There are 13 larger islands and as many as 50 smaller islets. Most places must be visited with a guide.
***Isla Santa Cruz, the second largest of the archipelago (island group) and the most important island, with the Darwin Research Station as well as other facilities. Turtle Bay, is one of the best marine sites, with a white, sandy, swimming beach. You can see Giant Tortoises at Tortoise Reserve near Santa Rosa.
***Isla Isabela, the largest island, is known for the Volcano Sierra Negra, located at the southern end – one of the best examples of volcanoes in the Galapagos. Isabela is home to a huge selection of wildlife – colourful land iguanas, penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, pelicans, Sally Lightfoot crabs, Galapagos tortoises, Darwin finches, Galapagos hawks and doves. A small human settlement, Puerto Villamil, squats in the southeast of the island.
***Isla Española is the most southerly of the islands, with the Galapagos’ only colony of Waved Albatrosses (late March-early December). The best site is Punta Suarez – follow the trail of lava rocks where Blue-footed Boobies make their nests and iguanas like to sunbathe. The trail continues on to a colony of Waved Albatrosses. The island’s best swimming beach can be found there too.
**Isla Seymour, covered with low, bushy vegetation and the best place to see a colony of puffed-up Frigate Birds.
***Isla Bartolome, known for its Pinnacle Rock and a favourite tourist view point, where sea lions and Galapagos Penguins like to hang out. On the beach in the south nesting sea turtles can be seen – seasonal though – as well as white-tipped reef sharks. This beach is excellent for swimming and snorkelling too.
***Fernandina (aka Narborough), hosting the most recent volcanic activity in 2005 as well as a mass of marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, penguins, pelicans, sea lions and seals.
***San Cristobal hosts an airport and the capital of the Galapagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, as well as a number of wildlife sites so this is a good island for seasick animal-lovers. Some of the creatures around are frigate birds, sea lions, Giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and many other tropical birds. There are a couple of good dive sites nearby.
*Floreana is more about humans than animals as Post Office Bay was used by 18thC whalers as a mail pick up/drop-off point. It is a nesting place for green sea turtles from December to May and flamingoes for much of the year.
Flights arrive at two islands: Baltra (South Seymour) which only functions as an airport, and San Cristobal.