Baltra Island, Galápagos
The Gateway to the Galápagos Islands
What you need to know about Baltra Island, Galápagos
Unlike many of the Galápagos, Baltra isn't the visible remains of an undersea volcano but was actually formed by a series of uplifts of lava, hence its flat plains. Until the 1930s, the island didn't receive much attention from the rest of world, but then the US government looked to Baltra as the possible location for an air base to protect the Pacific approach to the Panama Canal.
The Americans first looked at San Cristobal because it was inhabited and had a good water supply, but Baltra won the day thanks to its central position and flat terrain. The airbase construction started in 1942 when a mile long airstrip was laid. As time went on the base expanded and it grew to over 200 buildings, including offices, barracks for over 1000 troops, and even a bowling alley! From the air you can still see the outline of the foundations of many of these long-gone buildings as you arrive for your Galapatours adventure.
After the war, the US government handed the base to Ecuador, and the government offered each household in the Galápagos one of the buildings. Many people chose to carefully demolish their "gift", transporting the materials to build or rebuild their existing homes back on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. The military base then developed into a civil airport, and the first commercial flight to the Galápagos landed in 1963.
The Ecuadorian Navy and Air Force still maintain a presence here, and as well as the regular flights, Baltra is also the main fuelling point for tourist boats from Santa Cruz. Baltra Island is the first place most travellers will set foot on Galápagos soil. After leaving the airport you travel by bus to the ships that anchor off Aeolian Bay, or go to the ferry dock for a trip to Santa Cruz. Baltra has a very dry environment, and the vegetation you see is mainly salt bush, prickly pear cactus and Palo Santo trees. However lots of birds call Baltra home, including boobies and frigatebirds.
Interesting facts about Baltra Island
The first place most people set foot on Galápagos soil
A former US airbase, it even used to have a bowling alley!
Baltra is formed from weathered lava uplifts
Many birds live here, including boobies and frigatebirds
Pictures of Baltra Island, Galápagos
Highlights and Visitorpoints on Baltra
Mosquera Diving Point
Mosquera, like may similar islets in the Galápagos, was formed by a volcanic uprising. The islet Mosquera that emerges from the sea between Seymour and Baltra island. A sandy bottom at 15-18 meters is scattered with curious garden eels and pelagic species as well as an underwater wall flowing downwards from the shallows into the deep. Keep an eye out for hammer head sharks and the garden eels that pop their heads out of the ground and disappear down their burrow as you approach! Also found in the area are black tip and white tip reef sharks, sea lions, turtles, barracudas, sting rays, eagle rays, mobula rays, Galápagos eels and a variety of reef fish and invertebrates.
Mosquera is home to one of the largest populations of Galápagos Sea Lions on the archipelago, and you will be able to watch their playful antics and admire their sense of relaxation as they sunbathe on the beach. There have been occasional sightings of Orca (Killer Whales) in the waters off Mosquera Island, probably attracted by the large number of Galápagos Sea Lions on which they prey.
Over the centuries it also attracted corals, and along with the rocks that form the islet this helped to capture the sand from the currents that flow between Baltra Island and North Seymour Island.
Mosquera Islet has a depth range between 6 – 27 meters (20 – 90 feet). Visibility averages 12 – 15 meters (40 – 50 feet). Surge and current is usually moderate to strong.
Mosquera Islet, like may similar islets in the Galápagos, was formed by a volcanic uprising. Over the centuries it also attracted corals, and along with the rocks that form the islet this helped to capture the sand from the currents that flow between Baltra Island and North Seymour Island.
Mosquera is home to one of the largest populations of Galápagos Sea Lions on the archipelago, and you will be able to watch their playful antics and admire their sense of relaxation as they sunbathe on the beach.
There have been occasional sightings of Orca (Killer Whales) in the waters off Mosquera Island, probably attracted by the large number of Galápagos Sea Lions on which they prey.
Like her big sister Daphne Major, Daphne Minor is a barren, treeless extinct remains of a tuff cone. There are no visitor sites on Daphne Minor, but a panga ride along her shores will give the opportunity for some snorkeling.
Here is where Daphne Minor shows her true colors - literally. An unusually large amount of smaller underwater organisms live on the rocky undersea walls of the island, creating a real multi-colored environment amongst the black and grey rocks.
Other creatures often seen here include seahorses, Galápagos sharks, rays and green turtles.
Daphne Major (or Mayor) is a barren, tree-less island that is the remains of an extinct tuff cone whose rim rises some 400ft above sea level.
A trip around this island by boat offers the opportunity for some excellent snorkeling as well as observing the many seabirds that hunt in the area.
While snorkeling near Daphne Major you will be able to see many species of tropical fish, as well as rays, green turtles, shark species and more.