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A guide to Floreana Island, Galapagos

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Volcanic Landscape Floreana Galapagos

A guide to Floreana Island, Galapagos

Tom writes about his visit to the remote and sparsely populated Floreana Island on Galapagos.

He said: “I’ve left out the much publicised Wittmer history, which you can watch in The Galapagos Affair, because it’s been often told.

“These are my impressions of the people and the place, somewhere I’d rush to return to.”

 

Tom writes:

Within two minutes of arriving, I was feeling the Floreana love after receiving countless embraces thanks to it be ‘Island Hug Day’.

Next, I saw the solar panels which completely power the island, and then to the eco-lodge, nestled next to a pristine beach and next to a snorkelling site where sea lions play, and turtles and marine iguanas graze.

All firsts for me, on an island of firsts.

 

The battle for life

With a human population that just creeps into three figures – last count 132 souls – Floreana was the first Galapagos Island to be inhabited, the first to be colonised and the site of the first post office (well, post box whose contents are taken to the mainland by passing sailors), too.

It has a fresh water source that fills during the rainy season, yet the population can be put at serious risk of running out during the dry season.

Nowhere more accurately shows, in human and animal form, the battle for life on Galapagos.

Its mockingbird hangs on for survival, clinging to life on a couple of rocky outposts close to the mainland.. Snails are decimated by an invasive rat population.

Islanders think the goats have gone, but nothing is ever certain on this mysterious rock.

 

Floreana highlands Galapagos

Floreana highlands, Galapagos

 

Beautiful wildlife

The island has several fantastic wildlife spots.

Conservation work is now focused on restoring healthy populations of Galapagos racers (snakes), hawks, barn owls and rails as well as three species of finch.

My guide and island resident, Claudio, was one of 12 siblings born on Floreana, and now works tirelessly to protect the island. He said: “Everything we do now is to protect the island.

“The youngsters are taught from a young age about how to protect the island, how important that is. We live in the most beautiful place, and it’s up to us to keep it that way.

“Fisherman can earn money moving tourists around. Everyone can help out and take part, we’ve got to help each other, if we want to stay here.”

 

Sally lighfoot crab Galapagos Islands

Sally lighfoot crab, Galapagos Islands

 

Fascinating history

By staying on land, this volcanic and fertile island opens up its human secrets in the same way it delivers beautiful views across its many volcanic cones and peaks and farmland.

See for yourself the caves and rooms etched into the rocks by Patrick Watkins, an Irish sailor who lived in Floreana from 1807-09.

Relive the mysterious stories that surround the disappearance of an Austrian baroness, among several unaccounted for souls.

Hear how the modern island and its mainly farming population is tackling invasive species, setting up sustainable community tourism and attempting to become as self sufficient as possible.

And of course, the tales of the Wittmers, whose son Rolf was the first ever person to be born on the Galapagos.

 

What next?

The island is stepping up its community tourism projects, improving hotels and connections with Santa Cruz, as well as becoming self-sufficient.

With sites such as Devil’s Crown, Post Office Bay, Cormorant Point and Asilo de Paz (the water source) and an increase in visitor numbers expected, forward looking planning is required.

As I left, the president beamed: “And we’ll be the first island to have all of its kitchens powered by solar power.”

Floreana, the first, and now my number one island in Galapagos.

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