Fernandina is the westernmost island, is the youngest. It is named for King Fernando of Spain, the monarch who sponsored Christopher Columbus' 1492 voyage of discovery. It is also the most volcanically active and several serious eruptions have occurred there, the most recent in 2005.
Because of increased volcanic activity and its relative youth, Fernandina is home to less plant life than some of the other islands, including neighboring Isabela, but it is rich in animal life. Most of the plant life consists of thick mangroves along the shoreline, which make an excellent home for shore birds and small fish which are an important link in the ecosystem. Fernandina and Isabela are home to most of the Galapagos penguin population, and they are commonly spotted on Fernandina's rocky shores. The endemic flightless cormorant, the only cormorant in the world that cannot fly, is only found on Fernandina, although they do occasionally nest on Isabela.
There was once a variety of giant tortoise on Fernandina, but it is now extinct. Unlike other extinct species of Galapagos tortoise, the Fernandina subspecies did not die off due to humans: the fossil record indicates that it died off naturally, mostly due to volcanic activity and lack of nesting materials and food.
Fernandina is famous in Galapagos for being the most pristine of the larger islands. It does not suffer from the invasive introduced species that plague the rest of the islands, such as rats, ants, goats and different plants. In fact, there is a species of rice rat on the island that is endemic: on other islands, native rats have been muscled out by more aggressive introduced rat species.
Fernandina is home to a population of Galapagos land iguanas. These iguanas make a long journey from the rim of the volcano to the floor of the caldera, where they nest. They are rarely seen by visitors, but can be seen on the National Geographic video "Dragons of Galapagos."
The only visitor site on Fernandina is Punta Espinosa, a maze of sandy trails through interesting lava floes. It is known for the colony of hundreds of marine iguanas that live there as well as a sea lion nursery, some flightless cormorants and the occasional Galapagos hawk. There are also several tidal pools, which are home to a specialized ecosystem and occasionally trap a sea turtle or stingray.
- Highlights: Snorkeling with Flightless Cormorant, marine iguanas, Galapagos sea lions, Galapagos penguins. Active volcano "La Cumbre" and huge lava fields (A'A lava)
- Possible Activities: Hiking - snorkeling
- Type of Landing: Dry landing and slippery at low tide
- Difficulty: Easy
- Fernandina Visitor sites:
- ESPINOSA POINT
No foreign species have ever invaded Fernandina Island, and therefore it is one of the world's most pristine island ecosystems. The volcano "La Cumbre" dominates the landspace with lava fields reaching the ocean. The island's highlight features the flightless cormorant nesting site. This area provides a great opportunity to see the Galapagos hawk.
Highlights: Flightless cormorant, marine iguanas, A'A lava, sea lions, penguins, active volcano "La Cumbre" hawk, blue-footed boobies, blow hole, amazing landscape
- CAPE DOUGLAS
In Cape Douglas, fur sea lions and Galapagos sea lions mingle with the snacking marine iguanas and "zoom-past-you" penguins.
Highlights: Galapagos marine iguana
- MANGLE POINT
A visit to Mangle Point allows visitors to witness the amazing views and wildlife on the Coast of Fernandina Island. This is a small inlet on Fernandina's coast where you can snorkel to your hearts delight and watch playful sea lions, curious penguins, and also catch a glimpse of where flight less cormorants reside.
Highlights: Snorkeling, lava cactus, A'A lava