Isla Darwin

Isla Darwin

Isla Darwin Overview

North Islands
Darwin Island, alternatively known as Culpepper Island, represents an isolated, uninhabited jewel in the Galapagos archipelago, named in tribute to the renowned naturalist Charles Darwin. As the northernmost island of the Galapagos, it lies over 100 miles northwest of the larger Isabela Island, standing as a remote outpost in the Pacific Ocean. This island is notably the visible peak of a colossal, predominantly submerged extinct volcano, with geological estimates placing its age between 400,000 to 1.6 million years. Darwin Island's rugged landscape and sheer cliffs rise majestically from the sea, creating a stunning visual spectacle. Divers from all over the world adore the island for its exceptional underwater scenery and biodiversity despite the fact that it is devoid of human habitation and serves as a vital habitat for a variety of marine life, including sharks and other fish. Its significance extends beyond its natural beauty, serving as an important site for scientific research and conservation efforts, embodying the spirit of discovery and preservation that Charles Darwin himself championed.

Geographical and Historical Significance

Size and Topography: Darwin Island covers an area of approximately 2.33 km² (0.9 mi²) and reaches a maximum altitude of 168 meters (550 feet). It is among the smallest in the Galapagos Archipelago, with its formation distinct from the main Galapagos Island.

Historical Background: Previously named after Lord Culpepper, the island was renamed to honor Charles Darwin, whose visit to the Galapagos inspired his evolutionary theories. The first known landing on Darwin Island occurred in 1964 via helicopter.

Wildlife and Ecology

Marine Life: Darwin Island is celebrated for its extraordinary marine life, making it a premier destination for divers. The waters around the island are known for large schools of hammerhead sharks and whale sharks (particularly from June to November), as well as sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, and various tropical fish.
Terrestrial Wildlife: Although there are no terrestrial tourist attractions, the island is home to sea birds like frigatebirds, red-footed boobies, and the unusual vampire finch. It's also the only island in the archipelago where the Sooty Tern breeds.

Visitor Information

Accessibility: Darwin Island is only accessible via liveaboard scuba diving boats, with visits restricted to master divers due to the challenging diving conditions and strong currents. It is advised that visitors be well-qualified, preferably with advanced diving qualifications.

Best Time to Visit: The marine life is most abundant from June to November, attributed to the nutrient-rich Humboldt current. However, during these months, the currents can be stronger and the water cooler.

Unique Attractions

Darwin's Arch: A famous dive site, Darwin's Arch is renowned for its impressive marine biodiversity, including hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, and various ray species. The arch collapsed in 2021, but the site remains a marine wonderland.

Diving Experience: Darwin Island offers one of the best diving experiences in the world, with the possibility of encountering a vast array of marine species. The dive sites here are known for their large shark biomass and diverse marine predators.

Conservation and Challenges

Conservation Efforts: Due to its remote location and unique ecosystem, Darwin Island is subject to conservation efforts to protect its marine and bird life. This includes restrictions on the number of visitors and regulated diving activities.

Interesting Facts

Volcanic Origin: Darwin Island is the remnant of an extinct volcano, part of a lineament extending from the Galapagos Platform to the mid-ocean ridge. Its formation is theorized to be due to either magma channeling from the mantle plume or a separate magma rise caused by oceanic lithosphere stress.

Scientific Value: The island's unique geological and ecological features offer valuable insights into volcanic activity, marine biodiversity, and evolutionary processes.


Darwin Island stands as a testament to the natural wonders of the Galapagos, offering a unique glimpse into an untouched marine ecosystem. Its remote location and challenging conditions make it a sought-after destination for experienced divers eager to explore one of the world's most spectacular underwater habitats. The island's rich history, tied to Charles Darwin and his groundbreaking theories, adds to its allure, making it a fascinating destination for both scientific study and adventurous exploration.

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Fast Facts about Isla Darwin

Location: Extreme Northern Galapagos
Extent of Island: 1 sq Kilometers / 0.4 sq Miles
Highest Point: 165 Meters / 541 Feet
Highlights: Whale sharks, hammerhead cleaning station, turtles, pods of dolphins, countless schools of fish, Galapagos sharks, silky sharks

Visit Points at Isla Darwin

Animals at Isla Darwin

Galapagos Trips to Isla Darwin

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*Visit point inclusion is subject to cruise programs and logistics. These are regulated by the galapagos national park.