Galapagos Floreana Island – 2023 Ultimate Travel Guide
Galapagos Floreana Island provides a unique Galapagos experience. Floreana has a rich human history that includes pirates, whalers, and daring early settlers. This is also where the intriguing murder mystery Galapagos Affair took place.
Galapagos Floreana Island provides a unique Galapagos experience. Floreana has a rich human history that includes pirates, whalers, and daring early settlers. This is also where the intriguing murder mystery Galapagos Affair took place. So Floreana island has a lot to offer curious guests. Of course, Floreana offers plenty of wildlife and scenery to explore, as well as one of the top snorkeling spots in the world at Devils Crown. We strongly advise you to include Floreana Island in your Galapagos travel itinerary. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about Floreana Island in the Galapagos. What kind of fauna can you observe here? What are the must-see tourist attractions? What is all the fuzz with Devil’s Crown snorkeling? And the tea on all human history that marked the island as the Galapagos Affair.
About Galapagos Floreana Island
Floreana is a shield volcano in the Galapagos Islands. Floreana is one of the more ancient Galapagos islands, with lava going back 1.5 million years. Unlike the other archipelagos, Floreana lacks a well-developed volcanic crater at its core. With more than fifty scoria cinder cones onshore and six tuff ash cones offshore, tourists may view ash deposits and lava flows. These are composed of layers of past eruptions’ compacted ash.
Galapagos Floreana Island History
Floreana, without a doubt, has the most vivid human history of any Galapagos island. So, to begin with, why does Floreana have three different names? The name Charles was derived from the English in honor of King Charles II. As was the case with other Galapagos islands, the English names were eventually replaced with Spanish ones. As a result, Charles Island was renamed Santa Maria Island after one of the ships used in Christopher Colombus’ expedition. The common name Floreana comes from Juan José Flores, Ecuador’s first president, who was in office when Ecuador seized ownership of the Galapagos archipelago. Confused? Don’t worry, everyone in the Galapagos now refers to the island as Floreana.
Floreana Island has always been a natural choice for human habitation because it is one of the few Galapagos islands with a fresh water source. Pirates and whalers were common visitors in the 1700s and 1800s. They would utilize Floreana as a resupply point for food and water, as well as a safe haven from the Spanish navy after raids. They also set up a unique post office here to transmit messages back home during long journeys. Unfortunately for the local giant tortoises, they were hunted to extinction as a source of live meat.
Patrick Watkins, an Irish sailor, is credited with being the island’s first permanent inhabitant. He was able to stay alive by bartering fruits and vegetables for rum with passing whaling ships. Eventually, he managed to steal an open boat and make his way to Guayaquil. More vivid stories describe his strikingly wild and feral look, matted red beard, and lack of clothing. There are also legends about his tricking passing sailors into getting so inebriated that they would be abandoned with him and forced to labor on his crops. The next Floreana island inhabitants were from Ecuador, where they briefly created an unsuccessful penal colony in the 1830s. Later, business ventures developed, beginning with Spaniard José Valdizán in 1868, who gathered lichen employing prisoners transferred from the mainland. Later, in 1924, Norwegian immigrants created a fish canning plant, which lasted only a few years.
All of this, however, was only a prelude to the most exciting moment in Floreana island’s history: The Galapagos Affair.
Galapagos Floreana Island Wildlife
- Most of the usual animal contenders, such as marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, red billed tropicbirds, herons, Galapagos hawks, Galapagos finches, and more, can be found on Floreana.
- Cormorant Point is a great place to see Galapagos Flamingos. Visitors can observe their gorgeous courtship dance and unusual nesting activity throughout the breeding season.
- Green sea turtles often arrive on the coastlines of Floreana between the months of December and May in order to lay their eggs on its beaches.
- Floreana island is home to the rarest Galapagos mockingbird species, which may also be seen on nearby Champion and Gardener islets. With less than 200 individuals left alive today, conservation efforts to safeguard them are in full swing.
- Devils Crown is a Galapagos highlight for underwater enthusiasts. The snorkeling here is unrivaled, with a plethora of colorful Galapagos fish, reef sharks, Galapagos sea lions, and even Galapagos penguins.
Floreana: The Galapagos Affair
The famous Floreana island mystery is told in The Galapagos Affair. A genuine story about three separate groups of independent settlers looking for a Robinson Crusoe paradise in the 1930s.
Friedrich Ritter, a German doctor, and his lover Dore Strauch were the first to arrive. Ritter is well-known for having all of his teeth extracted in order to avoid dental difficulties and for living a simple and sustainable lifestyle off the land.
The Wittmer family followed, creating a prosperous agricultural lifestyle and giving birth to Rolf, the first person born on the Galapagos Islands.
With the subsequent entrance of Baroness Eloisa von Wagner Bosquet and her two boyfriends, life on Floreana became much more fascinating. The Baroness was a notoriously outgoing personality who immediately disrupted the tranquil atmosphere that the other settlers had enjoyed. Conflict was unavoidable, but no one could have predicted the devastating outcome.
A series of mysterious and terrifying events brought the situation to a head. The Baroness and one of her boyfriends vanished without a trace one day. Her other boyfriend escaped on a passing ship, but his mummified body was subsequently discovered washed up on distant Marchena island (together with the ship captain). Ritter died of food sickness soon after, and Strauch moved to Germany, where she struggled with mental health concerns. The Wittmers were the only survivors on Floreana Island.
The Galapagos issue is still a mystery, and it is very likely that it will never be solved. Margaret Wittmer passed away in the year 2000, and she was the last person who had a chance of possessing the information necessary to solve the mystery. For further information about the Galapagos scandal, you may acquire a copy of Margaret Wittmer’s book, read our in-depth blog post on the topic, see the documentary “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden,”
The descendants of the original Wittmer settlers still remain on Floreana and maintain the Wittmer Hotel, which caters to tourists.
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The Mockingbird Conservation at Floreana
On Floreana Island, it’s not just the human residents who make news. The Floreana Mockingbird, a highly rare and unusual feathered dweller, can also be found here.
Charles Darwin, an English botanist, popularized the Floreana mockingbird. Darwin landed at Floreana in 1835 to gather bird and plant species for study, including the native mockingbird. He later built his evolutionary hypothesis based on observations of Galapagos mockingbirds, observing distinctions between species on each island.
However, the Floreana mockingbird is now classified as Critically Endangered. Feral goats, dogs, and cats introduced by humans have damaged the natural Floreana habitat. Only by finding sanctuary on adjacent deserted Champion and Gardner islets did the remnant mockingbird population survive. The Floreana mockingbird’s current population is estimated to be less than 200 individuals.
To save the Floreana mockingbird, a quick and comprehensive conservation effort is required. In 2007, the Galapagos National Park authorities successfully eliminated all feral goats. Nonetheless, the Floreana ecosystem is no longer suited for the survival of some of the Floreana’s native fauna. The Charles Darwin Foundation carries out a census on a yearly basis to determine the number of the Floreana mockingbird population as well as its overall health. They plan to bring mockingbirds back to Floreana island in the future as part of the Floreana Restoration Project so that they can repopulate the island. Floreana conservation efforts are also assisting in the recovery of Galapagos racer snakes, hawks, barn owls, and three species of Darwin’s finch.
Floreana Island on the Map
Participating on a Galapagos cruise itinerary is the most time-efficient way to experience the various tourist attractions that Floreana has to offer. You should verify with your salesperson before booking a reservation at Floreana because not all yachts cruise through this island.
There is also the option of taking a day trip to Floreana from Santa Cruz Island; however, these trips are quite lengthy and offer very little opportunity for sight-seeing. Spending a few nights on Floreana island could be the best choice among the available options. Both the Hotel Wittmer and the Floreana Lava Lodge are excellent options for somewhere to stay; but, because they are so popular, bookings should be made well in advance. Another challenge is overcoming the obstacles presented by the local motorboat ferry service in order to reach and depart from Floreana island. This means of transportation is notoriously unreliable and does not run each and every day of the week. It is highly recommended that you investigate the available timetable information and buy your ticket in advance.
Visitor Points in Floreana Galapagos Island
Floreana Island has a fantastic mix of visitor attractions and activities. Visitors can enjoy historical monuments, diverse wildlife interactions, breathtaking scenery, and some of the greatest Galapagos snorkeling.
Post Office Bay
Post Office Bay is the well-known location of the pioneering mail service established by whalers in 1793. The idea behind it was straightforward: an old whisky barrel was repurposed as a post box so that it could receive letters from passing sailors who wanted to communicate with their families and friends back home. Any sailor who was sailing by on his way back to port would stop, sort through the mail, and take any letters that were addressed to him. He would subsequently be responsible for the letters’ successful delivery upon his return home. It was an honor system that worked for generations, and tourists may still partake in the fun today. Leave a postcard in the barrel; no postage is necessary. If you find a card from your own country, take it with you and deliver it in person when you return home. Check out our thorough blog entry about Post Office Bay for more details on this fascinating ritual. This visitor site also provides access to a vast lava cave and a hike up to the Baroness overlook, which provides a beautiful perspective of Floreana’s scenery.
The path that leads up to the Floreana highlands is not an easy one, and it eventually reaches an elevation of 450 meters. On this hike, closed-toe shoes will serve you well. Transportation is able to be booked in Puerto Velasco Ibarra, which will make the visit more convenient overall.
At the Asilo de la Paz, guests get the opportunity to witness the location of the freshwater spring that played such a vital role for locals and passing ships (Peace Haven). There is also a little but intriguing pirates cave nearby, which was formerly used as a dwelling by the locals. You can almost see old pirates living in this room, replete with shelves, beds, and a little fireplace with a rock chimney if you use your imagination. It is also possible to study the original homesteads of the settlers who arrived in the 1930s, such as the one owned by the renowned baroness.
Cerro Alieri is another location that should not be missed, particularly for those with an interest in botany or flora. Over 48 different plant species have been spotted in this area, with 56 percent of them being indigenous and 33 percent of them being endemic.
Galapagos Floreana Island – Black Beach
The most important town on Floreana, Puerto Velasco Ibarra, is where you’ll find the well-known Galapagos Black Beach. The contrasting hues in this landscape photograph provide a fascinating and unique composition for landscape photography. The vast majority of the early immigrants came at this location, one of which was an Irishman called Patrick Watkins. Watkins Landing is named for him. Sea lions have taken over the beach, and they can often be seen swimming and snorkeling in the ocean nearby. On occasion, you could even spot a penguin from the Galapagos Islands or a marine turtle.
Wittmer Lodge, run by Heinz and Margaret Wittmer’s descendants, is located directly behind the beach. Not only is this a unique place to stay, but the proprietors have antique photos and artifacts to share with guests.
Galapagos Floreana Island – Cormorant Point
Visitors at Floreana’s Cormorant Point can enjoy a panga dingy ride along the coast in search of wildlife, a short hike to two beaches, and free time to swim or snorkel.
There are two distinct beaches at Cormorant Point; one of them has white sand, and the other has green sand. The hue of the green sand beach is due to the presence of olivine crystals, which may be found in the sand. As contrast to being composed of fine sand, Flour Beach is made up of finely ground up pieces of coral. The flamingo lagoon at Cormorant Point is the most popular site there is to see. Flamingos of the Galapagos can be seen by tourists rummaging through brackish water in quest of shrimp in these islands. Other types of shorebirds that can be seen include pintail ducks, stilts, large-billed flycatchers, numerous species of finches, and a wide range of other shorebirds.
Flour Beach can be reached through a little hike that takes you over a hill. Here, Green Sea Turtles lay their eggs, while several species of rays and reef sharks may be seen swimming around the beach. It is common to witness blue-footed boobies swimming underwater in search of food. The majority of other locations lack the diversity of flora that can be seen at Cormorant Point, which includes a few plants that are native to the region. When going along the shoreline in this area, you should exercise extreme caution since sting rays like to hide in the sand there.
Olivine Beach is the only location where snorkeling is permitted, and it often yields unexpected discoveries. In addition to penguins, sea turtles, reef fish, sea lions, and white-tipped reef sharks call these oceans their home. Sometimes you can even spot a penguin.
Devil’s Crown Snorkeling
The Devils Crown on Floreana Island is considered by many people to be among the best places to snorkel in the Galapagos. However, the currents here are rather strong, so you should only go into the water if you are certain of your ability to swim against them.
The Devil’s Crown is a sunken volcanic crater that got its name from its appearance. It does, in fact, look like a crown, with its points emerging from the water in a half-circle formation. The interior of the crown is decorated with coral reefs, which attract an astonishing variety of marine life. There are many different types of colorful fish that may be discovered here; some examples are the hieroglyphic hawkfish, yellowtail grunts, Tiger Snake Eels, Angel Fish, Balloon Fish, Wrasse, and Amberjacks. The protected reef at the Devil’s Crown is frequented by a variety of marine animals, including sea lions, sea turtles, marble and eagle rays, and whitetip reef sharks. If you’re very fortunate, you could even catch a glimpse of a hammerhead shark or a Galapagos penguin as they make their way through the area.
Seabird viewing is another activity that may be enjoyed from the air by tourists. Pelicans, herons, blue-footed boobies, and red-billed tropicbirds all build their nests in the walls of the crater, and then they plunge into the water to feed on fish.
Enderby, Champion and Gardner Islets
Lastly, there are the little islets that are located off the coast of Floreana and that are occasionally incorporated into the itineraries of yacht cruises. Dolphins native to the Galapagos Islands and many seabirds frequent these waters.
Snorkeling at Enderby is quite popular due to the high concentration of sharks in the area. The islet of Gardner is home to a number of intriguing granite formations in addition to vast tunnels. Champion is another another fantastic location for snorkeling. The Champion and Gardner islets are the only place in the Galapagos where the critically endangered Floreana Mockingbird can be found, making them an important sanctuary for this species.
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