Stunning Views of a Day on Punta Espinoza in Galapagos Islands
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Visiting the lava-forged coastline and unspoiled sandy beaches of Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island in the archipelago of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador is like landing on another planet. Beauty, grace, battles to the death and rocks of the ages – they’re all part of this otherworldly outpost. Here are our best photos and highlights from a recent vacation visit to Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands, home to marine iguanas, hawks, sea lions, lava lizards, pelicans and more.
where is Punta Espinoza?
Punta Espinoza is a low-lying area of Fernandina Island in the Galapagos Islands archipelago, forged from lava flow. The black lava fields remain today, and the rocks, tide pools and sandy shoreline are home to a wide variety of wildlife.
There are stunning vistas in every direction. The slopes of the La Cumbre volcano are in the distance, along with rocky shoals, black lava fields and placid tide pools.
the lava fields
The black and gray lava fields of Punta Espinoza are “pahoehoe” fields. Meaning that they are made of relatively new lava that is smooth enough to walk on without incurring serious damage. The topography is filled with curves and ridges, and there are several large crevices as well.
Punta Espinoza is also the site of gorgeous weathered blocks of driftwood that we could have spent the better part of the the afternoon finding and photographing.
A carefully arrayed skeleton greets visitors as they explore Punta Espinoza. The whitewashed bones are the remains of a whale that was stranded on these shores many years ago.
Not surprisingly, there is not much greenery in this arid environment. One species that has adapted to it, however, is the lava cactus, which grows in the middle of the lava flow.
The first site upon arrival at Punta Espinoza is a truly staggering (and a bit terrifying) number of marine iguanas. They blend in so well with the rocks that it’s easy to find one much closer than you might have expected (or wanted).
You can immediately see why these Galapagos marine iguanas were the inspiration for the character Godzilla.
As a species, these iguanas are fierce. In fact, Charles Darwin first developed his theory of “survival of the fittest” by watching them. The hostile environment rewards the strong and the adaptable, and the drama of survival still plays out today within the colonies of iguanas on the island.
On Punta Espinoza, every night is Fight Night.
Hundreds (maybe thousands?) of marine iguanas rest on the rocks of Punta Espinoza, absorbing heat from the stones. They fight often, and when particularly aggressive, they bob their heads rapidly to signal their might. It’s a bit overwhelming. Actually, it’s kind of gross.
Especially when you glance over your shoulder to find one rather close on your tail. Or find a pile of about a hundred of them right next to you.
Hieronymus Bosch, anyone?
Compared to the ferocious and large marine iguanas, the tiny lava lizards of Punta Espinoza seem absolutely adorable. They dart around the island at a rapid pace, and they reminded us of sparrows: small creatures that seem to be everywhere, causing no harm to anyone.
Galapagos sea lions
In contrast with the fearsome marine iguanas, the sea lions and their pups provide comic relief. The adults lounge randomly all over the sandy parts of the shoreline, basking in the sun. Meanwhile, the pups play in the water and try to entice the bright red Sally Lightfoot crabs to join in the fun.
We found several sea lions who were ready for their close-ups.
Sally Lightfoot crabs
The bright red crabs known as Sally Lightfoots are said to be named after an infamous fan dancer and stripper from the early 19th century. Something about their movement and their unforgettable hue caused both sailors and scientists to associate them with her.
We spotted several pelicans overhead on our visit, and were treated to watching one land and preen his/her/their feathers on a rocky promontory.
Because there are no large mammal predators in the Galapagos Islands, the hawk sits at the top of the food chain. As the primary predator in the region, they’re constantly on the move and in the hunt.
We were treated to the sight of a hawk devouring a baby iguana (ick) the afternoon we visited Punta Espinoza. Just as this hawk finished its meal, another hawk chased it off and took the prime spot on a picturesque piece of driftwood.
photos from our visit to Punta Espinoza
Those are some of our best photos from a recent vacation visit to the stunning Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands, home to iguanas, sea lions, hawks and more. If you have a chance to travel there, dear reader, definitely do so. It’s one of the most beautiful places in all of the archipelago.