Galapagos Islands Travel Guide

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Galapagos Islands


The Galapagos Islands are located right on the equator, approx. six hundred miles west of Ecuador. They are an offshore province of the Republic of Ecuador.


The islands were named after the giant land tortoises found there, which are now in danger of extinction. The Galapagos archipelago is volcanic in origin and comprises thirteen main island, eight smaller islands and numerous tiny islets. The Spanish discovered the islands in the 1500s and they were claimed by Ecuador in 1832. The islands were Ecuador ’s first national park. Spanish is the official language, but English is widely spoken.


The main islands are called Isabela, Santiago , Santa Cruz , Espanola, San Cristobal , Fernandina, Genovesa, Marchena, Santa Fe , Pinta, Pinzon and Rabida. The largest towns are Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal ; Puerto Villamil on Isabela; and Puerto Avora on Santa Cruz.


The islands of the archipelago contain a plethora of unusual and rare animal species. Many are only found in the Galapagos. The fauna includes the giant land tortoise, land iguana, marine iguana, and the Galapagos penguin, to name just a few. Blue-footed boobies, albatross and flamingos can also be sighted. It is a nature lover’s wonderland, especially as many of the species have no fear of man.


The Galapagos are well known because of the visit by Charles Darwin in the HMS Beagle, whose studies led to his book, The Origin of Species and his theory of natural selection. The islands are fairly barren of flora, being mostly lava piles with sparse vegetation. The exception is on the upper slopes of the mountains where there is more rainfall.


Sadly, during the nineteenth century the arrival of whalers and oilers resulted in the capture and use of the tortoises for food and oil and many seals were taken for their fur.


The Galapagos Islands are an increasingly popular tourist destination although mostly for naturalists and those interested in the conservation of the islands resources. They are a wonderland for water sports enthusiasts with spectacular SCUBA diving and snorkelling, although many of the dive spots may not be suitable for beginners. It is not a good destination for sun-worshippers or beach lovers as the terrain is mostly quite barren and volcanic. The best way to see the islands is by a boat tour, and there are many different options available.



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