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Galapagos Penguin

Galapagos Penguin

The world's most northerly penguin species

What you need to know about the Galapagos Penguin

One of the most famous inhabitants of the archipelago, the Galápagos Penguins are also record-holders. Not only are they one of the world’s smallest penguin species, they are also the most northerly penguin species. In fact the colony on the northern tip of Isabela Island are technically in the northern hemisphere!

The Galápagos penguin is most closely related to the African and Humboldt penguins which are burrowers. Because there’s no soft peat soil to dig on the archipelago shores, the Galápagos Penguins nest in crevices and caves found among the coastal lava fields.

Penguins are of course unmistakable on land with their stout little bodies and purposeful, waddling walk. However under the water they are superb swimmers, their streamlined torpedo shape enabling them to swim at speeds over 20mph on their hunt for anchovies, sardines and mullet that thrive in the rich, cold waters that surround the Galápagos.

Galapatours cruises that take in Bartolome, Fernandina and Isabela Islands will allow you to see these charming creatures as they are most concentrated in these areas, but they are not common elsewhere in the Galápagos. If you go snorkelling close to Pinnacle Rock you will often be joined by penguins curious to see what you are doing! If this is an experience you would love to have, talk to one of our Galápagos experts who will recommend the right cruise for you.

The restricted population and isolation of the Galápagos Penguin means that they are vulnerable to habitat and climate changes, and in particular the weather events known as El Niño can devastate their populations. Because of this the species is officially listed as “endangered”.

In recent years the National Park authorities have been working hard to monitor the Penguin populations and to preserve their nesting and feeding grounds.

Galapagos Penguin: Interesting facts

The Galápagos Penguins on the northern tip of Isabela technically live in the Northern Hemisphere!

The Galápagos Penguin has the smallest population of any penguin species

Galápagos penguins mate for life, and have strong pair bonds

Galápagos Penguins can overheat quickly, so they seek out shade and stand and pant to keep cool

Galapagos Penguin: Pictures from our travelers

Galapagos Penguin
Galapagos Penguin
Galapagos Penguin

Spots where the Galapagos Penguin 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 Penguin


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