FINALLY! Quantitative ratings for visitor sites

CNH Tours has just completed the first ever quantitative analysis of Galapagos visitor site quality.   For years, people have been asking us: “Which is the nicest visitor site?”; “Where’s the best snorkeling?”; “Is this itinerary better than that one”.    Our answers have always been very much based on our own judgement and limited experience – taking into consideration the fact that we have not been to each of the 54 visitor sites surveyed in our analysis.  

How did we do it?   We asked 12 naturalist guides, with a combined 231 years guiding experience in Galapagos, to rate visitor sites on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the poorest) against 5 specific criteria:

  1. Iconic species: The likelihood of seeing relatively rare but iconic Galapagos species (e.g. giant tortoise in the wild, penguin, flightless cormorant, flamingo, land iguana)
  2. Biodiversity: The abundance and diversity of plant and animal life, not necessarily iconic.
  3. Striking vistas: The likelihood that visitors will be taking pictures of the landscape at a particular site.
  4. Beach quality: The quality of a beach for playing in the sand, sunbathing, swimming, relaxing.
  5. Snorkel quality: The likelihood of seeing rich and diverse underwater life.

It’s important to note that the results paint a broad, general picture, and contain plenty of “wiggle room” in terms of actual visitor experience, with some variability due to seasonal wildlife fluctuations and to simple chance of seeing, or not seeing some species on a particular day (Punta Suarez’s iconic waved albatross is a seasonal visitor, for example), or simply due to personal preferences.   For this reason, it is better to use the ratings as a general indication and not as an absolute measure.   For example, the #4 site is not necessarily worse than the #1 site, but you can be confident that it is among the top sites for a particular critera.  

The ratings do not take into consideration cultural or historical attributes of the sites.  Some sites might have little appeal for wildlife, but are steeped in history (Post Office Bay, Floreana Island for example). In the lists below, those sites presenting cultural or historical interest are demarked with an asterisk.  

Based on our painstaking work (3 years in the making!), here are some results of interest:

 

TOP 10 SITES FOR ICONIC SPECIES:

Española Island, Punta Suarez

Fernandina Island, Punta Espinoza

North Seymour Island

Genovesa Island, Darwin Bay

Genovesa Island, Prince Phillip's Steps

Isabela, Punta Vicente Roca

Santa Fe Island

Floreana Island, Champion islet

Santa Cruz Island, El Chato

South Plaza Island

Isabela Island, Albemarle Point

 

 TOP 10 SITES FOR BIODIVERSITY

Española Island, Punta Suarez

Fernandina Island, Punta Espinoza

Genovesa Island, Darwin Bay

Genovesa Island, Prince Phillip's Steps

North Seymour Island

Isabela, Punta Vicente Roca

Marchena Island, Punta Mejia

Floreana Island, Devil's Crown

Floreana Island, Champion islet

South Plaza Island

 

TOP 10 SITES FOR STRIKING VISTAS

Bartolomé Island

Fernandina Island, Punta Espinoza

Isabela Island, Sierra Negra

Isabela Island, Tagus Cove

Española Island, Gardner Bay

Isabela, Punta Vicente Roca

Genovesa Island, Prince Phillip's Steps

San Cristóbal Island, Cerro Brujo

San Cristóbal Island, Punta Pitt

Española Island, Punta Suarez

 

TOP 10 BEACHES

Española Island, Gardner Bay

Santa Cruz Island, Tortuga Bay

San Cristóbal Island, Cerro Brujo

Bartolomé Island

San Cristóbal Island, Lobos Island

Rábida Island

Santa Fe Island

Santa Cruz Island, Bachas Beach

Santiago Island, Puerto Egas

San Cristóbal Island, Galapaguera

 

 TOP 10 SITES FOR SNORKELING

Marchena Island, Punta Mejia

Floreana Island, Champion islet

Floreana Island, Devil's Crown

Isabela, Punta Vicente Roca

Rábida Island

North Seymour Island

Sombero Chino Island

Bartolomé Island

Fernandina Island, Punta Espinoza

San Cristóbal Island, Leon Dormido

 

TOP 10 SITES OVERALL:

Fernandina Island, Punta Espinoza

Española Island, Punta Suarez

Isabela, Punta Vicente Roca

Genovesa Island, Prince Phillip's Steps

North Seymour Island

Floreana Island, Champion islet

Floreana Island, Devil's Crown

Marchena Island, Punta Mejia

Española Island, Gardner Bay

Santa Fe Island

South Plaza Island

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