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