In May 2005, a huge Cumbre Volcano explosion sent a column of ash and water vapor some 23,000 feet into the air. The volcano has continued to erupt since April 2009.

The volcanic activity makes for a tough and unforgiving environment and so wildlife tends to be confined to the coastal edges of the island. It has also meant that Fernandina is one of the most pristine environments in the Galapagos as, unlike other islands, no introduced species has ever been able to establish itself here.

An intriguing stop on any Galapagos cruise, the landing at Punta Espinoza, formed by lava flows from the 2005 explosion, is made all the more dramatic by the almost prehistoric sight of the world's biggest colony of large marine iguanas basking on the jagged rocks as they warm up in the morning sun.

Trails take you past various pioneer plants such as the Brachycerus or lava cactus and, while it might be barren, the intricate patterns found in the black lava are starkly beautiful.

If the fine stands of white mangroves that have grown up around the tidal pools look vaguely familiar, it may be because the island has been featured in numerous films, most famously perhaps in Master and Commander.

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