Marchena Island, a captivating part of Ecuador's Galapagos archipelago, stands as a hidden gem steeped in history and bursting with a vibrant natural world. Known as Bindloe in English, this stunning island spans 130 square kilometers and reaches an impressive elevation of 343 meters above sea level. It is a pristine, largely untouched paradise, offering a unique glimpse into unspoiled natural beauty. The island's rich biodiversity includes a variety of endemic species, thriving in its diverse habitats, from rocky shores to lush highland areas. Marchena's isolation has preserved its ecological integrity, making it a haven for wildlife and a fascinating destination for nature enthusiasts and researchers. Its untouched landscapes, clear waters, and tranquil environment make it an exemplary showcase of the Galapagos' extraordinary ecological diversity.
Geography and Geology
A sizable elliptical caldera measuring 7 by 6 kilometers, the peak of a sizable underwater volcano, marks Marchena's geography as having volcanic origins. The island's landscape is predominantly young lava, with sparse green vegetation. The caldera, almost entirely filled with young lavas, some spilling over the sides, adds to the island’s dramatic landscape. The oldest lava pools date back 500,000 years, showcasing the island's geological history.
Wildlife and Natural Highlights
Despite its barren land habitat, Marchena's surrounding waters teem with a rich array of marine life, making it an excellent destination for snorkelers and divers. The island's waters are a sanctuary for species like scalloped hammerhead sharks, rays, colorful tropical fish, and the Galapagos shark. Playful Galapagos sea lions and fur seals add to the marine spectacle.
Notable among the marine visitor sites are Punta Espejo and Punta Mejía. Punta Espejo, on the southeastern edge, is known for clear waters, good visibility, and a variety of species including hammerheads, turtles, rays, and moray eels. Punta Mejía, on the southwestern side, is a realm of grottos and coves where one can encounter fur seals, rays, eels, and various species of colorful fish.
On land, the endemic Marchena Lava Lizard and Darwin finches are notable inhabitants. Blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, shearwaters, and Galapagos petrels are just a few of the Galapagos seabirds that frequent the island's surrounding waters.
Conservation on Marchena Island has primarily focused on battling introduced species, particularly feral goats and the Little Fire Ant. The goat eradication program was initiated in the 1970s, and by 1979, the island was declared free of goats. However, the re-introduction of goats necessitated further eradication efforts. The Little Fire Ant, first discovered in 1988, has been subject to ongoing control measures.
Marchena Island holds a place in the intriguing human history of the Galapagos. In 1934, the mummified bodies of Lorenz, a consort of the Baroness of Floreana, and Nuggeröd, were discovered here. This event ties into the mysterious story of the Galapagos Affair, a tale of settlers, feuds, disappearances, and possibly murder.
Named after the Spanish monk Frey Antonio de Marchena, the island was also known as Bindloe, named by the English pirate William Ambrosia Cowley in 1684 in honor of Robert Byndloss, a chief justice of Jamaica sympathetic to pirates and privateers.
Marchena is an off-the-beaten-path destination in the Galapagos, perfect for those seeking an unspoiled environment. With no land visitor sites, the island remains one of the least touched by humans. However, the surrounding waters are a magnet for aquatic divers, offering some of the best snorkeling and diving experiences in the Galapagos archipelago. Due to its remote location, there are no day tours from Santa Cruz to Marchena; the only way to visit is aboard a cruise itinerary or a specialized Galapagos scuba dive cruise.
Marchena Island is a unique and unspoiled part of the Galapagos, offering a deep connection with nature's untamed beauty. Its rich marine life, compelling history, and ongoing conservation efforts make it a must-visit destination for those exploring the Galapagos Islands. Whether it's snorkeling with hammerhead sharks, diving in crystal-clear waters, or simply marveling at the island’s volcanic landscape, Marchena presents an unparalleled experience of nature at its most raw and beautiful.
Fast Facts about Marchena
North West Galapagos
Extent of Island:
130 sq Kilometers / 50 sq Miles
343 Meters / 1,125 Feet
Uninhbited Remote Island, Great snorkeling location