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Rabida Island, Galapagos


Experience one of the four inhabited islands of the Galapagos Islands on the beautiful Floreana Island, an island in the far south of the archipelago also known as Charles Island and Santa Maria. Home to a variety of beaches teeming with endemic flora and fauna, vibrant underwater life, and highly-curious human history, the 173-square-kilometer (67-square-mile) island is a highlight of any Galapagos tour.

Unlike most places in the Galapagos archipelago where humans have scarcely made a mark, Floreana has a uniquely rich human history. The presence of freshwater made the isle a frequent stop for sailors, pirates, and whalers in the 18th and 19th centuries — so much so that a creative postal system was even established on what’s now known as Post Office Bay. It’s also the site of the first Galapagos settler, the cunning Irishman Patrick Watkins.

Perhaps the most intriguing tale told and retold on the island is the mysterious Galapagos affair. In the late 1920s, three groups settled on Floreana: physician Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch, the Wittmer family, and Baroness Eloise Wagner de Bosquet with her two lovers. A few years later, conflict struck between the Baroness’ two lovers. After choosing one over the other, she vanished with her chosen companion; meanwhile, the spurned lover was found dead on a nearby island. Not long after, Ritter died of food poisoning, while Strauch returned to Germany where she ended up dying in a mental institution.

Ultimately, only the Wittners were left on Floreana — and descendants of the original family remain on the island to this day.

Key Visitor Points

Rabida Island is the smallest island in the Galapagos with only one visitor site but offers visitors plenty of opportunities for exploration and wildlife viewing. The beach landing is unique because visitors immediately begin walking among the sea lions on the sand. A short trek takes you to an inland peak that has good views of the surrounding islands and volcanoes. If time permits, take an extra day on the island where you can snorkel, hike through lava tubes and explore further inland past secluded pools of fresh water.

The pink flamingos can be found in a saltwater lagoon behind the beach. At this location, they eat pink shrimp larvae and water boatmen bugs for more than seven hours a day. There are few years when there are no flamingos in the area due to environmental changes.

If you love Blue Footed Boobies, Rabida is the right place to visit. Several trails on the island take you through different sections of forest, such as Palo Santo forest and Prickly Pear Island. The most popular trail is the one that leads to the cliff tops, where there is a good chance of seeing land birds and Darwin’s Finches.

Snorkeling in Rabida is a must-do activity. You will be able to see stingrays, sharks, and sea lions just as quickly as you might find Galapagos tortoise or iguanas. The waters are nutrient-rich and home to millions of fish that live below the surface.

xcellent for plant-loving explorers, with over 48 plant species identified at the site.

Wildlife on Rabida Island

Rabida Island is a birdwatcher’s paradise with nesting boobies, frigatebirds, and herons. The Blue-footed Booby is the island’s most famous bird, having adapted to Rabida’s harsh environment. With this adaption, they could place themselves on rocky outcrops where they would not sink when diving for food but also allow them access to get enough food while they stay in their homes.

Frigatebirds nest on rocky outcrops throughout the islands and hang far overhead on branches, posts, or wires to catch insects. Flamingos are abundant on Rabida Island, quieting as you approach but vocalizing if you get too close or shock them. Feeding on algae and tiny fish, they favor shallow waters. Other birds include Nazca boobies, bridled terns, red-billed tropic birds, masked boobies, flightless cormorants, and Galapagos doves.

Rabida has a dwarf forest with peculiar flora and fauna, such as Cordia subcordata, the giant 200-year-old mangrove tree found only on Rabida Island. This island is also home to endemic species of Galapagos penguins, large populations of sea lions, and marine iguanas. These iguanas are famous for their unique behavior and have become one of the symbols of the islands. You can observe them from a distance on the black sand beach or on a boat tour, which will allow you to get closer to these exciting animals.

Rabida is probably one of the hottest spots to snorkel. The main highlight here is sharks. Seeing the large and wide variety of sharks here is impressive. Some highlights are silky sharks, dogfish sharks, and hammerheads. You should also be prepared to see plenty of sea turtles and a huge variety of fish species.

Visiting Rabida Island

Situated in the middle of the Galápagos Islands archipelago, Rábida Island is located to the south of Santiago. A multi-day island-hopping cruise is the best method to get to the island. Travelers can depart from San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz Islands.