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The main reason the islands have become such a popular tourist destination is because of the ability to observe so many species of animals at such close quarters.


There are 3 species of boobies on the Galapagos Islands, although none are endemic. The blue-footed booby has bright blue feet. These are well known for their comical courtship dance. The red-footed booby has red feet and blue bills. It is found most commonly on Genovesa Island. The masked booby is the largest of the boobies and has a black patch over its eyes.

The waved albatross is the largest bird in the Galapagos, with a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres and weighing up to 5kg, is endemic to the island of Española. It breeds from April to December on the islands, and spends the rest of the year gliding over the Pacific Ocean.

The frigatebird is represented by two species on the islands: the magnificent frigatebird and the great frigatebird. They have a wingspan almost as wide as the albatross, although they are much lighter. The male frigatebird has a red flap of skin under its neck which it inflates to attract females.
The flightless cormorant is the only flightless seabird in the world apart from the penguin, and it is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. There are estimated to be only 800 pairs and is found on Fernandina and the west coast of Isabela.

The Galapagos penguin, the most northerly of the world’s penguins, is found mainly on Isabela and Fernandina, as well as on Bartolome. Snorkelling with penguins is often one of the highlights of a visit to the Galapagos Islands.
Additionally, there are a number of other sea birds, shore birds and land birds found on the islands including the famous 13 Darwin finches.


Possibly the most well-known animal on the Galapagos Islands is the giant tortoise. There are currently 10 surviving subspecies, with 4 species extinct. Lonesome George was the last surviving member of the Pinta tortoise subspecies, but he died in 2012 without producing any descendants. The giant tortoise can weigh up to a quarter of a ton and live to over 170 years old.

Marine turtles are also found on the islands. The Pacific green sea turtle can weigh up to 150kg, and can sometimes be seen when snorkelling.
Land iguanas are found on many of the islands, and can be over a metre in length. The marine iguanas on the Galapagos Islands are the only seagoing lizards in the world and can dive to depths of up to 20m and can stay underwater for up to an hour at a time.


The Galapagos sea lion is one of most frequently seen animals on the islands. The bulls weigh 250kg and can be aggressive. Females and young, however, are very playful, and will often swim around you when you are snorkelling. Fur seals are less common, but can be seen on Santiago island.
There are also two species of bats and two of rats on the islands.

Marine life

Several species of whales and dolphins are seen around the islands, with bottle-nosed dolphins often seen surfing the waves at the bow of boats. There are also 400 species of fish in the Galapagos Islands, of which 50 are endemic. Sharks are often seen when snorkelling (there have not been any reported attacks of sharks on humans in the Galapagos Islands), with the most common species being the white-tipped reef shark and the Galapagos shark. Hammerheads are sometimes seen when diving. Rays are also common and often seen, including the giant manta ray, which can be 6 metres from tip to tip.