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Marine Iguana Rescue at Tintoreras Bay

Tintoreras Bay

In the Galapagos, you can never predict what animals you will see. The first time I visited Tintoreras Bay on Isabela Island in September, I saw piles upon piles of marine iguanas resting against a rugged landscape of lava fields, covered in white lichens.

Piles of marine iguanas in September

Piles of marine iguanas in September

The second time I came on tour it was in March, and our naturalist guide told us that it was marine iguana nesting season. She said that the previous week she had seen frigate birds trying to steal the eggs out of nests because the iguanas would accidentally nest in the same spot, digging up each others eggs.

I arrived on shore with high expectations, eager and with my camera poised, but no frigate birds appeared and we only saw a couple of solitary iguanas. But, the Galapagos never ceases to amaze

A solitary marine iguana in March

A solitary marine iguana in March

Check out: Tintoreras Bay Gallery

Marine Iguana Rescue Story

We rounded a corner in the path across the volcanic rocks, and lo-and-behold there was an iguana half buried in a hole in the ground, its head visible but its body and tail under the rocks and sand. I thought, “Wow! are we actually seeing an iguana nesting right now?¨  

But our naturalist guide Sandra knew better. She bent down, concerned. It needs our help,” she said, and started scooping rocks away. This was a marine iguana rescue!

According to Sandra the iguanas typically nest in sandy areas, but sometimes they try to nest in rocky areas and the nests collapse and the iguanas get trapped under the rocks and die.

Sandra digs the trapped marine iguana out to freedom

Sandra digs the trapped marine iguana out to freedom

Once freed, the lizard scrambled out of its hole quickly, happy to be free again. It then sat there on the gravel, not the least bit scared, taking in the warm sun as us tourists gawked.

We rounded the corner and saw dozens of other nests, little indentations in the ground where the other iguanas had nested.

I still can’t believe it, the same exact spot in the Galapagos yielded three completely different but all equally amazing experiences – from piles of marine iguanas, egg-stealing frigate birds, and a heroic marine iguana rescue story.

The marine iguana free!

The marine iguana now freed!

If you are looking for a place to stay on Isabela, check out Isabela lodge and Cally Isabela lodge.

I think I have seen the truth in what Sandra told me …. it is not guaranteed you will see any animal or thing in particular in the Galapagos, but you will certainly see something amazing!

About the author: Lisa Cho Lisa Cho is an expat living in Ecuador, originally from San Francisco, California. She writes about the Galapagos Islands on the Red Mangrove Galapagos Travel Blog and about her mainland Ecuador adventures on

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