Floreana is a small isolated island in the Galapagos. It has a very interesting history and is one of the most memorable places we’ve ever visited.
The Galapagos Islands are famous for their unique animals. We explored three islands and had unforgettable animal encounters on each of them, but none as breathtaking as on Floreana! Perhaps that was due to the isolated nature of the island.
Our Galapagos Family Adventure: Floreana Island
6 Reasons to Visit Floreana Island Galapagos
1. Sea Lions
You’ve seen those videos of someone swimming with a sea lion, right? Have you ever wished you could experience something like that? I did, but I thought it looked too good to be true, at least for me. I was wrong!
On Floreana, we swam with a very playful Galapagos sea lion. He had us all captivated! He was swimming circles around us – literally. He kept coming back for more, spinning, twirling, dipping, and diving all around us.
Bryan had a GoPro camera attached to an extender pole which made the little guy very curious. He seemed to be performing for the camera.
If you ever visit the Galapagos, don’t go without a GoPro or some other high-quality underwater camera. Memories alone don’t do that experience justice!
More reading: Travelers Guide to Galapagos Islands Animals
The sea lion was also very curious of children. Some local children were playing games in the water, the sea lion seemed to be taking delight in swimming around them and making them squeal.
He was also very curious of our daughter, I think their playful nature was magnetic.
2. Giant Tortoises
In the highlands of Floreana, we got up close with giant tortoises.
We were able to get close to these giant animals in Santa Cruz and Isabela as well, but I liked the enclosure on Floreana the most.
Picture, a sunbathed forest floor, tall trees, and large rocks. Now picture giant tortoises hiding among them. Beautiful!
You just have to see these animals in person to appreciate them. Being crouched down next to one as he slowly lifts his head and looks you in the eye – breathtaking!
3. Marine Iguanas
Right next to the main boat dock on Floreana we saw lots of large marine iguanas sunbathing, feeding, fighting, and sneezing.
More reading: Buyers Guide to the Best Sun Protection Hats
There are a lot of large rocks on one side of the doc where the marine iguanas like to hang out. It seems that the rocks make them feel secure, so we could be nice and close to them. That made for some great photos and even better GoPro footage.
Our best marine iguana encounters were on Floreana.
The feeling of being on such an isolated island was kind of surreal.
It felt like we had all that amazing nature to ourselves, even tho we didn’t really. When we were there the island had around 125 inhabitants, but there was definitely a feeling of isolation and getting back to basics.
We had read up on the history of the island so we were dreaming about what it would be like to land on an island and start from scratch, just the three of us.
Reading Floreana by Margret Wittmer will help you get an idea of what was going through our minds.
It was a unique feeling; something I had never felt before.
5. Sea Turtles
Swimming with sea turtles was my favorite experience during our Galapagos adventures.
There was just something so wonderful about seeing the sea turtles feeding, being swayed back and forth by the pull of the waves! The sea turtle we spent the most time with didn’t seem to notice we were there, which actually added to the experience.
Bryan and I were looking at each other and looking at him, kind of lost in how special the moment was!
Swimming with the sea lion was thrilling but I couldn’t help feeling a little nervous. Wild animals can be unpredictable, and my daughter was right next to me… fearless, I had to pull her back from getting too close.
It was a different kind of breathtaking with the sea turtle. A kind of quiet amazement, peaceful, dreamy feeling!
6. The Bizarre Story of Floreana Island
While we were in Galapagos last month we spent some time on Floreana Island, this is a small Island with a colorful past.
We heard stories of Pirates and then took a hike to see their caves. We also heard stories from the 1930s of a couple of nudists with metal teeth, and a baroness that moved in on them with her three lovers and basically declared herself queen of the island.
The first two people that wanted to make this little Eden their very own were the Wittmers, a German dentist, and his mistress. They wanted to live there alone, were vegetarians, and preferred to live free of the encumbrances of clothing, and their natural teeth.
Before making the trip to live this solitary lifestyle they decided to pull out all their natural teeth, they had a pair (one pair) of metal teeth made which they passed back and forth as they ate their vegetarian meals. You have to love this story, it just sounds so crazy.
The Wittmers died many years ago, but their decedents can still be found among the 125 people that now live on this tiny Island. Don’t fear they all wear clothes, and I didn’t see any metal choppers while exploring the island.
The baroness that moved in on the two lovebirds wanted to build a luxury hotel on the island for the rich and famous.
Needless to say, once she moved in and started bossing the Wittmers around, things got a little messed up. She along with two of her lovers, and the dentist disappeared one day, and to this day nobody knows what happened to them.
Long before all this took place, the pirates were active on the island, and they carved out caves in the highlands close to the only freshwater spring on the island.
We went on a hike to see the caves; we also saw the only other unique carving of its kind found so far in the Galapagos, a human head that looks much like the ones on Easter Island. The Wittmers’ first child was born in one of these pirate caves.
On the drive up to the highlands from the coast, it was very interesting to see the different zones of vegetation, I believe there were seven.
Along with the other Islands of the Galapagos, Floreana was formed by a Volcano, seeing the way the vegetation has taken over the landscape was a real treat.
As we hiked through the woods in the highlands we saw many giant tortoises, they are fed regularly on feeding platforms throughout the wooded area on the way up to the pirate caves. The view near the pirate caves of the island and the extinct volcano was breathtaking.
One of the staff members from Red Mangrove that accompanied us on our Tour was from Floreana. He said that when he was growing up on the island there were only eight families (large extended families) living on the island.
We enjoyed our visit to this unique, beautiful little island. And think its past is prime fodder for a movie, except, of course, we’re thinking of a G-rated movie 🙂
If you’re planning a trip, you should check out these Galapagos books.
Have you traveled to Floreana Island? What did you like the most? Please share with us by commenting on this post.
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Hi, I’m Dena Haines. And I’m co-founder of Storyteller Travel. I love to cover food, animals, and destinations around the world.
I also blog about photography at Storyteller Tech.
Monday 17th of May 2021
Thank you for this writeup—I found it to be very helpful! I would love to someday visit Floreana for many of the same reasons you spoke of. It is so nice to read about these travel experiences and view the photos. I just wanted to mention a small thing I noticed regarding the island’s history—Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch were actually the first settlers (he did have metal teeth!), and the Wittmers followed with their teenage son from Heinz Wittmer’s first marriage. They did have technically their first child together there, not long after the self-proclaimed Baroness arrived with her two German lovers. The whole story is haunting and riveting! Anyway, thank you again for the helpful writeup and imagery and I hope to one day see it with my own eyes! Kind regards, Heidi G.
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Friday 26th of March 2021
[…] our brief (two days) stay on Floreana Island, we hiked and snorkeled. Floreana is the least populated of the populated islands – with just […]
Tuesday 23rd of May 2017
How adventurous of you! What do you do about school for your daughter? Do you enjoy the climate in Cuenca? On Floreana, do you feel that 2 days is sufficient or would 4-5 be better? I have plenty of time. In November, do you think there is any danger of not being able to get accommodations without figuring out how to book in advance at the two little places you spoke of?
Wednesday 24th of May 2017
Hi Heidi - 2 days is good but there is lots to do. The next time we go, I hope to spend many days there. Floreana is my favorite of the islands - in part because it is so isolated. I don't know about availability in November. Our daughter studied with a US based high school - she just graduated in December (the month after she turned 16). I hope you have an amazing time!
Thursday 13th of April 2017
Greetings! We are traveling to the Galapagos in October, with a total of 7 people (4 adults, 3 children). Do you recommend an overnight on Floreana or a day trip? Thank you!
Friday 14th of April 2017
Most people visit on a day trip with a cruise. But to see the best of Floreana, I think you should stay at least a night or two.
Thursday 7th of April 2016
Hi Dena, Three of my children (ages 28, 11, and 6) and I are going to be spending a semester in Timbarra (outside Zamora), Ecuador from August 2016 to December 2016. We've been doing some research about the Galapagos Islands as we'd like to take advantage of the opportuity while we are in Ecuador. I am an Alaskan who loves the quieter outdoors and smaller crowds. So after reading of your family's experience on Floreana Island, I think visiting there would be a good fit. I am curious where your family stayed while on Floreana and how many days you spent there. Was it enough or too much? Also, what month did you travel to the Galapagos? I already know that we'll be going during to "cooler" months but just wondering. Thank you!