Inspiring “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin in 1835, the Galapagos Islands are strikingly different from other archipelagos. Located approximately 600 miles west to mainland Ecuador, Galapagos Islands consist of thirteen major islands and six smaller ones. These islands have piqued the interests of many with its untouched landscapes and magnificent creatures. You might have come across the astounding tales or seen the breath-taking images of the island’s spectacular wildlife.
Here are some reasons why you need to experience the Galapagos Islands for yourself:
97% Of the Island is a National Park
The Galapagos Islands are consequential in terms of scientific research. Studies led by the Galapagos National Park, which was established 60 years ago, have helped guide conservation and protection efforts. This is vital as 97% of the islands mass has been professed a National Park. Not only that, the surrounding waters have been named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Ecuador protects both the park and the marine reserve. The Galapagos National Park charges an entrance fee to all visitors in the island – approximately 100 USD.
Experience Glorious Species Endemic to this Region
The officials at Galapagos National Park claim that there are over 2000 endemic species across the islands. Therefore, these species are only native to this region and can’t be found anywhere else. These islands have so much to see and offer, so it’s recommended to join a tour group.
Sea lions can be frequently spotted sunbathing as they are resident to breath-taking beaches across the region. For instance, San Cristobal and Isla Isabela. Isla Isabela is the largest of the islands are habitat to Galapagos’ own residents. For example, the giant and colourful iguanas, blue-footed booby birds, nesting frigates, pelicans and even super-cute penguins. Yes, Galapagos Penguins exist, are one of the smallest species of penguins and are the only penguins that live north of the equator.
The term “Galapago” refers to an old Castilian word translating to “riding saddle” – which iconically resembles the shell of the giant tortoise; a native species to the Galapagos Islands. These giant tortoises were actually feared to be extinct, till they were found in their natural habitat in the Galapagos Islands. Another amniote to be indigenous to the Galapagos archipelagos are the Green Sea Turtles, an ancient species who coexisted with dinosaurs. Seeing these rare creatures in the wild is truly something unique.
The Islands were historically formed by what Geologists call a ‘hot spot’, a location on earth where the volcano’s magma is hotter than its regular temperature. The Earth’s crust moved over the hot spot, therefore resulting volcanoes formed the islands. This is similar to how Hawaii was formed. Due to its continuous and active volcanic activity, the 19 Galapagos islets are in a constant state of changing with new formation emerging. In Galapagos Islands, you’ll be able to experience hiking with spectacular views.
The Sierra Negra Volcano on Isla Isabela will not disappoint! It’s a 6 hour, 17km trek up the rocky mountain which boasts the site off the world’s second largest volcanic crater – being six-miles wide with the most recent eruption occurred in 2018. Being a significant part of the geological island formation – experiencing a volcanic eruption is a surreal experience.
A Snorkelling paradise
A snorkelling expedition in the Galapagos Islands is a vibrant, eye-opening adventure like no other. Home to crystal clear water and a variety of endemic marine species, there are multiple snorkelling hotspots paired with flawless beaches all over the islands. You can expect to catch a glimpse of a vast number of mollusc species (including snails, octopus, cuttlefish, oysters and squid) and a remarkable variety of colourful fish species, all while you’re swimming through glass-like waters amongst manta rays and white-tip reef sharks.
You might be even able to view the Marine Iguana in its natural environment, either basking by the beach or swimming amongst you while looking for seaweed for its feed. It’s best recommended to explore with the safety of an expert guide when snorkelling in the Galapagos National Park.
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