The crescent shaped slither of an island, South Plaza, and its nearby twin were formed not volcanically, but by uplifts in the sea floor. Due to scientific research programs it is not possible to visit North Plaza; however, South Plaza more than makes up for this by offering a great variety of flora and fauna — all the more surprising given the islands tiny size at barely 1km long by 100m wide.
Most tours start on Baltra as this small island is home to the archipelago’s main airport. Baltra was used as a U.S. military base in WWII and is now a base for Ecuador’s armed forces. Visitors may take comfort when arriving at the airport, seemingly out of place in so precious and fragile an environment, that it is the first ecological airport in the world designed to reduce impact through energy saving programs, rain water recovery systems and extensive recycling.
Various accolades can be claimed by San Cristóbal, the fifth largest island in the archipelago, not least that it was the first island in the Galapagos on which Charles Darwin set-foot during the survey expedition of HMS Beagle in September 1835.
The largely arid Isla San Salvador, more commonly known by its old Spanish name of Santiago, was once an important hideout for 17th and 18th century English buccaneers who would re-provision their ships with water, firewood and, regrettably to our modern eyes, tortoises which were taken on board for food.
One of the most important islands in the archipelago, not least because the town of Puerto Ayora is home to both the Charles Darwin Research Station and the administrative centre of the Galapagos National Park Service.
The fascinating and somewhat isolated island of Santa Fé was formed around four million years ago by basaltic lava that oozed from underwater fissures. The island’s 24 square kilometres are covered with arid-zone vegetation such as Palo Santo, opuntia (also known as paddle cactus or prickly pear) and Heller’s scaleasia, a subspecies of daisy found along the coast.