Island profile: Fernandina

Fernandina is an island on the west of Galapagos and is across the Bolivar Channel from Isabela island. Fernandina was named in honour of King Ferdinand of Spain, who, with his wife Queen Isabella of Spain, sponsored the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Fernandina island has an almost completely pristine environment as it only has one visitor site, Punta Espinosa, a narrow spit of land in the northeast corner of the island. Fernandina is the youngest island in the Archipelago and the most volcanically active.

Isla Fernandina © Howard Banwell

© Howard Banwell

Fernandina consists of a central volcano and caldera, an extensive lava field and a few vegetated areas that mainly consist of cacti and mangroves. Its active shield volcano has been erupting since April 11th 2009. Since the establishment of the Galapagos National Park, there have been 13 recorded eruptions with some of them lasting for several days. Extraordinary lava formations are abundant across the island, and this sporadic volcanic activity and a harsh volcanic landscape gives the island a dramatic backdrop.

Due to the cold, upwelling waters of the Cromwell Current, the sea surrounding Fernandina and western Isabela are the richest waters in the archipelago in terms of nutrients and sea life. Fernandina is a prime birding spot as it is possible to see herons and egrets foraging among the mangrove roots and Galapagos penguins swimming along its shores. Flightless cormorants also live on Fernandina and are often spotted perched on rocks with their ragged wings outstretched in the sun.

Wildlife, Flightless Cormorant ©Vanessa Green

© Vanessa Green

The cold ocean current produces lush, thick seaweed, the main component of the marine iguana’s diet. This has allowed the iguanas on Fernandina to become the largest in the archipelago. The island also has the largest land iguana population per square mile in Galapagos. The land iguanas nest both on the rim of the caldera and in its depths. 

Fernandina is one of two Galapagos islands that is frequently monitored for invasive mammals as it is one of the two larger islands that have not experienced introduced mammals, which have negatively affected endemic species elsewhere in Galapagos. The other potential threat to the flora and fauna is from invasive plant species such as blackberry, lantana shrubs or guava shrubs, which could out-compete the native vegetation.