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Galapagos Lava Heron

Galapagos Lava Heron

Perfectly camouflaged to hunt among the lava rocks

What you need to know about the Galapagos Lava Heron

The delightful Lava Heron is a close relative of the Great Blue Heron and is found exclusively in the Galápagos. It was initially thought that the Lava Heron was a completely different species and further study is still underway to find out more about this native bird.

These birds may be difficult to spot as the adult herons have uniform grey feathers. Although giving them a drab appearance to our eyes this coloring means they become camouflaged against the lava rocks where they live and hunt. These beautiful but small birds have a prominent short crest on their heads, a distinctive black beak, and grey legs which change to an intense orange color during the breeding season.

The Lava Heron feeds mainly on small fish, crabs, lizards, and insects. They can be seen feeding along the islands’ protected shorelines. On one of our Galápagos cruises, you will watch in amazement at the quick speed these birds use to catch crabs and fish - spearing them first before devouring them.

The Lava Heron is seen as a solitary bird, and they can become very territorial over their nests. These are often found on lava rocks or branches of mangrove trees. They generally breed between September and March and can lay eggs up to three times a year. However, your Galapatours naturalist guide should be able to point out these enchanting birds during your Galápagos cruise as they nest all year round.

Galapagos Lava Heron: Interesting facts

When fishing, Lava Herons may jump or dive to ensure a catch

Often seen fishing in mangrove lagoons during panga rides

The sometimes prey on Sally Lighfoot crabs

Their grey feathers give them good camouflage

Galapagos Lava Heron: Pictures from our travelers

Galapagos Lava Heron
Galapagos Lava Heron
Galapagos Lava Heron

Spots where the Galapagos Lava Heron 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 Heron

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