5 Amazing Encounters with Galapagos Animals

amazing animals in the galapagos

The Galapagos Islands are renowned for being home to a breathtaking array of animals but it's not just the variety of creatures on the islands that are so exciting. By avoiding the large cruise groups and making your own way to some of the Galapagos' best spots it's possible to enjoy some get up close and personal with some of these amazing creatures.

Whilst there are lots of high-end boat tours around the islands, it’s certainly possible to see the animals up close if you know where to look. By combining day-long boat trips and making unguided trips around the islands themselves, we managed to see so many amazing Galapagos animals. Here’s the top five:

Playing with a Sea Lion on Isabela

sea lion isabela galapagos underwater sea lion

Undoubtedly my favourite moment from our stay in the Galapagos was getting to swim with an adult female sea lion on Isabela. We headed down to Concha de Perla – a kind of natural swimming pool at high tide - early in the morning when there were few people about. We hung our legs over the small jetty and she swam around our feet before hopping up onto the jetty to investigate us.

We took that as an invitation to play and spent an unforgettable ten minutes swimming around with her under the water before she swam back out to sea.

Giant Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands

galapagos tortoise santa cruz tortoise galapagos

On our first full day in the Galapagos Islands we booked a taxi to take us from Puerto Ayora into the verdant highlands of Santa Cruz in search of tortoises. We headed to Primicius Ranch and tiptoed into the undergrowth to see the islands' most iconic animals.

We saw several mid-sized female tortoises before stumbling upon this huge 100 year plus male, who was busy munching his way through some fruit. His size was truly astounding up close.

Blue Footed Boobys and Frigate Birds on Seymour

galapagos blue footed booby galapagos frigate birds

I’m not usually as interested in birds as mammals and marine life, but the ornithological life on the Galapagos really is unique.

Our one hour stop on a largely barren stretch of Seymour gave us up-close views of the improbable Frigate Birds with their balloon-like red gull pouches and the loveable but dim-witted Blue Footed Boobys, permanently fascinated by their own colourful feet.

Bumping into a Sea Turtle at Las Tintoreras

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It was getting towards the end of our time in the Galapagos and I’d still not seen a sea turtle – something that I’d yet to see anywhere despite having been diving in some turtle-abundant dive spots. This changed on our short boat trip to Las Tintoreras – a collection of islets of the coast of Isabela.

The visibility was patchy so I literally gasped - nearly getting a mouthful of seawater in the process - as this huge sea turtle appeared in front of me. It swam around us and grazed on the algae on the sea rocks just underneath. We caught a few more glimpses of him in the murky water before the current took us away.

Swimming with a Damsel Fish at Concha de Perla

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There were plenty of colourful fish that could’ve been included here but this Damsel Fish at Concha de Perla, Isabela makes the cut. I hovered over the rocks at the edge of this underwater ledge waiting for it to swim back up and finally managed to get a head on shot of it swimming up towards me.