The Galapagos Penguin – Sphenicus mendiculus
There are only about 2000 individuals in the world today and they are all here, in the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Penguin is the only penguin found past the equatorial line, in the northern hemisphere. It is actually the only penguin that spends all of its life in the Tropics. But for him, it’s no Galapagos vacation.
Lost its way home
The Galapagos Penguin is a relative of the very similar Humboldt Penguin, which only seasonally makes its way from the colder regions of Chile as far north as southern continental Ecuador, following the icy waters of the Humboldt Current. Putting two and two together, it seems logical that Galapagos penguins many, many years ago, were originally Humboldt penguins that lost their way or were pushed off by forceful tides and left stranded in the Galapagos never to return home. The species was forced to revamp its entire existence in what pretty much could be considered their “worst case scenario”. You’ve seen how much penguins like the cold!
It is definitely a miracle that this penguin made it through the first few years. Dry season is hell even for the lizards. But the species survived. It adapted, like all Galapagos creatures, and became its own version of itself. It is actually the smallest penguin of them all.
For its wonderful epic story of survival, Galapagos penguins are a very special inhabitant of the islands. If you have a chance, do seek them out during your Galápagos vacation.
Where to go
Everyone knows where the Galapagos penguins are, but that doesn’t mean you’ll see them. Usually tours organize their visits in order to find them relaxing on the rocks, especially during nesting season (May through January). They are less restless and at least a female may be seen hanging about on the rocks. From Galapagos Safari Camp, the most accessible spot to find them is Bartolomé Island (a full day tour to the island). It is also quite common to spot them at Tintoreras (by Puerto Villamil, on Isabela Island) and Galapagos tours that visit the outer rim of Isabela Island may also get to see them.
A snorkeling friend
Galapagos penguins are spectacular swimmers… If on the move or diving for food (they go out hunting in groups), it can actually be frustrating to see them well, as they jet past with amazing grace and speed. But they can also turn into wonderful snorkeling buddies (when in the mood) and can actually come right up to snorkelers, bobbing calmly in the water, completely unafraid of anything: an unbelievable Galapagos vacation highlight, for sure!
Plan your Galapagos Vacation
See our Safari Holidays for our suggested Galapagos itineraries and recommended activities.