristobal)
This bird is rad! Also a bit harder to find, but we luckily saw some at Punta Pitt on the 360 Tour in San Cristobal and we saw lots more from our dive boat at North Seymour. Several tours get off on North Seymour Island for bird watching.
Who knew penguins were in the tropics!? These penguins are the Northernmost penguins in the world and they are adorable. We saw them from the boat on the Tuneles Tour on Isabela.
We spotted several of these pink beauties while biking in Isabela.
So we’re not convinced there are actually live seahorses in the Galapagos… Read more about that here. But we did see one clinging to some seagrass on the Tuneles Tour in Isabela.
Sunfish: Gordon Rocks (Santa Cruz)
The sunfish or mola mola, was such a big bucket list item for us. We saw 3 of these alien-like giants while diving Gordon Rocks. They are so wild looking. Be warned you will definitely suck up some more air!
Hammerheads: Gordon Rocks (Santa Cruz), Kicker Rock (San Cristobal), Darwin, Wolf
Another Galapagos big ticket item, hammerheads, or Tiburon martillo, are abundant in the Galapagos. You can find them schooling in the dozens at Gordon Rocks and Kicker Rock. We saw a few on our dives! Islands Darwin and Wolf (only accessible by cruise) are supposed to have them in the hundreds!
Galapagos Sharks: Santa Cruz, Isabela, Kicker Rock (San Cristobal)
The Galapagos sharks aren’t as intimidating as the hammerheads but are still really cool. We saw them while diving off Santa Cruz and while snorkeling at Kicker Rock in San Cristobal and at Los Tuneles on Isabela.
Black Tip Sharks: Santa Cruz, Isabela
These sharks are usually small and kind of cute! We saw lots of them from the pier in Santa Cruz and we snorkeled with them right in front of our hotel in Isabela Island.
White Tip Sharks: San Cristobal, Isabela
Look in an underwater cave in Galapagos and you are likely to find groups of White Tip Sharks resting on the sand. They are pretty chill and really cool to swim with. We saw too many for comfort at Bahia Rosa Blanca on the 360 tour in San Cristobal, and we saw several on the Tuneles Tour in Isabela.
Manta Rays: San Cristobal, North Seymour / Mosquera
We saw a small manta while diving near North Seymour and Mosquera, but several people saw larger ones jumping out of the water from our boat on the 360 tour in San Cristobal.
Galapagos Wildlife Bucket List
We recommend going to all three inhabited islands in the Galapagos, but you are sure to see the abundant wildlife everywhere. Check out our land-based itinerary here. Good luck checking off your Galapagos Wildlife bucket list!
Click here to download our Galapagos Wildlife bucket list for free!
Want more information to plan your trip to The Galapagos Islands? Check out the Galapagos Lonely Planet here.
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