Hood is the southernmost island of the archipelago, and is one of the most popular due to the breathtaking variation and sheer number of fauna that greet the visitor. The giant tortoise was reintroduced to Hood in the 1970’s and counts as one of the park’s great success stories. They reside in an off-limits area, but don’t worry—the famous giant tortoise awaits you on other islands!
On the northeastern shore of Hood, Gardner Bay offers a magnificent long white sandy beach, where colonies of sea lions laze in the sun, sea turtles swim offshore, and inquisitive mockingbirds boldly investigate new arrivals. You will be lured into the turquoise water for a swim, but just a little further off-shore, the snorkeling by Tortuga Rock and Gardner Island offers peak encounters with playful young sea lions and large schools of surprisingly big tropical fish, including yellow tailed surgeonfish, king angelfish and bump-head parrot fish. Sleepy white-tipped reef sharks can be seen napping on the bottom.
The quantity and variety of wildlife at Punta Suarez is remarkable. Sea lions surf the waves beyond the breakwater landing, and tiny pups are known to greet your toes upon arrival. A few steps inland are the largest variety of marine iguana in the Galapagos. They bear distinctive red and black markings, some with a flash of turquoise running down their spine, and nap in communal piles. The trail then takes us beside the western edge of the island where masked boobies nest along the cliff’s edge, and then descends to a rocky beach before rising to an open area and a large gathering of nesting blue-foot boobies. Galapagos doves, cactus finch and mocking birds forage by, unconcerned by human presence.
The trail continues to the high cliff edge of the southern shore; below, a shelf of black lava reaches out into the surf where a blowhole shoots a geyser of water into the air. Further east along the cliffs is the “Albatross Airport” where waved albatross line up to launch their great winged bodies from the cliffs, soaring out over the dramatic shoreline of crashing waves and driven spray. In the trees set back from the cliff is one of only two places in the world where the waved albatross nests. In fact, the 12,000 pairs that inhabit Hood Island comprise all but a tiny fraction of the world’s population of this species. Lucky visitors can watch courtship ‘fencing’ done with great yellow beaks and necks among the large, fluffy, perfectly camouflaged chicks. Mating occurs year round.