Galapagos Reptiles

Giant Galapagos Tortoise

The Galapagos Islands' land animals are dominated by reptiles, while most of the world finds mammals the predominate species. Unlike mammals, reptiles are able to survive long periods without water, equipping them with the ability to make the epic 620 mile-long journey to the volcanic islands from the mainland. Giant tortoises, iguanas, snakes and lizards - visitors to the islands will have plenty of opportunities to discover these unique creatures. Even the islands were named after one of their famous reptile species, the gian tortoise. Today, the giant tortoise has become somewhat of a mascot for the islands. A trip to the Galapagos Islands offers amazing wildlife viewing opportunities. The following table simply offers a sample of the reptiles found on the Islands.

Key to species' class:

  • Endemic = Found only in the Galapagos Islands
  • Endemic Sub-species = Species exists in other parts of the world, but no interbreeding with the Galapagos population. The Galapagos population may evolve into a distinct species.
  • Resident = Found on the Galapagos Islands and elsewhere in the world. Breeds on the islands and elsewhere. Arrived in the Islands naturally.
  • Visitor = Does not breed in the Galapagos. Is seen on a regular basis in the Islands.



Species Islands Best Viewed Class Characteristics
Galapagos Giant Tortoise Isabela, Santiago, Pinzon, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Espanola Endemic Estimated population is roughly 15,000. Ten sub-species of giant tortoises exist in the wild. The 11th species has one remaining survior, Lonesome George, who resides at the Charles Darwin Research Station.
Galapagos Green Turtle Widespread Endemic sub-species Only turtle to breed on the islands. Nesting is between the months of Dec. and June. Is best seen in shallow lagoons around the islands.
Hawksbill Turtle Widespread Visitor Smaller than the Galapagos Green Turtle, with a much browner shell. Not common in the Galapagos, but seen on a regular basis.
Marine Iguana Fernandina, Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal, Santiago, Pinta, Espanola, Genovesa Endemic World's only sea-going lizard. Can stay submerged for up to 10 mins., but are usually found sunning on lava rocks. 7 sub-species of marine iguanas, varying in size and color.
Land Iguana South Plaza, Santa Cruz, North Seymour Endemic Yellowish in color. Average lifespan of 60 years, but population has been jeapordized by introduced cats, dogs and rats.
Santa Fe Land Iguana Santa Fe Endemic Similar to land iguana, but males are a bright yellow. Only found on Santa Fe island.
Lava Lizard All major islands - save Genovesa Endemic 7 sub-speices of lava lizards. They are smaller than iguanas and larger than geckos. Males are larger (up to a foot long) than females and have more patterns and rougher skin.
Galapagos Leaf-toed Gecko Isabela, Santa Cruz, Fernandina, Santiago Endemic Pale with dark brown flecks. Nocturnal and eats mainly insects.
San Cristobal Leaf-toed Gecko San Cristobal Endemic Darker and smaller than the Galapagos leaf-toed. Found only an San Cristobal.
Hood Racer - Snake Espanola Endemic Non-poisonous - a constrictor snake. Only snake found on Espanola.
Banded Galapagos Snake Fernandina, Isabela, Pinzon Endemic Non-poisonous - a constrictor snake. Its bands distinguishes from other Galapagos snakes. Body is cream, with dark brown bands.
Striped Galapagos Snake Seymour, Rabida, Santiago, Puerto Egas, Santa Cruz Endemic Non-poisonous - a constrictor snake. Dark brown with two yellow stripes on the sides, running the snake's entire body.