Adenium socotranum on Socotra Island (Shutterstock.com. See main credit below)
List Words : Wanderlust team | 01 July

7 ‘Galapagos Islands’ from around the world

Seven places that have become synonymous with exceptional biodiversity and high rates of endemism, just like the real Galapagos Islands

Frog in a pitcher plant (Shutterstock.com)

Frog in a pitcher plant (Shutterstock.com)

1.  Sibuyan Island – The Galapagos of Asia

Where: 

Romblon Province, The Philippines, just north of Panay Island 

Why: 

During all its geological history, Sibuyan Island has never been connected with any part of the Philippine archipelago.

What you’ll find

Sibuyan is known for its unique intact chain of ecosystems and endemic flora and fauna. In one study, the Philippine’s National Museum identified 1,551 trees in a single hectare, with 123 species of trees, 54 of which are found nowhere else in the world.

There are over 700 vascular plant species on the island, as well as 131 species of birds, ten species of fruit bats and a host of mammals, reptiles, and rodents yet to be catalogued.

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Dragon's Blood trees (Shutterstock.com)

Dragon's Blood trees (Shutterstock.com)

2. Socotra Island – The Galapagos of the Indian Ocean

Where: 

Part of a Yemeni archipelago in the Indian Ocean, opposite the horn of Africa

­Why: 

Socotra is one of the most-isolated landforms on Earth of non-volcanic origin, having broken off from Gondwana sometime during the Miocene period.

What you’ll find

A third of the plant life on Socotra cannot be found anywhere else on earth and include Dragon’s Blood trees that look like flying saucers hovering over tree trunks, and Adenium socotranum that look like elephants' legs with pink flowers between their toes. Keep an eye out for the island’s unique birds such as the Socotra starling, Socotra sunbird, and Socotra grosbeak.

More information 

A kangaroo on an island (Shutterstock.com)

A kangaroo on an island (Shutterstock.com)

3. Kangaroo Island – The Galapagos of Australia 

Where:  

A choppy ferry ride from Cape Jervis, just south of Adelaide in South Australia

Why: 

Rising sea levels 10,000 years ago separated the island from the mainland

What you’ll find

60,000 kangaroos, twice as many wallabies and more sea lions than you can point a stick at. There are also echidnas and platypuses, bandicoots and possums, goannas and snakes, penguins and pelicans, many of which have evolved into distinct species and sub-species after rising sea levels left the island adrift from the continent.

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Usambara Mountains (Shutterstock.com)

Usambara Mountains (Shutterstock.com)

4. Usambara Mountains – The Galapagos of Africa

Where: 

North East Tanzania

Why:  

Part of a chain of ancient mountains, with a unique climate that is cooler and wetter than the surrounding areas

What you will find

The Usambara mountains are home to an exceptional assortment of plants and animals, boasting one of the highest degrees of biodiversity on the African continent. The mountains are home to over 2,000 plant species, 25% of which are unique to the area. There is a high level of endemic molluscs, amphibians and reptiles. 

It is also the natural home of the African Violet, a popular indoor plant that can still be found growing wild here.

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Green turtle laying eggs (Shutterstock.com)

Green turtle laying eggs (Shutterstock.com)

5. Fernando de Noronha – The Galapagos of Brazil

Where: 

An atoll off the Atlantic coast of Brazil

Why: 

Its remoteness, small human population and limited tourism

What you’ll find

The island is home to the largest bird breeding colonies of all the islands of the Tropical South Atlantic and supports large populations of migratory and resident birds. It is also the second largest nesting area in Brazil for green turtles.

More information

Puffins on Skomer Island (Shutterstock.com)

Puffins on Skomer Island (Shutterstock.com)

6. Skomer – The Galapagos of Europe

Where: 

Less than a mile off the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales

Why: 

A marine conservation area where human activity is restricted and the effect on wildlife is carefully monitored.

What you’ll find

Birds rule the roost on Skomer. 6,000 breeding pairs of puffins call the island home, as do 316,000 breeding pairs of Manx shearwaters, the largest known concentration of the species in the world. You’ll also find Atlantic seals, fulmar, chough, bluebells, campion, sea slugs, porpoise, dolphin and sun fish too.

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Bald Eagles on Graham Island (Shutterstock.com)

Bald Eagles on Graham Island (Shutterstock.com)

7. Haida Gwaii ­(Queen Charlotte Islands)– The Galapagos of the North

Where: 

British Columbia, Canada

Why: 

Retreating glaciers during the last Ice Age cut the islands off from the North American mainland, leaving the flora and fauna to evolve in unique ways

What you will find

Thirty-nine subspecies of endemic plants and animals, including unique varieties of moss, fish, and the Haida Gwaii bear. Left to evolve in an environment where small mammals were rare, this subspecies tucked into shellfish instead, developing into the biggest black bear on the planet, with giant jaws perfectly adapted to cracking open mussels and clams. 

More information


Main image: Adenium socotranum on Socotra Island (Shutterstock.com)