On a land based excursion to the Galapagos, taking day trips is the best bet to see unique wildlife on uninhabited islands. Each island offers a variety of different places and activities to choose from. Day trips from Santa Cruz tend to be more expensive than the other islands, so we decided to just choose one. North Seymour Island is a premiere destination for bird lovers, it was a highlight of the entire trip to the archipelago. Prices vary depending on which tour company you go to, but they can also reflect in the quality of your trip. Our tour was quoted at $180, but we bargained down to $160 per person. Even though that was a lot of money to us – the operation was the nicest we experienced. The guide was informative, professional, and spoke excellent English, the boat was spacious and immaculate, the lunch was incredible, and the crew very friendly. I wouldn’t change a thing. The day begins in Puerto Ayaro where you take a bus up to the canal (you may have crossed it on your journey from the airport) to hop on a speedboat. From there hop on a dingy for a dry landing to climb up on the island. The landscape is gorgeous and in the dry season full of color due to the seasonal endemic shrub.
From here you take a short hike with many stops to photograph the wildlife. Good footwear is needed due to the rough nature of the lava rock on the path. The most exciting element of this island is the extreme close proximity you can to the frigate birds.
I was surprised at how much I learned. In the Galapagos there are two different kinds of frigates, Great and Magnificent. Lucky for us on Seymour the two mate on opposing times of the year so you can always see males with their bright red inflated gular sac, puffed up to show off for the ladies.
Also – a bit of mating action if you’re in the right place at the right time.
And of course, the adorable chicks and juveniles. It can be difficult to tell the difference between them – but our guide did a great job at explaining things.
Magnificent Frigate Birds
+Males have a slight purple tint to the plumage on their back
+Females have a blue ring around their eyes and in flight you can see a partially white chest.
+Juveniles have all white heads
+Their call sounds like a drum
Great Frigate Birds
+Male have a slight green tint to the plumage on their back
+Females have a a red ring around their eyes and in flight you can see a completely white chest
+Juveniles have yellow heads
+Their call sounds like a turkey
The birds are not monogamous and there are three other species of frigate birds around the world. They are commonly seen flying high above the islands of the Galapagos. Most of food they eat is caught by females, stolen from other birds. Another bird to see here is the recognizable blue footed booby.
Its name is derived from Spanish, not English and means ‘doofy’ because of the way it walks. The juveniles have dull colored feet and brown feathers, I got a million in one shot of this one in the middle of number two!
I think it was embarrassed. Marine iguanas were plentiful in my ventures around the islands, but this was the only place I found a land iguana. The males are bright and colorful.
Females are a bit more subdued.
They like to eat the cactus and in defense the opuntias will grow more spines and create a trunk so it cannot be climbed. On this island the cacti are smaller and suitable for eating by the land iguanas who were brought over by scientists to repopulate the island after the species was decimated.
Sea lions can be seen sometimes, they blend in quite well with the lava rocks.
A playful pup was interested in our group.
One unique postcard moment is when a whole in a lava rock lines up perfectly with an island formation in the distance.
Sally lightfoot crabs completely covered a particular lava rock.
Our guide taught us that the dark ones are the youngest, rarely seen because they blend in with lava rocks. Older are the bright red ones.
Completely mature are the orange – which are exquisite.
Back on the boat after the phenomenal hike, we sped off to hit a secluded beach. During the ride the crew was amazing at transforming the boat into a dining room. The lunch was truly gourmet, delicious tuna in a coconut sauce, the best cabbage salad I have ever encountered, an exceedingly fresh potato salad, and a portion of rice.
Seconds were offered for everything, and the fruit juice was flowing. From there we took a dingy and made a wet landing at the beach, no one else present but our group.
First priority was to survey the land, we walked over and found a path to a lagoon. There were three flamingos feeding and a white cheeked pintail.
Next was snorkeling and swimming – amazing with blue footed boobies and pelicans dive for fish right in front of us.
We also spotted sea turtles and plenty of crabs. Time practically flew by as we rested on the sand for a little while, before heading back to the boat to finish of the journey. The front of the boat was great for tanning and at the end of the trip we were supplied with fresh fruit and snacks. Once in a life time wildlife sightings, a premiere beach experience, and a flawless crew made this one of the most memorable days we had in the Galapagos.