Floreana Island

Floreana Island, also known as Isla Santa Maria, is one of the larger islands of the Galapagos archipelago. It also has one of the oldest human settlements of the Galapagos, and a colorful history of pirates, whalers, convicts, and other settlers. Floreana Galapagos is located about a four-hour boat ride south of Santa Cruz Island, which is home to the main city (Puerto Ayora) and is where many tourists will start their boat tours or cruises. Floreana Island also has one of the best places to go snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands, several beautiful beaches, and plentiful varied fauna and flora.

The island has an interesting history as one of the first settled islands of the Galapagos, but no story is quite as intriguing as that of the Galapagos Affair. In the 1930s, several settlers arrived on Isla Santa Maria, among them Dr. Ritter and his lover, Dore Strauch, as well as the Wittmer Family. Both families settled on the island and made a living despite the harsh conditions. The Galapagos Affair began when Baroness Eloise Wehrborn arrived with her two lovers and a hired hand, planning to open a luxury hotel on the island. They did not get along with the other settlers, causing mischief, badmouthing other settlers, and allegedly stealing their mail.

One day, the Baroness showed up on the Wittmers' doorstep claiming that she and one of her lovers were leaving for Tahiti. From that moment, neither of them were seen again. The Baroness' other lover subsequently tried to catch a boat to Santa Cruz, but his body was later found on Marchena Island, far to the north of Santa Cruz. Dr. Ritter soon after died, supposedly of food poisoning, and his lover Dore Strauch returned to Germany. The Wittmers continued living on the island, and to this day their descendents are active in tourism on the island.

The top attraction of Floreana Galapagos today are the numerous bright pink flamingos that flock to Isla Santa Maria's lagoon. The flamingos are actually the most endangered bird in the Galapagos Islands, as wild pigs, which were introduced to the islands, have been destroying their nests and eggs. Visitors must be very quiet as they try to get within viewing distance of these timid but spectacular birds. Nearby, a white sand beach at Punta Cormoran is a nesting site for green turtles on Floreana Island. Another beach nearby is particularly unique—the sand is green due to mineral crystals. From these two beaches you can continue on the trail and see numerous finches unique to the Galapagos.

One of the other prime attractions of Floreana Galapagos is the Devil's Crown, or Corona del Diablo, a ring of rocks jutting out of the water on the north side of the island—it is actually a submerged volcano. You can take a boat ride around the Crown, and it is also one of the best places to go snorkeling in the entire archipelago. Sea turtles, sea lions, eels, and even hammerhead sharks can be seen in and around the Devil's Crown. Swimming and snorkeling in the Devil's Crown is one of the highlights of a trip to Floreana Island and indeed in the entire Galapagos archipelago.

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