Anyone planning to visit the Galapagos Islands should seriously consider an excursion to the stunning Black Turtle Cove. Located along the northern shoreline of Santa Cruz Island, the cove is a haven for a plethora of rare marine life and birds, making it a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts. Our guide will tell you everything you need to know to visit Black Turtle Cove.
What is Black Turtle Cove?
Black Turtle Cove is a mangrove estuary on Santa Cruz Island, part of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. Naturally protected and virtually untouched by man, Black Turtle Cove is home to some truly remarkable species of animals and plants. Its mangrove forest is one of several within the islands, though it is the most peaceful and atmospheric. If your trip to the Galapagos Islands only allows you time to visit one mangrove, this should be it.
The Black Turtle Cove mangrove forest is a protected national park, guaranteeing the safety and sustainability of its many rare and vulnerable inhabitants.
How to visit Black Turtle Cove
It’s not possible to land at Black Turtle Cove or to explore the bay on foot. To experience Black Turtle Cove, visitors must enlist the services of a panga, the local dinghy. The exact price, timing and nature of your panga visit can vary, so check with your tour operator.
There are strict rules in place to protect the sanctity and tranquillity of the natural environment. First and foremost, the panga motor must be switched off upon approach. Total silence must also be observed in order to maintain the peaceful order of the place and not to disturb the animals. Your panga driver and tour guide will brief you on everything you need to know.
Local expertise is absolutely crucial when visiting Black Turtle Cove. Experienced guides know exactly how to traverse the mangrove forest, which would otherwise be impenetrable. Follow the instructions of your expert guide and you can enjoy the natural wonders the cove has to offer.
Wildlife in Black Turtle Cove
Black Turtle Cove boasts a wealth of rich and diverse flora and fauna, a lot of which is difficult or impossible to see elsewhere. The cove’s remote location and tranquillity make it a safe haven for vulnerable species, particularly juveniles – and an ideal hunting ground for others.
The mangrove forest is made up of three species: red, white and black. They vary in age and size, though their roots intertwine and merge to create a truly stunning diversity. The bay’s dense mangroves provide natural protection for its inhabitants.
Visit Black Turtle Cove, and you’re likely to encounter:
- Green sea turtles, an endangered species that uses the cove for mating. The mating season usually takes place in January, and the females lay up to 200 eggs the following month. Only a fraction of these individuals survives, however, as they are easy prey for predators at birth.
- Sharks, including blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks and even hammerhead sharks.
- Rays, including spotted eagle rays, golden cownose rays and mustard rays.
- Pelicans and boobies, who use the cove for hunting.