Pinta Island is a rather large island, at 23 square miles, in the northern part of the Galapagos archipelago. It is also known as Abingdon Island, its original name, given in honour of the Earl of Abingdon. The name Pinta comes from one of the three ships that sailed with Christopher Columbus in the expedition to the New World. Pirates used the island as a hiding spot in the 17th century, and the whalers used to frequently stop here in the 18th century.
The island was the initial home of the most famous tortoise in the archipelago, Lonesome George. Pinta tortoises went practically extinct in the 20th century, being removed by whalers who used them as a food resource, slaughtered by fishermen and because of the environment's degradation. Lonesome George was the last tortoise found on the island and it was taken in 1972 to the Tortoise Center on Santa Cruz Island, where he died on 2012. His body is on display at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz.
To counteract the deterioration of the ecosystem, Project Pinta was put into action by conservationists and scientists, working together to restore Pinta Island. In 1999, goats were completely removed from the island, as they caused damage to the natural habitats. Their main purpose, however, is that of reintroducing, with the aid of modern technology, the original Pinta giant tortoise to the island.
Nowadays, Pinta is home to a variety of wildlife species like Galapagos hawks, Swallow-tailed gulls, sparrow hawks, blue-tailed boobies, mockingbirds, fur seals and marine iguanas, among other amazing species. Being a shield volcano, still active, the island's landscape is arid and dry, caused by the myriad fissure and young lava flows present here. Despite this, 1/3 of the archipelago's native plants are on Pinta Island, as the plant life here is very diverse.
When you go by Pinta Island on your Galapagos islands cruise, keep in mind that there is no landing site on the island. In order to go ashore, you would need a special permit from the Galapagos National Park. A marine visitor site is Punta Neros, at the northern point of the island, perfect for spotting tropical fish, sea turtles, sea lions and moray eels.
Pinta Fast Facts:
- Pinta Island was the original home of Lonesome George, the most famous tortoise in the world.
- Project Pinta aims to restore the island's natural ecosystem and the tortoise population.
- Pinta Island's landscape features young lava flows and fissures.