Most Galapagos cruise boats anchor in Darwin Bay, a 2.5 km-wide natural harbor formed by the collapse of a volcanic caldera. Famous for its many species of birds, including the world’s largest colony of red-footed boobies, the island is a paradise for birdwatchers. Even from the vantage point of the boats' decks, you will see an impressive array of activity: from thermal riding great frigatebirds to red-billed tropicbirds returning to their cliff-based nests.
Walks take visitors alongside a white sand coral beach, through winding mangroves to turquoise tidal pools. Another option is to climb the steep, rough-hewn cliff steps known as El Barranco (and also Prince Phillip’s Steps) to follow a path through busy seabird colonies to a forest of Palo Santo. This fragrant tree, found along the coast of South America, is used to produce incense and sweet essential oil and is a member of the same family as frankincense and myrrh. At the end of the path is revealed the highly impressive sight of over 200,000 pairs of Galapagos storm-petrels seemingly all flying at the same time.
The clear waters around the island make for some excellent snorkeling opportunities
where, among shoals of exotic tropical fish, you might also spot stingrays and
white-tipped reef sharks. In deeper waters, hammerheads and Galapagos sharks are
also often seen.