Giant tortoise
Giant tortoise / iStock.com / pb_pictures
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Galápagos sea lions
Galápagos sea lions / iStock.com / piccaya
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Santa Cruz's Puerto Ayora
Santa Cruz's Puerto Ayora / iStock.com / estivillml
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Opuntia cactus forest
Opuntia cactus forest / iStock.com / shalamov
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Marine iguana
Marine iguana / iStock.com / shalamov
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American flamingos
American flamingos / iStock.com / Joseph Graham Coutts
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Sally Lightfoot Crab
Sally Lightfoot Crab / iStock.com / Antenore
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Baltra Island
Port
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

The airport on Baltra (also known as South Seymour) is the entry point for most visitors who cruise the Galapagos Islands. A gateway to the wild wonders of that archipelago located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, this small, arid island studded with cacti and scrubby brush offers access by ferry to nearby North Seymour and Santa Cruz — the latter home to the town of Puerto Ayora, and both home to wildlife populations.

What We Love

Frigate Birds and Blue-Footed Boobies: These two feathered species are fascinated to watch. The gray and white boobies have bright blue feet and expressive mating dances. The frigates, on the other hand, are large, angular-winged black birds; the males are equipped with red throat pouches that inflate like balloons to attract females.

Sea Lions and Flamingos: North Seymour Island is known for a colony of restless sea lions and a small lagoon where pink flamingos wade.

Best Known For

Charles Darwin Station: Named for the man who put the Galapagos on the map with his studies of evolution, this small research station in Puerto Ayora is home to a number of giant tortoises (the largest weigh some 900 pounds) and an iguana-breeding program, as well as exhibits on the history of the islands. Note: Ongoing renovations mean some areas might be closed.

Iguana Conservation: Extinct on Baltra by 1954, land iguanas from neighboring North Seymour Island (where there are now more than 2,500) were successfully reintroduced 25 years ago and number in the hundreds today.

Who It's Best For

Nature Lovers: It goes without saying: You come here to see — and get amazingly close to — the animals.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Wildlife Viewings Are Seasonal: Time your visit — if you want to see frigate bird and blue-footed booby mating rituals, come in April.

Donna Heiderstadt
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger