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Darwin's finch at Baltra airport
© Josselin Guyot-Téphany

Island overview

Baltra, also known as South Seymour, is situated at the centre of the Galapagos Archipelago, and is separated from Santa Cruz island by the narrow Itabaca Channel. Visitors arriving at the airport are either taken straight to their cruise ship or across the channel by ferry. 

Baltra has an interesting history, used as an airbase by the US military during World War II. After the war the facilities were transferred to the Ecuadorian government, and there is still a military presence, along with the civilian airport.  

The island is flat and arid, lacking the volcanic peaks which characterise most of the other islands in Galapagos, studded with cacti and Palo santo trees. Other than the airport there are no tourist sites on Baltra, though visitors are likely to spot some of the Archipelago’s most iconic species during their onward transit from the island, including Galapagos sea lions, land iguanas and Darwin’s finches. 

Galapagos land iguanas at Baltra airport © Emily Cutting
Galapagos land iguana at Baltra airport © Emily Cutting

Wildlife highlights

The Galapagos land iguana, an important ecosystem engineer

Galapagos land iguana

One of three species of land iguana found in Galapagos, this large, yellow lizard inhabits the arid zone of a number of the islands.
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Galapagos sea lion

Galapagos sea lion

The most abundant marine mammal in the Archipelago, Galapagos sea lions can often be seen sleeping on the beaches or swimming close to shore.
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One of Darwin's finches in Galapagos

Darwin's finches

There are 17 species of Darwin's finches found in the Galapagos Islands, which are famous for their evolutionary history.
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Sally Lightfoot crab

Sally Lightfoot crab

The brightly-coloured Sally Lightfoot crab is a common sight along the shores and beaches of most islands in Galapagos.
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Conservation challenges

By 1954, the Galapagos land iguana was extinct on Baltra, likely due to habitat destruction and introduced species such as goats, cats and dogs. However, during the 1930s a team of scientists had transferred around 70 iguanas to neighbouring North Seymour, and in 1980 several of these iguanas were taken to Santa Cruz for a captive breeding programme, which resulted in land iguanas being reintroduced to Baltra in the 1990s. The iguanas are now successfully reproducing on the island, and the population is considered healthy. 

The presence of the airport on Baltra, with over 1,000 commercial flights landing on the island every year, means that there is an ever-present risk of introducing harmful invasive species, and strict biosecurity measures are in place to mitigate against this threat. 

Baltra airport, Galapagos
Baltra airport, Galapagos © Chris Deeney

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