Sunday 28 February 2016

Visitor Sites Near San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands

Kicker Rock at Sunset, San Cristobal, Galapagos
Kicker Rock at Sunset
I’ve written all about the marvelous spots available for traveling on San Cristobal Island itself in my post entitled San Cristobal Island Visitor Sites. Among them are the main town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, La Loberia, The Interpretation Center, Frigatebird Hill, Darwin Bay, La Galapaguera, El Junco and San Joaquin Hill, Puerto Chino, Mann Beach, Punta Carola Beach (sometimes called Cape Horn Beach) and Colorado Hill Lookout. You can learn all about these sites by visiting my earlier post and also on the website for the Galapagos Eco-Lodge.

While the sites on the island itself are all treasures, the beauty and magic of what lies a short boat ride from the harbor is truly dazzling. The first of these sites, and truly an iconic place in all of the Galapagos Islands, is Kicker Rock, sometimes called Leon Dormido. This is such a spectacular location, breathtaking at any time of day, that it warrants an entire post of its own, Kicker Rock.

PUERTO GRANDE                                                                                             

Satellite Photo of Puerto Grande, San Cristobal, Galapagos
Photo of Puerto Grande from
Galapagos National Park Service
Puerto Grande is a protected cove on the northwestern side of San Cristobal, with a white sandy beach - just perfect for a peaceful walk, swimming, sun bathing and photo opportunities. It is located next to Kicker Rock Island. The beautiful and peaceful beach houses a system of dunes and plant species endemic to the Galapagos Island coast, as well as many aquatic birds. You might be lucky enough to see a yellow finch flitting around the beach. The National Park Service may give a few lucky visitors, who arrange in advance, permission to camp here.

The Beach at Puerto Grande, San Cristobal, Galapagos
The Beach at Puerto Grande
Flowers at Puerto Grande, San Cristobal, Galapagos
Flowers at Pueto Grande

Sally Lightfoot Crab at Isla Lobos, San Cristobal, Galapagos
Sally Lightfoot Crab at Isla Lobos
That it is the nesting ground for blue-footed boobies and frigate birds is enough to warrant a trip to Isla Lobos, a small rocky islet off the coast of San Cristobal. If you are lucky enough to visit this tiny island and walk its shores, take in the Sally Lightfoot Crabs and view the arid indigenous vegetation and examples of the Galapagos’ ubiquitous volcanic rock. You certainly will experience Nazca Boobies, as well as frigatebirds, both male and female swooping into the water to gather food.

Sea Lion Swimming underwater at Isla Lobos, San Cristobal, Galapagos
Galapagos National Park Service Photograph
of Sea Lion at Isla Lobos
But, Isla Lobos literally means “Sea Lion Island” and that says it all. Here, you have the unmitigated pleasure and delight of swimming with the captivating and charismatic sea lions. Unafraid and eager to engage, the sea lion pups will entice you to chase them and play like one of them. Other marine life at Isla Lobos includes manta rays, multiple fish species, brown pelicans, star fish and sea turtles. Isla Lobos is just one hour by boat from the harbor at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and may be visited only with a naturalist certified by the Galapagos National Park Service.


Looking down at Punta Pitt on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos
Looking down at Punta Pitt
Mating Lave Lizards at Punta Pitt, San Cristobal,  Galapagos
Everyone Enjoys
Punta Pitt
Punta Pitt is located at the eastern end of San Cristobal and you may land on this site only if accompanied by a certified naturalist. However, snorkeling is open to anyone and provides a wealth of opportunities to see the marine life. It is a favorite snorkeling and diving reef populated by large schools of tropical fish including king angelfish, grunts, snappers, and Alamo jacks. Sea lions, octopus, rays, and whale sharks also are frequently seen nearby.

Pelican at Punta Pitt, San Cristobal,  Galapagos
The trail at Pitt Point, which comprises a walk of about two hours, ascends to the top of a volcanic tuff and has several stunning vistas for photograph opportunities. The beach itself is populated by sea lions. Visitors hope to see all three species of boobies – Red-Footed, Blue-Footed and Nazca – when they visit Punta Pitt. According to the Galapagos National Park Service, it is the only place in the entire archipelago where all three species reside because of the abundance of small fish eaten by all three species of boobies. They all are excellent divers and can be seen in groups swooping down into dense schools of fish to eat their fill. Their nesting sites are segregated: Blue-Footed Boobies nest in the interior, Red-Footed Boobies nest on shrubs and Nazca boobies nest in the cliffs. 

Galapagos Frigate Bird FlyingPitt Point is also the nesting site of frigate bird species. The stunning beach is crystalline in consistency and frequented by sea lions, frigates, pelicans, herons and gulls.


Looking Through Witch Hill with Kicker Rock in the Background
Looking Through Witch Hill with
Kicker Rock in the Background
Witch Hill, found on the northern coast of San Cristobal, will delight you with one of the most picturesque white-sand beaches in the Galapagos, although it is open only to trips guided by certified naturalists. This location was one of Charles Darwin’s first stops in the Galapagos Islands and a likely place that he observed the finches that served as the basis for his evolutionary conclusions. As you hike at this location, the feel of the warm powdery white sand will soothe you while you engage with some of the most exciting wildlife in the region. The area is populated with sea turtles, rays and blue-footed boobies. The ever-popular and personable sea lions lounge on the beach and play in the water. The cliffs are exceedingly majestic here and the aa lava is remarkable in its formations. The entire formation is the eroding tuff of a volcano. There are two primary forms of plant life here, both known as halophytes, which means a plant whose roots actually grow in water with very high saline content.

Looking Up the Cliff from the Panga at Witch Hill
Looking Up the Cliff from the Panga at Witch Hill

You don’t have to land on Witch Hill to appreciate its uniqueness. There is no place like it in all of the Galapagos. The cliffs are stunning; lie back in your panga and look up to get its full majestic quality. Your panga can drive through scenic p assages and you can see Kicker Rock on the other side. This is a stunning view. At Witch Hill is the chance again to swim and snorkel with sea lions and observe pelicans, Blue-Footed Boobies, iguanas and other Galapagos endemic marine life.

Majestic Witch Hill from the Water
Majestic Witch Hill from the Water


Caragua Wreck, San Cristobal, Galapagos
Caragua Wreck Photos are taken
by permission from Papertygre at
Caragua Wreck, San Cristobal, GalapagosThroughout WWI transport ships sailed around the Galapagos islands. It was right outside the harbor of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno that the WWI German transport ship Caragua sank 100 years ago. At the wreck site a reef-like environment has been created. SCUBA divers will be exposed to stingrays, nudibranches, corals, schools of fish, rays and sea lions. This remains one of the few wreck dives in Galapagos. The wreck is approximately 300 feet long and you can inspect the ship's remains including the propellers and boilers.


A few other sites near San Cristobal are the following:

Sea Lions at Ochoa Beach, San Cristobal, Galapagos
Another popular boat trip from San Cristobal is Ochoa Beach, just 30 minutes away. This quiet beach is the home to many sea lions as well as ghost and hermit crabs. The birdlife here is prolific because of the pools that form along the shoreline. Endemic mockingbirds also frequent this beach.

Galapagos Bird life at Manglecito, San Cristobal
Manglecito is a beautiful surfing area and a lovely spot for photography, particularly for bird lovers. Here, visitors have a delightful beach as well as the opportunity to see mangrove trees endemic to the Galapagos Islands. More typically, mangroves are viewed in the newer islands to the west. Many aquatic birds frequent the mangroves so visitors are apt to see several different species of finches, herons, warblers, and mockingbirds.

Sunset over San Cristobal, GalapagosSan Cristobal Island and its surroundings feature some of the most memorable sites anywhere in the world, and certainly in the Galapagos Islands. From the Galapagos Eco-Lodge, all of these sites and more are just hours away by boat. Use each day of your vacation to its fullest by staying at the lovely Galapagos Eco-Lodge boutique hotel and traveling with me each day to the paradise I call my home. I promise you the time of your life and an adventure you will never forget.

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