Fernandina Island in the Galapagos
At an age of approximately 700,000 years, Fernandina is considered to be the youngest of the spectacular Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Named in honor of King Ferdinand of Spain, the sponsor of explorer Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the region, Fernandina is also one of the most volcanically active islands of the archipelago, with the most recent eruption occurring in April 2009. The continued volcanic activity has prevented flora from taking root to any great degree on the island, resulting in Fernandina having a stark, rocky and desolate feel about it. But having no vegetation to speak of, apart from some lava cactus and a few mangroves, does not mean that Fernandina is devoid of life, and the island is home to a colony of sea lions, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, yellow warblers, pelicans, finches, petrels, frigates, shearwaters and Galapagos penguins, among other wildlife.
Of the abundant wildlife resident on Fernandina Island, the marine iguanas are likely the most fascinating. Vast numbers of these prehistoric-looking creatures are found on the northeastern edge of the island at Punta Espinosa. As the only known lizard species to have adapted in order to take advantage of local food sources in the waters lapping the island’s shores, marine iguanas eat the nourishing green algae that is found in intertidal areas, as well as the seaweed found below the surface of the water which they dive down to collect. In fact, the nutrient rich waters surrounding Fernandina is the main source of food for many of the island’s inhabitants. As part of their mating rituals, marine iguanas change from dark green to shades of blue and red in mating season. In addition to marine iguanas, large numbers of land iguanas are also found on the island.
Because there are no feral animals to prey on local populations, as is the case on some of the other islands of the Galapagos, species like the iguanas and indigenous rice rat, are not hunted to the point of extinction, and visitors can see these creatures much as they have been for thousands of years. Visitors can travel to Isla Fernandina from neighboring Isla Isabela, and there are two demarcated walking trails on the island, which allow visitors to view the lava field created by past volcanic eruptions, as well as the unique wildlife that dwell on this interesting Galapagos island.