"Marine Iguanas" Isla Isabela Things to Do Tip by MalenaN

Isla Isabela Things to Do: 25 reviews and 107 photos

  Marine Iguanas on Las Tintoreras
by MalenaN
  • Marine Iguanas on Las Tintoreras - Isla Isabela
      Marine Iguanas on Las Tintoreras
    by MalenaN
  • Marine Iguanas on Las Tintoreras - Isla Isabela
      Marine Iguanas on Las Tintoreras
    by MalenaN
  • Marine Iguanas - Isla Isabela
  • Marine Iguanas - Isla Isabela
  • Who's running in front of me? - Isla Isabela
      Who's running in front of me?
    by MalenaN

One of the highlights of Galapagos Islands is to see the amazing Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). They are endemic to the islands and they are also the only lizards in the word that swim in the sea. The Marine Iguanas spend most of their time on land, but they feed on algae and seaweed. There are seven subspecies of Marine Iguanas in the archipelago and they can be found on all islands, often in the shore zone, on the lava rocks.

During millions of years the Marine Iguana has evolved to be well adapted to its environment. With a flattened snout and sharp teeth they can effectively feed on the algae on the rocks. Their tail helps them swim under water and with their long claws they can stand firmly on the rocks. Sometimes you can see the Marine Iguanas snort, that is when they get rid of excess sea salt with help from salt-eliminating glands in their nostrils. Most Marine Iguanas are black or dark grey in colour but on some islands the male can have a red or green colouring, a colouring that becomes brighter during the mating season.

Males become around 1m long, but some subspecies become longer and others shorter. The females are shorter than the males, and the spines along their back are not as large as on the male.

Females and young iguanas feed along the shore when it is low tide. It is mostly the males that feed in the sea and they can stay up to an hour under water. As the water is cold the iguanas must get warm when they come up on land, and then you can often see them basking in the sun with their face to the sun and their body raised from the ground (they must get warm, but not too warm so by raising the body they will allow the air to circulate under the body).

The Marine Iguanas are funny to see in the water. Twice when I snorkelled I saw them swimming. At Sullivan Bay I saw a Marin Iguana just as it took off from the bottom and swam up to the surface. As it reached the surface a sea lion got hold of the tail and played with it. Great for me to see, but I don’t think the iguana appreciated it that much. While snorkelling near Puerto Villamil I saw a whole group of iguanas swimming at the surface and just past me. It was wonderful.

The breeding season is from November - March. The females will then lay the eggs in an underground nest where they are incubated for three months. The baby iguanas are small and are therefore vulnerable to predators. They risk getting eaten by owls, hawks herons or mocking birds.

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Apr 5, 2012
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Comments (1)

  • Dabs's Profile Photo
    Apr 21, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    We are on Isabela for two days, it'd be so cool to see iguanas swimming!

    • MalenaN's Profile Photo
      Apr 21, 2014 at 8:54 PM

      Hello Kristi,
      I haven't updated this page after my latest cruise, the one when I visited western Isabela. I guess your cruise will also include Isla Fernandina. Snorkelling off Fernandina you will see Marine Iguanas feeding under the water. It is amazing to see!

    • Dabs's Profile Photo
      Apr 22, 2014 at 8:06 AM

      Yes, Fernandina is listed after Isabela, that sounds amazing!

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