It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since Celebrity Cruises first began taking guests to the Galapagos Islands. The interest in the archipelago of islands nestled in the Pacific Ocean, is ever-growing, and, without a doubt, the island’s animals—which Charles Darwin first began observing in the 1830s—are among the island’s top attractions. Tucked away from suburban sprawl and urban growth, the islands’ native wildlife have no natural fear of humans, which allows you to approach—and observe—them at very close range.
Here, we present a few of the remarkable creatures you are sure to see when visiting the Galapagos. If you want even more photos and information, there’s an app for that! Our new Galapagos app (available for free download in the App Store and on Google Play) comes complete with detailed shore excursions, stunning imagery and videos, and Galapagos must-sees and hidden gems from the editors at Travel + Leisure.
Galapagos Tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra)
Endemic to seven of the islands, the Galapagos tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise in the world and the official symbol of the Galapgos islands. Averaging more than four feet in length and weighing in excess of five hundred pounds, the life span of these gentle giants is over one hundred years.
Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus)
The only penguin living north of the equator, the Galapagos penguin is found primarily on the islands of Fernandina and Isabela. The reason the penguins can survive amongst the islands is the cool water temperatures brought to the region by both the Humboldt and Cromwell currents.
The Galapagos is home to an amazing thirteen different species of finches, with the most important differences between them being the size and shape of their beaks, which vary based on the assorted food sources on each of the islands.
Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus)
Found on all of the Galapagos Islands, the marine iguana lives and forages in the sea, which is a unique quality for a lizard, and typically lives on the rocky Galapagos shores where they can often be spotted sunning themselves. The iguanas vary by size, depending on the islands they inhabit; the largest iguanas are found on the islands of Fernandina and Isabela—the smallest on the island of Genovesa.
Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus wollebaeki)
One of the most numerous species in the Galapagos, they are often spotted sun bathing on sandy beaches, dozing on rocky outcroppings, or gliding through the surf. Their loud bark, playful nature, and graceful agility in the water make the Galapagos Sea Lion the “welcoming party” of the islands and a favorite photography subject.
Swallow-Tailed Gull (Creagrus furcatus)
This member of the gull family spends the majority of its life flying and hunting over the open ocean and is most common on the eastern islands where the water is warmer. The swallow-tailed gull also holds the distinction of being the only fully nocturnal gull, preying on squid and small fish, which rise to the ocean surface at night to feed on plankton.
Blue-Footed Booby (Sula nebouxii)
Perhaps the most recognizable bird that inhabits the Galapagos, the blue-footed booby’s signature feature is its bright blue feet, which males as part of their elaborate mating call, during which they lift them up and down while strutting about in front of the female they’ve set their eye on.
Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)
Sometimes called Man of War birds, both the magnificent and great frigatebirds are related to pelicans. A good portion of their diet is obtained by stealing food from other seabirds, as well as snatching seabird chicks. With long wings, tails, and bills, the most prominent feature on the male of the species is its bright red pouch that is inflated during the breeding season to attract a mate.
If you are off to explore this incredible wildlife for yourself, we recommend you equip yourself with a telephoto lense and the Galapagos app on your smartphone or tablet.