The 173 km2 Floreana Island has a fascinating history when it comes to human appearance on the Galapagos Islands. Floreana Island is the site of the first “post office”, established
in 1793 by whalers. It was also the home to the first Galapagos resident; an Irishman named Patrick Watkins who lived there from 1807-1809.The Island was colonized by Ecuadorians in 1832. It was a penal colony that didn’t last long because of the lack of fresh water. Later in 1924, Norwegian immigrants established a fish canning plant, but this did not last more than just a few years either. The main water source for Floreana Island is a natural pond that fills up with rain water during the rainy season. During the dry season access to water can be a serious problem for the approximately 100 residents on the Island. Floreana residents make their living by mostly farming.
The “Post Office” located at Port Office Bay has an interesting history. A group of whalers placed a wooden barrel here in 1793 and called it a post office. Other whalers and traveling seamen would leave addressed letters in the barrel and hope that the next seamen to come along might be headed in the direction of their letters’ destinations. Today, visitors leave their own postcards and sift through the current pile of cards—if they find one that they can hand-deliver, they take it with them. A short walk from the Post Office Barrel leads to a lava tube, which visitors enter by descending a ladder.
Sites to visit on Floreana Island include Cormorant Point, Cerro Alieri, Asilo de la Paz. These sites feature not only wildlife, plants and scenic beauty, but are also of historic relevance. Marine sites that attract nature enthusiasts include Devil’s Crown, Enderby, Champion, Watson, Gardner Islets, and the Bottle. Most of the marine sites support coral reefs and the marine species that are attracted to them. This include playful sea lions, colorful King Angel Fish, Balloon Fish, Hawkfish, Yellowtail Grunts, Tiger Snake Eels, White-tipped Sharks, Eagle Rays, Amberjacks, Wrasses, Hammerhead Sharks, and Sea Turtles. The rocky islands surrounding these sites support seabirds such as Boobies, Pelicans, and Frigatebirds. Red-billed Tropicbirds nest on some of these sites.
Floreana Island is among the most altered of the Galapagos Archipelago. Feral goats and donkeys devastated natural habitats to the extent that some ecosystems are unable to fulfill basic ecological functions. The Park Service removed all herbivore invasive species in 2007. In spite of this, and due to the severe habitat deterioration, it is uncertain whether native species will be able to repopulate Floreana Island.
Conservation work is now focused on restoring populations of Galapagos racers (snakes), Galapagos Hawk, Barn Owls, Galapagos Rail, three species of Galapagos Finches, and most notably, the Floreana Mockingbird. Conservation efforts are also focused on educating the local human population on sustainable methods of agriculture, solid waste management, and collecting and filtering drinking water.