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Galapagos Marine Iguana

Galapagos Marine Iguana

The only sea lizard in the world

What you need to know about the Galapagos Marine Iguana

The Galápagos Islands are home to the only seafaring lizard in the world - the Galápagos Marine Iguana. This iconic reptile is found nowhere else on Earth, and it is made of 11 subspecies, each with a population on a different island.

On land, the Marine Iguanas seem almost clumsy as they move slowly in and around the rocky shores, but in the water, they are transformed into elegant, and strong, swimmers. Their diet are the nutrient-rich algae that grow on the volcanic rocks around the Galápagos shores. The bigger males will often swim further out to see, using powerful claws to cling tightly to undersea rocks in the surf. Smaller individuals will stick to rock pools close to the high water line, waiting for the algae to be exposed by the falling tide.

One fascinating biological mechanism the Marine Iguanas have developed is their way to get rid of the excess salt that builds up in their bodies thanks to their sea algae diet. They actually filter the salt out via the blood vessels that pass through their nose. This leads to them sneezing out the extra salt at regular intervals! It’s for this reason that your close-up photos of Galápagos Marine Iguanas will often show them with salt crystals around their nostrils.

The Galápagos Marine Iguanas are not actually social animals, but they are highly tolerant of each other, and will often cluster close together for warmth on cold nights. During the day they are very active and they can be seen basking in the morning sun prior to their first swim of the day. When these ectothermic animals dive into the water, they slow their heart rate by up to 50% to help to preserve energy and feed for as long as possible before returning to the warm rocks to warm up again.

One of the most iconic species of the islands, your Galápagos cruise will enable you to get wonderfully close to these unique creatures, with all our cruises making landfall in areas where you will be able to walk amongst these remarkable animals. Our expert naturalist guides will also inform you of the work that the Galápagos National Park are doing to protect young Marine Iguanas from introduced species like cats and dogs.

Galapagos Marine Iguana: Interesting facts

The marine iguana is the only marine lizard in the world

Male marine iguanas change color to impress the females during the mating season

When swimming in the cold ocean, the marine iguana's lose up to 18F in body heat

Galápagos Marine Iguanas are a threatened species because of their small habitat here on Galápagos

Galapagos Marine Iguana: Pictures from our travelers

Galapagos Marine Iguana
Galapagos Marine Iguana
Galapagos Marine Iguana

Spots where the Galapagos Marine Iguana 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 Marine Iguana


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