Isla Espanola, also known as Hood Island Galapagos, is the southernmost island of the Galapagos archipelago. As a small, isolated island, Hood Island Galapagos boasts some of the largest numbers of endemic species of any island in the archipelago. Isla Espanola, which is south of San Cristobal and east of Floreana, is particularly well-known for being a bird-watching paradise, and the famous waved albatross, one of the most spectacular birds in the world, is found only here. Other important endemic species include the marine iguanas as well as the huge Hood Island tortoise. In addition to wildlife-watching, Isla Espanola also offers a beautiful white sand beach and excellent snorkeling opportunities.
It will take about a ten- to twelve-hour boat ride to get to Hood Island Galapagos from Santa Cruz Island, and most tours and cruises from Hood will debark at Punta Suarez on the western tip of the island. Here, tourists can see a large number of sea lions, but as your guide will remind you, beware of the aggressive bull sea lions who may see you as invading their territory. Look among the dark colored lava rocks by the shore, and you will see some unique marine iguanas. The marine iguanas on Isla Espanola are unique among all those in the Galapagos Islands—they are the only marine iguana species to change color during mating season.
While at Punta Suarez, look around above you and you may glimpse the waved albatross in flight. This magnificent bird is one of the most impressive fliers in the world, with a wingspan of more than seven feet. You may also see the albatrosses nesting or foraging along the rocks of the shore. Other examples of wildlife that you can see at Punta Suarez are masked boobies, blue-footed boobies, the endemic Hood Island mockingbird, Galapagos dove, lava lizards, and swallow-tailed gulls. If you're lucky, you may see a gigantic Hood Island tortoise, one of several sub-varieties of Galapagos tortoise. The Hood Island tortoise was one of the most endangered animals of Isla Espanola, but a careful breeding program at the Charles Darwin Research Station near Puerto Ayora managed to restore the breeding population. A rather rocky trail lets you view much of this wildlife while making your way along the coast.
The other major tourist attraction of Isla Espanola is the beautiful white sand beach of Gardner Bay on the northeastern side of the island. This is one of the few places in the Galapagos Islands where you may explore by yourself, while your guide waits nearby. You may choose to go swimming or just lie on the beach for a while. The mockingbirds in this area are extremely curious and friendly, and some may come up to you to investigate you further. Snorkeling at Gardner Bay is a very exciting activity, with friendly sea lions, sea turtles, and hundreds of colorful fish as well as white-tipped sharks.
Above all, remember to preserve the wilderness of the area by staying on the trails and not leaving anything behind. That said, make the most of your day at Isla Espanola, one of the most isolated and pristine islands in the world.