Baltra Island or South Seymour is a small island in Galapagos, located in the center of the archipelago, 1 km off the north coast of Santa Cruz Island. Its nickname is “The Gateway to the Galapagos Islands”, because it is the first stop for many tourists in their Galapagos tour, as on the island you can find one of the two airports of the archipelago. Its origin differs from the majority of the other Galapagos islands. It was formed through the uplifting of a piece of land, not on the remains of a volcano. This makes the island have a flat landscape, unlike the rest of the islands, and it is covered with ""pillow lava"" volcanic rocks, which were formed underwater.
Baltra Island served as a military base during World War II for protecting the Panama Canal, and the Ecuadorian air force still uses it today. The island was pretty animated at the time, there was even a movie theater and a bowling alley. The old airfield can still be seen, together with the foundations of some of the buildings.
One of the island's main highlights is the Seymour Airport, famous for being the first ""green"" airport in the world, with a terminal built from recycled materials and operating on clean and renewable technologies, like solar energy and wind farms. Airlines LATAM and Avianca are the 2 main commercial airlines travelling to Baltra Island from Quito and Guayaquil, the two major cities of Ecuador.
With an altitude of maximum 330ft and an area of 8 square miles, the island's vegetation consists mainly of prickly pear cactus, salt bush and Palo Santo trees, as the environment here is very dry.
While it is not part of the Galapagos National Park, Baltra Island is home to fascinating wildlife, specifically the land iguanas, that you can spot when exploring the area on your tour. These magnificent creatures actually became extinct on the island in 1954, but their number was reestablished in the last years. They were brought from North Seymour Island, where they had been formerly transferred in the 1930s, when North Seymour's popuation of iguanas was dwindling. Nowadays the land iguana population has arrived to over 400 on Baltra Island and you can often see them near the airport's runway.
The beaches of Baltra Island are definitely worth seeing on your Galapagos islands cruise or your birdwatching tour and you can spot sea lions on the shores, together with various seabirds, including finches, boobies, frigate birds, noddy terns and brown pelicans.
Baltra Fast Facts:
- Seymour Airport on Baltra Island was the world's first "green" airport.
- Balta Island has an original formation, through geological uplifting.
- Baltra Island served as a militay base during World WAR II.
Blue-Footed Booby, Brown Pelican, Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Dove, Galapagos Frigatebirds, Galapagos Green Turtle, Galapagos Lava Gull, Galapagos Lava Lizard, Galapagos Marine Iguana, Galapagos Mockingbird, Galapagos Penguin, Galapagos Petrel, Galapagos Sea Lion, Galapagos Sharks, Galapagos Shearwater, Galapagos Sting Rays, Mobula Rays, Nazca Booby, Red-Billed Tropicbird, Sunfish, Whales & Dolphins