Floreana Island, Galápagos
Birthplace of the First True Galapaguino
What you need to know about Floreana Island, Galápagos
Floreana Island has a very unusual human history, perhaps the most colourful of any of the Galápagos Islands! It was the home of the very first person to live full time in the Galápagos - a fearless Irishman called Patrick Watkins, who was marooned here and lasted 2 years, living here from 1807. Also, Floreana is the stage of a true-crime tale and the birthplace of the first Galapaguino!
Floreana was the first Galápagos Island to be colonized by Ecuadorians in about 1832. It was originally meant to be used as a penal colony, but the lack of a reliable source of fresh water meant this was a short-lived venture. A few more attempts were made to start a lasting settlement down the years, and in 1924 Norwegian immigrants even tried to establish a fish canning business, but that too didn't last long.
Then, in 1930, a German holistic doctor and his female companion arrived. Dr Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch managed to set up a decent sized garden and did manage to live off the land successfully. Renowned as something of an eccentric, Dr Ritter took the unusual and drastic step of having all of his teeth pulled and replaced with stainless steel dentures before he arrived! He wanted to avoid any dental issues getting in the way of his attempts to live in glorious isolation on Floreana.
In 1932, pregnant Margret Wittmer arrived with her husband Heinz. They built a house and also managed to set up a successful agricultural lifestyle before she gave birth in a cave to their son Rolf, the first person to be born in Galápagos, the first true Galapguino. The Wittmer family are still very active in the sustainable tourism business on the islands today, and you can book a place on one of their Galápagos Cruise ships, the Tip Tip II, Tip Top IV or Tip Top V here with Galapatours.
The majority of the inhabitants of Floreana Island still make a living through farming. The main water source for the entire island is one natural pond that only fills up during the rainy season. This means that when drought strikes, water shortages happen quickly, and it's a serious problem for the islanders to this day. Of all the Galápagos Islands, Floreana is the one most affected by the presence of humans and their introduction of goats, that ended up roaming loose on the island for many years. The goats and some other non-native species were completely removed by the Galápagos National Park in 2007, but the devastated landscape left behind is unlikely to ever recover enough to allow all the native wildlife to successfully recover.
Because of this, conservation efforts are being concentrated on specific species like Galápagos snakes, hawks, barn owls, and other bird species, and protecting the rarest, including the Floreana Mockingbird. Now extinct on the main island of Floreana, the Floreana Mockingbird can only be found as two tiny populations living separately on two small islands off the coast of Floreana.
Interesting facts about Floreana Island
The first person to be born in the Galápagos was born here - in 1932!
The introduction of goats to the island did great damage to the native wildlife
Colourful characters made Floreana their home over the years
The Floreana Mockingbird is one of the rarer species in Galápagos
Pictures of Floreana Island, Galápagos
Highlights and Visitorpoints on Floreana
On the western coast of Floreana, La Loberia is a delightful beach that locals and visitors alike come to for it's lovely ambiance. Along the shore are over half a mile of paths through the National Park, some over the rocks and some on the sandy beaches.
The main attraction at La Loberia is the bustling colony of Galápagos Sea Lions who live here. As well as these noisy and fun creatures you will often see Galápagos Marine Iguanas on the rocky water line, and from height you'll probably spot Galápagos Green Turtles swimming in the rocky bays that are all along this coast.
Post Office Bay
Floreana, like several of the Galápagos Islands, has a history of whaling. During voyages of many months, whaling ships would call here to replenish stocks of food and water, and the sailors were often keen to send news to loved ones that they were still safe. A tradition grew up here where sailors would leave a letter addressed home, hopeful that a ship heading back to port would pick it up and deliver it for them. This tradition of leaving letters and cards, and picking up others addressed to your home port meant that the location of this letter drop became known as "Post Office Bay".
Decades later, the unofficial Floreana post office is still very active - why not leave a card of your own, or see if you could take one back to your home town for someone else?! As well as this charming tradition, Post Office Bay boasts a pleasant beach, and there is a short hiking trail down to a cave, which is actually a lava tube that runs down to the sea.
You will also have the opportunity to take a Panga through some of the nearby coves and mangroves from which you could see sharks, rays, and sea lions swimming around you.
Cormorant Point is on the northern tip of Floreana, and you'll land on a beach that sits between two volcanic cones. The sand on one of the beaches here has a noticeably olive-green color. This is due to a much higher than usual concentration of olivine crystals in the sand. Another beach is made up mainly of coral sand and is almost a brilliant white in comparison.
This Galápagos site has a large lagoon which is favored by flamingos, their pink coloring contrasting with the green sand. There is some good snorkeling here, and you can often spot rays in the shallows. There is a one mile hike available that takes you to higher ground and provides great views over the lagoon, and to both beaches on either side of the Point.
Asilo de la Paz
Asilo de la Paz on Floreana is a historically important site for the Galápagos. It marks the place where some of the first settlers on the archipelago stayed, and you can visit these caves as well as the rare freshwater spring that made life possible for humans here.
The visitor center is located a short transfer from Puerto Velasco Ibarra on the western coast of Floreana. From the visitor center you can hike up to the top of a 1,470ft hill, walking through magnificent Scalesia forest and passing by a breeding centre where San Cristobal Giant Tortoises are kept - the native Floreana Galápagos tortoises are long extinct, hunted by humans for their meat.
The hiking trail up the hill is hard going in places, and our Galapatours guides really recommend good hiking footwear for this excursion - avoid open-toed shoes.
Once a volcanic crater, the Devil's Crown is now what remains of the eroded crater. The wind and waves have breached the east and west walls, leaving just the northern and southern crater edges showing above the water. Over thousands of years a coral reef has grown in the submerged center, creating one of the best snorkeling sites on the entire Galápagos.
Exposed to currents, snorkeling in the Devil's Crown isn't a sedentary experience, and the surges can be quite thrilling! The marine life you will see is unparalleled, with colorful reef fish, sharks, rays and more. If your itinerary includes a stop here, you really must get into the water as it's an experience not to be missed.
Baroness View Point
Located on the northern coast of Floreana Island, the Baroness Viewpoint is a wonderful place to soak in the beauty and diversity of the Galápagos.
This visitor point is named after the "Baroness" Eloise Bosquet de Wagner Wehrhorn (her claim to be a member of the Austrian royal family was never fully confirmed) who came to the island with her two - some say three - lovers in the 1930s. After some disagreements with two other eccentric settler families, the Baroness and one of her lovers disappeared. Local legend has it that murder was involved…
Away from this exotic intrigue, the view point has some lovely and easy walking trails that allow you to get really close to the bird and plant life of the island.
Champion Islet is considered one of the best snorkeling sites in the entire archipelago. This small island was originally named after a famous whaler, Andrew Champion, and in its beautiful waters you can see Galápagos Sea Lions, Green Turtles, Hammerheads, Rays, and many colorful reef fish.
Champion Islet isn't only for those who seek out marine life. On shore you can find Galápagos Penguins, Blue-Footed Boobies and Frigatebirds to name but a few. One very special resident is the Floreana Mockingbird. This species is extremely rare, with only an estimated 100 individuals left - of which only 30-40 of them are left on this island. It is unknown how much longer this fragile species can survive.