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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.

Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands
Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Coastline of Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

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.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

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.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

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.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

whale bones

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.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

lava cacti

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.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

Marine Iguanas

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).

Marine iguana on Punta Espinoza
Marine iguana on Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

You can immediately see why these Galapagos marine iguanas were the inspiration for the character Godzilla.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

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.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

On Punta Espinoza, every night is Fight Night.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

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.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

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.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

Hieronymus Bosch, anyone?

lava lizards

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.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

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.

Sea lion pup with Sally Lightfoot crabs on Punta Espinoza
Sea lion pup with Sally Lightfoot crabs on Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

We found several sea lions who were ready for their close-ups.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

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.

crabs on Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands
Sally Lightfoot crabs on Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
crabs on Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Photos from a visit to Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands, home to marine iguanas, sea lions, hawks and crabs
Photos from a visit to Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands, home to marine iguanas, sea lions, hawks and crabs. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

Pelicans

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.

Photos from a visit to Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands, home to marine iguanas, sea lions, hawks and crabs.
Pelican on Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

Hawks

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.

Photos from a visit to Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands, home to marine iguanas, sea lions, hawks and crabs.
Hawk devouring prey on Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

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.

Hawk Punta Espinoza
Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
Best photos from a vacation visit to Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands, home to marine iguanas, sea lions, hawks, crabs
Photos from a visit to Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands, home to marine iguanas, sea lions, hawks and crabs. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

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.

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