Floreana (Charles or Santa María)

The curious group that settled on Floreana, including a nudist vegetarian with metal teeth and a self-styled baroness who named herself the Empress of Floreana, may have left an intriguing tale – their environmental impact, however, was something of a disaster. Introduced animals such as pigs, goats and donkeys, resulted in the loss of giant tortoises, land iguanas and ground finches while Galapagos hawks were hunted to extinction.

In 1793, at what became known as Post Office Bay, homesick British sailors placed a large wooden barrel in which they left letters in the hope that other passing seafarers would take them and deliver them once home. The system clearly worked as it remained in use for over a century. Visitors maintain the tradition today by leaving cards and letters for family and friends while also sifting, through the pile, to take a letter or two back home. Tradition also has it that the letter must be hand delivered.

Aside from human social history, Floreana is a very popular Galapagos cruise stop and offers one of the best opportunities in the archipelago to see the striking greater flamingo. Just off Punta Cormorant lies the Devil’s Crown, a sunken volcanic cinder cone around which is to be found some of the best snorkelling in the islands.

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