Fernandina Island, the third-largest yet one of the youngest islands in the Galapagos Archipelago, is celebrated for its untouched natural splendor and dynamic volcanic terrain. Spanning 642 square kilometers and reaching a peak altitude of 1,476 meters, this island stands out in the Galapagos for its lack of human habitation, which has helped maintain its pristine and unaltered state. The island's rich biodiversity, combined with its geological youth and active volcanoes, including the prominent La Cumbre, offers a unique and compelling landscape. This combination of ecological integrity and geological activity makes Fernandina a fascinating destination for scientists and tourists alike.
Geological and Historical Significance
Geologically, Fernandina is a hotspot of volcanic activity and is the most volcanically active island in the archipelago. La Cumbre Volcano, a shield volcano like those in Hawaii, features a vast summit caldera approximately 6.5 kilometers wide. The island has experienced several eruptions, the most recent ones being in 2005 and 2009. Historically, it first appeared on maps in 1684 and has undergone various name changes, initially named Narborough Island and later Fernandina in honor of King Fernando of Spain.
Unique Wildlife and Conservation
Fernandina's ecosystem is exceptionally rich, hosting unique species like the Flightless Cormorant, Galapagos Penguins, and the largest, darkest-colored Marine Iguanas in the archipelago. Conservation efforts are crucial, as Fernandina houses endemic species like rice rats and has never introduced mammals, unlike other islands.
Visitor Experience and Points of Interest
Tourists can explore Punta Espinosa, the only visitor site on Fernandina, offering walks around a small peninsula and inland towards a large aa lava flow. This site is home to Marine Iguanas, Flightless Cormorants, Galapagos Penguins, and occasionally, Galapagos Hawks and Land Iguanas. Other visitor activities include snorkeling and diving, with opportunities to observe sea turtles, sharks, rays, and various fish species.
Access and Transportation
Accessible only by boat, most visitors arrive at Fernandina via Galapagos cruises that cover the western islands. Not all cruises include Fernandina in their itinerary, so it's crucial to check beforehand.
Environmental Challenges and Habitat
The island's volcanic nature has shaped its environment, leaving it with sparse vegetation that primarily consists of cacti and mangroves. This rugged terrain, along with the cold Cromwell Current, creates a unique habitat for its diverse wildlife.
The Promise of Discovery
Fernandina continues to surprise with recent discoveries like the rediscovery of a subspecies of Galapagos Giant Tortoise thought extinct for over a century.
Fernandina Island stands as a testament to nature's resilience and adaptability. Its volcanic landscapes, unique wildlife, and commitment to conservation make it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the Galapagos Islands.
Fast Facts about Fernandina
Extent of Island:
642 sq Kilometers / 247.90 Miles
1,476 Meters / 4,842 Feet
Youngest Island, No Introduced Species, Highly Volcanic