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6 Breathtaking Reasons to Visit Floreana Island, Galapagos

Posted in: Ecuador Animals, Ecuador Travel, Galapagos Animals, Galapagos Islands

Floreana is a small isolated island in the Galapagos. It has a very interesting history and is one of the most memorable places we’ve ever visited.

galapagos snorkeling

The Galapagos islands are famous for their unique animals. We explored three islands and had unforgettable animal encounters on each of them, but none as breathtaking as on Floreana! Perhaps that was due to the isolated nature of the island.

Our Galapagos Family Adventure: Floreana Island

(see the full post below the video)

6 Reasons to Visit Floreana Island Galapagos 

1. Sea Lions

You’ve seen those videos of someone swimming with a sea lion, right? Have you ever wished you could experience something like that? I did, but I thought it looked too good to be true, at least for me. I was wrong!

On Floreana, we swam with a very playful sea lion. He had us all captivated! He was swimming circles around us – literally. He kept coming back for more, spinning, twirling, dipping and diving all around us.

Bryan had a GoPro camera attached to an extender pole which made the little guy very curious. He seemed to be performing for the camera. Here are some GoPro accessories to consider before traveling.

If you ever visit the Galapagos, don’t go without a GoPro or some other high quality underwater camera. Memories alone don’t do that experience justice!

Galapagos sea lions Floreana Island

More reading: Travelers Guide to Galapagos Islands Animals

The sea lion was also very curious of children. Some local children were playing games in the water, the sea lion seemed to be taking delight swimming around them and making them squeal.

He was also very curious of our daughter, I think their playful nature was magnetic.

2. Giant Tortoises  

In the highlands of Floreana we got up close with giant tortoises.

We were able to get close to these giant animals on Santa Cruz and Isabela as well, but I liked the enclosure on Floreana the most.

Picture, a sunbathed forest floor, tall trees and large rocks. Now picture giant tortoises hiding among them. Beautiful!

Galapagos giant tortoises Floreana

You just have to see these animals in person to appreciate them. Being crouched down next to one as he slowly lifts his head and looks you in the eye – breathtaking!

3. Marine Iguanas

Right next to the main boat dock on Floreana we saw lots of large marine iguanas sunbathing, feeding, fighting and sneezing.

Galapagos marine iguanas Floreana Island

More reading: Buyers Guide to the Best Sun Protection Hats

There are a lot of large rocks on one side of the doc where the marine iguanas like to hang out. It seems that the rocks make them feel secure, so we could nice and close to them. That made for some great photos and even better GoPro footage.

Our best marine iguana encounters were on Floreana.

4. Isolation

The feeling of being on such an isolated island was kind of surreal.

It felt like we had all that amazing nature to ourselves, even tho we didn’t really. When we were there the island had around 125 inhabitants, but there was definitely a feeling of isolation and getting back to basics.

We had read up on the history of the island so we were dreaming what it would be like to land on an island and start from scratch, just the three of us.

Galapagos Floreana Island

Reading Floreana by Margret Wittmer will help you get an idea of what was going through our minds.

It was a unique feeling; something I had never felt before.

5. Sea Turtles

Swimming with sea turtles was my favorite experience on our Galapagos adventures.

There was just something so wonderful about seeing the sea turtles feeding, being swayed back and forth by the pull of the waves! The sea turtle we spent the most time with didn’t seem to notice we were there, which actually added to the experience.

Bryan and I were looking at each other and looking at him, kind of lost in how special the moment was!

galapagos sea turtle floreana

Swimming with the sea lion was thrilling but I couldn’t help feeling a little nervous. Wild animals can be unpredictable, and my daughter was right next to me… fearless, I had to pull her back from getting too close.

It was a different kind of breathtaking with the sea turtle. A kind of quiet amazement, peaceful, dreamy feeling!

6. The Bizarre Story of Floreana Island

While we were in Galapagos last month we spent some time on Floreana Island, this is a small Island with a colorful past.

coast-floreana-island

We heard stories of Pirates and then took a hike to see their caves.  We also heard stories from the 1930’s of a couple of nudists with metal teeth, and a baroness that moved in on them with her three lovers, and basically declared herself queen of the island.

The first two people that wanted to make this little Eden their very own were the Wittmers, a German dentist and his mistress.  They wanted to live there alone, were vegetarians and preferred to live free of the encumbrances of clothing, and their natural teeth.

Before making the trip to live this solitary lifestyle they decided to pull out all their natural teeth, they had a pair (one pair) of metal teeth made which they passed back and forth as they ate their vegetarian meals.  You have to love this story, it just sounds so crazy.

The Wittmers died many years ago, but their decedents can still be found among the 125 people that now live on this tiny Island.  Don’t fear they all wear clothes, and I didn’t see any metal choppers while exploring the island.

The baroness that moved in on the two lovebirds, wanted to build a luxury hotel on the island for the rich and famous.

Needless to say, once she moved in and started bossing the Wittmers around, things got a little messed up. She along with two of her lovers, and the dentist disappeared one day, and to this day nobody knows what happened to them.

Long before all this took place, the pirates were active on the island, and they carved out caves in the highlands close to the only fresh water spring on the island.

We went on a hike to see the caves; we also saw the only other unique carving of its kind found so far in the Galapagos, a human head which looks much like the ones on Easter Island.  The Wittmers first child was born in one of these pirate caves.

On the drive up to the highlands from the coast it was very interesting to see the different zones of vegetation, I believe there were seven.

Along with the other Islands of the Galapagos, Floreana was formed by a Volcano, seeing the way the vegetation has taken over the landscape was a real treat.

As we hiked through the woods in the highlands we saw many giant tortoises, they are fed regularly on feeding platforms throughout the wooded area on the way up to the pirate caves. The view near the pirate caves of the island and extinct volcano was breathtaking.

One of the staff members from Red Mangrove that accompanied us on our Tour was from Floreana.  He said that when he was growing up on the island there were only eight families (large extended families) living on the island.

We enjoyed our visit to this unique, beautiful little island.  And think its past is prime fodder for a movie, except of course, we’re thinking of a G rated movie 🙂

exploring-floreana-island floreana-island-tortoise floreana-island-coast coast-floreana-island pirate-caves-floreana-island rainbow-floreana-island view-floreana-island

If you’re planning a trip, you should check out these Galapagos books.

Have you traveled to Floreana Island? What did you like the most? Please share with us by commenting on this post.

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

17 comments… add one
  • Heidi May 23, 2017, 11:35 pm

    How adventurous of you! What do you do about school for your daughter? Do you enjoy the climate in Cuenca? On Floreana, do you feel that 2 days is sufficient or would 4-5 be better? I have plenty of time. In November, do you think there is any danger of not being able to get accommodations without figuring out how to book in advance at the two little places you spoke of?

    • Bryan Haines May 24, 2017, 7:16 am

      Hi Heidi – 2 days is good but there is lots to do. The next time we go, I hope to spend many days there. Floreana is my favorite of the islands – in part because it is so isolated. I don’t know about availability in November.

      Our daughter studied with a US based high school – she just graduated in December (the month after she turned 16).

      I hope you have an amazing time!

  • Dennis Zabaglo Apr 13, 2017, 10:51 pm

    Greetings!

    We are traveling to the Galapagos in October, with a total of 7 people (4 adults, 3 children). Do you recommend an overnight on Floreana or a day trip? Thank you!

  • Gina Jensen Apr 7, 2016, 3:53 pm

    Hi Dena,

    Three of my children (ages 28, 11, and 6) and I are going to be spending a semester in Timbarra (outside Zamora), Ecuador from August 2016 to December 2016. We’ve been doing some research about the Galapagos Islands as we’d like to take advantage of the opportuity while we are in Ecuador. I am an Alaskan who loves the quieter outdoors and smaller crowds. So after reading of your family’s experience on Floreana Island, I think visiting there would be a good fit. I am curious where your family stayed while on Floreana and how many days you spent there. Was it enough or too much? Also, what month did you travel to the Galapagos? I already know that we’ll be going during to “cooler” months but just wondering. Thank you!

  • Miriam Baptista Feb 11, 2016, 8:22 pm

    Good Afternoon,

    My name is Miriam and I’m working on a show for the Travel Channel about amazing places to swim and dive around the world. We will be filming in the Galapagos the first week of April and are looking for individuals who might want to be part of our cast for the show. I was wondering if there were any locals, volunteers and/ or staff that would want to participate in the show? This would be a paid day of filming. There will be water and swimming involved so they must be able to swim and love the water. It is also required that they speak English. If you are interested or happen to know of anyone that might be interested please share my contact information with them and I can answer any questions and provide further details. I can be reached via email at mbaptista@lmnotv.com

    Thank you so much for your time! I look forward to hearing from you.

    Miriam

  • Annie Jan 20, 2016, 4:00 am

    Are there private homes that can be rented out with a pool and Ac?

    • Bryan Haines Jan 20, 2016, 8:35 am

      No, on Floreana the options are limited. There is hotel on Black Beach and another right in town (a couple of guest rooms off the restaurant. It is the least populated of the populated islands. And while the accommodations are limited, the area is incredible.

  • Hector Sep 29, 2014, 1:58 pm

    Hi Dena,

    We are flying in from the midwest states and attending a wedding just outside of Quito in late December. We were considering a side trip to the Galapagos, but noticed the fares for packages are pricey. Do you have any suggestions for the frugal traveler? Time wise, we thought we could manage 3 or 4 days towards visiting the islands. Or do you think it’s more cost effective to wait for the off season and do sightseeing outside of the Quito area?

    • Bryan Haines Nov 3, 2014, 9:12 am

      Aside from buying a tour package, you can book a flight on your own and stay in a hotel/hostel. There are a number of free things to do on Santa Cruz. You can book a couple of snorkel or hiking excursions and do it for less than a tour package. But there is no real way to visit the Galapagos cheaply. It will be less expensive to visit the area around Quito – and it is beautiful.

  • Ken Walser Sep 7, 2014, 2:08 pm

    Dena we are planning a trip to Ecuador in Feb. We have found many post from expats but no one has posted areas in Ecuador where the expats r located. We want to find integral information on relocating as retirees. Can you lead us to a Website that gives practical informative information? Thanks.

    • Dena Haines Sep 15, 2014, 4:31 pm

      Hi Ken,

      I’m sorry, I don’t know of a site with that kind of information.

      Your best best is to read blogs of expats living in different areas. That way you will get a good feel for the different aspects of each area and be able to plan out your exploring trip. When you come spend some time in each area that looks like it might be a good fit and go from there.

      All the best with your trip!

  • Jim Jolliff Sep 7, 2014, 9:59 am

    Dena, We are so jealous of you and your family. We hope to be relocated to Ecuador by next Summer.

  • Rob Ray Sep 7, 2014, 8:57 am

    Hi Dena
    I have been doing a lot of researching, reading and just watching different sites etc for a while now. We have been trying to decide where we are going to retire too, away from Canada and NS! First I was sold on Costa Rica big time, the lake Arenal area, but from my research CS is too pricey and not as welcoming to expats any more. After following u and Bryan, perhaps Ecuador has a chance.
    One of my ? is on the temp, everything I read says it is spring time year round in Cuenca, but we want hot, not the 60s, can u tell me about what the average temps are? NS summers, as u know do rarely get to 30C, and we would like some time with temps at least that high
    thanks
    bob

    • Bryan Haines Sep 15, 2014, 10:01 am

      Here are the average temperatures and rainfall for Cuenca, although this seems to be changing.

    • Dena Haines Sep 15, 2014, 4:37 pm

      Hi Rob,

      You may want to look at moving to Loja, or some of the warmer smaller towns near Cuenca like Gualaceo, Paute or Chordeleg.

      Check them out on your scouting trip.

      All the best with your research!

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