As you plan your trip to the Galapagos Islands, you’ll read about Baltra Island. What can you do on Baltra Island and how do you get there? In this guide, you’ll learn everything for planning your Galapagos trip, via Baltra Island.
Baltra Island is one of two primary entry points for travelers. On our three Galapagos trips, we flew into Balta Island every time. You can expect to see Galapagos land iguanas and many seabirds. Vegetation is limited to bushes and cactuses. There are limited services, and no tourists overnight there.
If you’ll visit Baltra Island, keep reading our guide, which covers the following: getting there, accommodations, attractions, ecology, location, and a brief history.
Table of Contents
About Baltra Island
- Names: Isla Baltra (Spanish name) and South Seymour (English). The island is commonly known as Baltra Island, to both Ecuadorians and English visitors.
- Location: North of Santa Cruz Island
- Features and Attractions: Home to Baltra Airport and the rare land iguana. The island was created by geological uplift.
- Baltra Island is the only island that isn’t part of the Galapagos National Park.
General Data About Baltra Island
- Size: 8 square miles (21 square km)
- Maximum Altitude: 328 feet (100 meters)
- Population: Zero year-round inhabitants
- Services: Airport, two docks, paved roads. Baltra Island is home to a current Ecuadorian military base.
Where is Baltra Island Located?
Baltra Island is located north of Santa Cruz Island. And north of Baltra Island is the tiny North Seymour Island.
Baltra Island is surrounded, to the north, south, east, and west by many other Galapagos Islands.
Here are the latitude and longitude for Baltra Island.
- Latitude -0.457212 (DMS lat 0° 27′ 25.96″ S)
- Longitude -90.274332 (DMS long 90° 16′ 27.59″ W)
Here’s more about the location of the Galapagos archipelago.
Where to Stay on Baltra Island
If you’re looking for a hotel or guest house on Baltra Island, you’ll be disappointed. There are no public accommodations on Baltra Island.
To find a place to stay after your flight, you’ll have two options.
- Cruise Travelers. Travel north by bus to board your cruise ship. There is a passenger wharf (Muelle de pasajeros) northwest of the airport.
- Land-Based Travelers. Travel south by bus to cross the Itabaca Channel to Santa Cruz Island. Santa Cruz Island is the most popular island in the Galapagos and is home to many resorts and hotels.
Baltra sits in a central location and is home to one of the two main Galapagos airports.
How to Get to Baltra Island
Baltra Island is one of two primary entry points for visitors. Visitors arrive in the Galapagos by air to either Baltra Island or San Cristobal Island.
Flights to Baltra depart daily from Guayaquil or Quito, the two largest cities in Ecuador.
It is possible to arrive in Galapagos by boat but this isn’t common. Freight ships regularly travel between Guayaquil, Ecuador and Santa Cruz Island. Sailboats and yachts can dock in the Galapagos Islands as well.
The Galapagos and Baltra islands are remote. The only way to reach Baltra Island is by flying into the Island’s airport from mainland Ecuador or another Galapagos island.
Visitors can take a ferry or water taxi to their desired destination. It is important to note that the Island requires an entry fee, and all visitors must have a valid Galapagos Park entrance card.
Baltra Island is one of the 33 main Galapagos Islands. Here’s our guide to all the Galapagos Islands.
Tourist Attractions on Baltra Island
Due to its small size and relatively few animals compared to other Galapagos islands, there are few (no) tourist attractions on Baltra. It serves primarily as an entry point to the Galapagos Islands.
When we arrive at the dock, we enjoy watching the land iguanas wander across the parking lot as we waited for the small ferry to take us across Itabaca Channel to Santa Cruz Island. And we’ll never forget seeing our first frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies as we crossed the channel.
It is important to remember that Baltra Island has no accommodation facilities. You must secure lodging on a different island if you plan to visit.
Ecology of Baltra Island
Baltra Island is a volcanic island that is dry and flat. Like many of the other islands, Baltra is dusty and a hard place to live for many land animals.
During World War II, Baltra Island was once home to a United States Army Air Force base. Some reports blame the US military for the destruction of the native vegetation. Conservation efforts have restored some of the original flora and fauna on Baltra.
It is home to the unusual Galapagos land iguana, which can grow up to four feet in length and live for over 50 years.
Although there are few land animals, it is a perfect place for the famous birds of the Galapagos. It is a nesting site for seabirds such as blue-footed boobies, ground fiches, noddy terns, large brown pelicans, black frigates, and Nazca boobies.
Under the water is a different story. The waters are rich with marine life, including dolphins, sea turtles, fish, and playful sea lions.
On our last trip, I snorkeled with reef sharks in the channel. And we watched a flock of blue-footed boobies during a feeding frenzy. You can easily take a kayak trip from the port on the Santa Cruz side of the harbor.
Vegetation on Baltra Island
As you travel by bus to/from the airport, watch for specific vegetation. You might see prickly pear cacti, palo santo trees, and salt bushes.
History of Baltra Island
The Island was initially named “Isla Rocas,” meaning “Rocky Island,” by whalers in the 1700s. It was later renamed Baltra during a 1930 scientific expedition by the California Academy of Sciences.
US soldiers stationed on Baltra Island referred to it as “The Rock”.
During World War II, the US established an air base on the Island. After WWII, the US military returned the island to the Ecuadorian government in 1946.
In recent years, tourism has become a significant industry for Baltra Island. The island is home to one of the two main airports in the Galapagos, making it a popular starting point for visitors traveling to other islands via cruise boat and ferry.
As you plan your trip to Baltra Island, it’s good to know its unique history and ecology. Have you been here? Please share your tips and experience in the comments.
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