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Galapagos Lava Gull

Galapagos Lava Gull

The rarest gull on Earth

What you need to know about the Galapagos Lava Gull

The Galápagos Lava Gull is found nowhere else on Earth except these wonderful islands. There are estimated to be fewer than 300 breeding pairs left, making this the rarest gull in the world.

The Galápagos Lava gull is a striking and unmistakable sight - it’s the only all-dark colored gull in the world, and it also has a distinctive heavy bill. They vary from nearly black to shades of dark grey and have small fringes of white on the edges of wings and tail. 

The Lava Gulls can mainly be found on the islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and Genovesa. They breed all year round and lay eggs in nests that they build on the ground, often using vegetation close to the coast for shelter. The expert guide on your Galápagos cruise will identify this rare species for you, as well as providing more information on its lifecycle and vulnerable status. 

Like gulls everywhere, Lava Gulls are quite opportunistic feeders and will take what they can, when they can find it. One delicacy they seem to prize are the placentas of Sea Lions that have recently given birth, and on Genovesa they have been seen taking advantage of the food dropped by Frigate birds who hassle the Blue-Footed Boobies for an easy meal. 

Like many ground-nesting species, the Lava Gull is most endangered from introduced non-native species like feral cats and rats that attack and eat adults and/or young hatchlings. The Galápagos National Park has several non-native species control programs in place, and this has helped to stabilize the population thanks to its success. Nevertheless, because of the small numbers of Lava Gulls and because they are found nowhere else, this species is at risk and being carefully monitored.

Galapagos Lava Gull: Interesting facts

Their name comes from the fact that the color of their feathers resembles that of lava rocks

The Lava Gull is fairly common in the bays around Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.

Lava gulls can often be seen scavenging for scraps near to fishing boats.

Unlike other gull species, Lava Gulls are solitary nesters.

Galapagos Lava Gull: Pictures from our travelers

Galapagos Lava Gull
Galapagos Lava Gull
Galapagos Lava Gull

Spots where the Galapagos Lava Gull can be observed

A walk on Bartholomew
A walk on Bartholomew

Bartholomew (known as Bartolomé locally) is the most popular excursion for Galápagos visitors, and its iconic scenery is the most photographed in the whole archipelago.

To start your walk on this island you will land in the small bay opposite the famous Pinnacle Rock. You then start the climb to the 375ft peak of Bartholomew. You’ll travel along a half mile trail that includes a series of wooden steps that have been built by the National Park Service to protect the ground here from erosion caused by tourists hiking to the summit.

When you arrive at the top of island the spectacular views will have made your efforts worthwhile. Your Galapatours expert guide will point out all the landmarks you will see from here - Pinnacle Rock itself, jutting skywards. The huge black lava flows of Sullivan Bay. The islands of Daphne Major and Daphne Minor.

On the way back down, you will be able to recognise the different volcanic formations evident on the island, such as tuff cones and volcanic spatter. You'll also see some remarkable examples of the Galápagos' ability to highlight the adaptation of species. For example the  bushes that all look dead are actually very much alive, with leaves covered with special grey hairs that help to reflect the harsh sun and reduce moisture loss for the plants.

Back at the beach there is excellent snorkeling, thanks to the underwater caves and rocks in the area. You will see various sharks, rays and tropical fish. You may also see Galápagos Penguins swimming with you!

Chinese Hat
Chinese Hat

Chinese Hat ("Sombrero Chino" to locals) is an islet set just a short distance off the southeastern coast of Santiago. The small channel between Chinese Hat and mainland Santiago is fairly deep yet sheltered, and the water here is a glistening turquoise.

The islet gets its name because if you approach from the north, you will see that this small volcanic cone does indeed look like the traditional bamboo or rice hat. Viewed from above on a satellite image, however, you will see that this islet is actually more of an oval shape.

There is a short hiking trail on Chinese Hat that runs along the western coast of the islet. This is a harsh landscape of volcanic rubble and lava formations, a very atmospheric reminder of the fiery origins of the Galápagos.

Along the cost of both Chinese Hat and the opposite Santiago shore you are likely to see Galápagos Sea Lions and Galápagos Penguins, either basking in the sun or seeking shade to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Overhead, you might catch a glimpse of the magnificent Galápagos Hawk.

The stand-out reason for a visit to Chinese Hat however is to snorkel in that turquoise channel. Here you can see various species of sharks, rays, and a variety of tropical fish. Not all Galápagos boats can visit, and permits are only given to a select few boats and guides. Here at Galapatours we offer itineraries on all of these specially selected boats, so if a visit to Chinese Hat is important to you, speak to one of our Galápagos experts today to help choose the perfect itinerary.

Our trips to spot the Galapagos Lava Gull

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