Galapagos Island Floreana, also known as Charles or Santa Maria Island, is the southeasternmost island in the archipelago.
It is one of the smaller of the major islands, measuring approximately 12 by 15 km and rising to an elevation of 640 m (2000 feet). The oldest lavas on Floreana are 1.5 million years old, making it one of the older islands. At the border of the Island, Captain Porter of the U.S.S. Essex reported witnessing an eruption in the center of the island in July 1813. Though the products of this eruption have not been identified, there are a number of young flows and the island is covered with many young pyroclastic cones (pyroclastic cones are produced when lava it was thrown into the air explosively), particularly in the highlands. All of these observations testify that Floreana remains an active volcano.
Floreana is one of the few islands with a reliable supply of fresh water, an artesian spring at the base of Cerro Olympus in the lush southeast highlands. The Floreana race of giant tortoises was extinct by 1846. However, flamingos may still be seen in Flamingo Bay and sea turtles may be seen nesting on the beach near Cormorant Point.
- Floreana Island is one of the few Islands that is inhabited and has a small town called Puerto Velazco Ibarra, there are only 3 hotels at Puerto Velazco.
- People interested in visiting Floreana can either choose a Galapagos cruise tour or join a day excursion as part of a hotel based Galapagos tour.
- Landing: Wet Landing
- Wildlife Highlights: Boobies, Galapagos penguins, sea lions, flamingos, sea turtles, Galapagos sharks, hammerhead sharks, stingrays, tree finches
- Activity Highlights: Hiking, birdwatching, snorkeling, scuba diving, unique mailing service
- Conditions: Easy beach landing, ground level walks.
- Notes: Try using the postal service at Post Office Bay, it really works! – The Devils Crown is one of the best places to snorkel in the Galapagos Islands archipelago.
A historical landmark on Floreana Island
Not the most scenic of the visitor sites, but probably one of the most famous sites in Galapagos. Here is where a post barrel was placed and put into use in the late 18th century by English whaling vessels. You are invited to leave a postcard and to pick up any mail from your home area. Take a short visit to the remains of a Norwegian commercial fish drying and canning operation and a lava tube that extends to the sea
A great snorkeling and scuba diving visitor site in Galapagos
A shallow sunken crater makes for one of the best snorkeling sites in Galapagos, This almost completely submerged volcano offers snorkelers the chance to play in the water with sea lions. See a wide variety of colorful fish in the clear blue water.
One must be a good swimmer as currents can be very strong.
There is a marine site located a short distance from the island. It is an old eroded volcanic cone and a popular roosting site for seabirds such as boobies, pelicans, and frigates. Red-billed tropicbirds nest in rocky crevices. The center of the cone is an outstanding snorkeling spot full of sea lions and colorful fish.
This area looks dry and rocky from the surface, but the volcanic crater pinnacles that rise up from sandy rubble bottom are loaded with life. Schools of King Angelfish are common, as are large marbled rays that hide motionless under the rocky ledges. Very large balloonfish and large hieroglyphic hawkfish make way for the white-tip sharks making their escape from intrusive photographers. The rocky ridges are also home to scrawled filefish, schools of yellowtail grunts, turtles, tiger snake eels and of course, sea lions.
This is one dive where you might want to fight your way through the passing currents to nestle on the rubbled bottom at 65′ and just hang out and wait to see what swims along. Groups of hammerheads and spotted eagle rays cruise back and forth across the currents and do come quite close to divers who are stationary for a while. This site is also great for snorkelers who can be dropped in the center of the crater and swim their way to the outside.
A visitor site that boasts an olive colored beach and endemic birdlife
Named not after the bird but a US ship, there is a wet landing onto a, literally, green beach – so colored because it is made from olivine crystals (volcanic silicates of magnesium and iron). Pencil sea urchins may be found on the beach.
A short walk inland and the trail comes to a brackish lagoon. This is home to one of the biggest populations of flamingos in the archipelago, these pink residents spend about 7 hours a day or more eating, and so take some binoculars to watch the ballet of necks as they gracefully move back and forth, scouring the floor of the lagoon for little shrimp. Take your binoculars to enjoy the show up close. Also present are pintail ducks and stilts. The trail crosses a narrow neck of land and Galapagos Marine Turtle comes to a white beach on the eastern side of the island. Ghost crabs inhabit the beach, and rays and turtles can be seen in the sea. Sea turtles nest at Punta Cormorant (December to May) on the white sand beach, just a short walk away from the olive colored beach where you land.
A black sand beach located on Floreana Island in Galapagos
An unofficial visitor site only visited under special arrangement. Visit the Wittmer pension and small settlement of Puerto Velasco Ibarra. It’s famous resident, Margaret Whitmer, arrived at Floreana in the 1930’s and just recently passed away. Today the pension is managed by her daughter. Here you can have your postcards stamped with one of four seals, sample the homemade wine. Items for sale include Floreana t-shirts and signed copies of her book, Floreana.