The Galapagos Islands are a series of volcanic islands that straddle either side of Equator about 926 km (575 miles) west of Mainland Ecuador.
This natural paradise is located 972 miles from mainland Ecuadorian coast. The first discovery record of the Galapagos Islands dates from March 10th 1535.The explorations had been different after the arrival of the Spanish crown in America. The name of Galapagos was born as a reference of the giant turtles that inhabit there. Those turtles are the largest reptiles in the world reaching a measurement of two meters and weighing 400 kilos. Charles Darwin found certain singularities in the species of bird and reptiles that inhabit the island. The diversity and the unique way in which wildlife species were represented in the Galapagos archipelago led Charles Darwin investigate about the evolution and behavior of each species. This set of islands and islets due to its natural resources are Natural Heritage award by UNESCO in 1979.
The Galapagos Marine Reserve was created in 1986 by the Ecuadorian government in an effort to protect and conserve marine and coastal ecosystems of the archipelago and biological diversity. In The Marine Reserve we can find about one million sea birds belonging to 19 different species, around 30 different species of migratory birds, about 20,000 of sea lions and endemic species such as flightless cormorants , penguins and the Galapagos albatross.
It is also the natural refuge for many severely endangered marine species in other parts of the world such as: whales, sharks and Pacific green turtle. In The Galapagos Marine Reserve you could made sports adventures such as diving and snorkeling to live an underwater experience with harmless, sea turtles, sea lions, and multicolored fish and in the north of the archipelago you can find whale shark. The marine reserve is declared a whale sanctuary since 1990.
This remote archipelago is a land of stark lava formations, cactus forests, lush green highlands, turquoise bays and quintessential tropical beaches.
You can see everything from penguins living in the tropics and boobies with bright blue feet to tool-using woodpecker finches and male frigatebirds turning their wrinkled throat sacs into extraordinary, fully inflated red balloons. One day you could be watching time-worn giant tortoises in the misty highlands, and the next you could be snorkelling with playful sea lions in crystal-clear water. You could be sunbathing on black lava rocks next to prehistoric-looking marine iguanas, or sitting with waved albatrosses as they perform their bill-circling, swaggering courtship displays (they look rather like Samurai warriors performing Lord of the Dance).
History & Culture
The Galapagos Islands never belonged to the maindland, but were formed at the bottom of the sea, surging up from volcanoes 30 million years ago. Its construction is still latent and the archipelago is in a state of constant earth movement and eruptions. Therefore, the islands appear to be suspended in a distinct time and space than that of the irruption of continental man, who represents a threat. It is from those places in which one can only be a spectator.
The Galapagos were discovered by chance in 1535 by Priest Tomas Berlanga, Bishop of Panama.
The islands are home to over 25,000 people clustered in small towns, the capital is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Good to know:
The Galapagos is home to the only breeding penguin in the northern hemisphere.
The Giant Tortoise is one of the most famous residents of the Galapagos. It grows up to 1.5 meter (5 ft) and can live for around 150 years.
The convergence of four ocean currents including Equatorial, Cromwell, Humboldt, and Panama is what create variable water temperatures and unpredictable tides in the area resulting in a unique marine ecology.
The Movement of Pacific, Nazca and Cocos tectonic plates is what formed the islands. The last movement of the plates was in April of 2009. The movement has resulted in 13 volcanic eruptions.
Isabella is located in the western part of the Galapagos archipelago is known as the island of volcanoes. This island has a population of 864 inhabitants. Its characteristics have attracted the attention of national and foreign geologists that have been concerned about the existence of six active volcanoes. Inside the island there are six large volcanic craters: Ecuador, Wolf, Darwin, Alcedo , Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul. The Sierra Negra crater is 10 km in diameter; it is the second largest crater in the world. Isabella Island has 60 percent of all flora and fauna of the Galapagos Island. Here you can find 5 different species of giant tortoises, flamingos, penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions and sharks.
Tintoreras Islet is located in the southern part of the bay of Puerto Villamil. The journey by boat to this island will be full of rock landscapes and seabirds such as the Galapagos penguin, blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas.This islet is formed by volcanic lava that covers white lichens. The channel that names the island is filled with seawater at high tide, until this coming dozen of sharks. They sleep during the day and come out at night looking for food.
Islet Tintoreras receives a lot of tourists that swim with the Galapagos sea lion, hawksbill turtles, and colorful fish on its populated by algae and urchins background. The visit to Tintoreras usually ends in the sea areas surrounding the island that are ideal places to practice snorkeling and diving.
Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz Island is located in the middle of the Galapagos Archipelago, with an area of 986 km ² and a maximum altitude of 864 meters. It is also the second largest island after Isabela. The Charles Darwin research Station is located in Santa Cruz. Puerto Ayora the most populous city of the archipelago where more than 10.000 reside is located here. The main headquarters for the life preservation of endangered giant turtles is located in Puerto Ayora. In the western side of Puerto Ayora is located the interpretive trail formed by the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation. The tour starts at the interpretive visitor center Van Straelen, which is intended to inform the tourists about the environmental conditions of the islands, their history, threats and conservation efforts to keep this Natural Heritage Site.
Tortuga Bay is a beach of white sand and turquoise waters; It is located in the southern part of the Santa Cruz island and is reached after a walk of forty five minutes through a prickly pear forest. There are two beaches in the area Playa Brava and Playa Mansa. The Playa Brava waters are ideal for surfing. While Playa Mansa resembles a large pool surrounded by mangroves and white sand in these waters you can practice kayaking, diving and snorkeling. Tortuga Bay is also where environmental education activities and awareness are made regarding the nature by the town of Puerto Ayora.
San Cristobal Island
San Cristobal is known for its crowded beaches by the sea lion. It is the oldest island of the Galapagos archipelago. The highest area of San Cristobal is the hill of El Junco with an altitude of 650 meters. In this ancient volcano crater is the only freshwater lagoon that exist in the Galapagos archipelago.
The capital of this island is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno the most populated place in the region. Here is the interpretation center where the natural history of the islands is explained and encourages people to preserve the natural heritage of Galapagos. There are trails that start from the center and lead to beaches and cliffs accompanied by Galapagos landscapes. The beaches of San Cristobal have a particular beauty, as Puerto Chino, a small cove where the seabed is clouding over of sea turtles and sharks.
Interpretative Center of San Cristobal
It was inaugurated by the ex-President of Ecuador, Dr. Jamil Mahuad , and the Prince of Asturias, Felipe de Borbon, in August 1998 . The Board of Human History narrates chronologically the most significant events related to the discovery and colonization of Galapagos. In this place we can find the history of the islands such as the volcanic origin, its special climates, and the arrival of different species.
Wolves Island is about an hour by boat from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The length of the path is 850 meters and the estimated travel time is one hour. There is a small population of blue-footed boobies and frigate birds on this site. You can watch the two species of wolves present in the archipelago.
During the boat ride you can see brown pelicans, several species of shorebirds; during the snorkeling you can see sea lions, stingrays and sea turtles.
Fernandina Island It is named for King Fernando of Spain, the monarch who sponsored Christopher Columbus 1492 voyage of discovery. It is also the youngest island in Galapagos being approximately 700,000 years old. It’s one of the most volcanically active islands, as a result of eruptions that occur few years ago. It’s exciting to see how every few years the landscape and life on Fernandina change. Fernandina is an exciting place because it’s one of the only places to enjoy the flightless cormorant.
Punta Espinoza in Fernandina Island is known for sand trails through interesting lava flows. It is known for the colony of hundreds of marine iguanas, sea lion, some flightless cormorants and the occasional Galapagos hawk.
The Spanish Island is located in the southern part of the archipelago. There are two touristic attractions Gardner Bay and Punta Suarez sites. The island is famous for the albatross colony. The albatross is one of the most amazing sea birds found in Galapagos.
In the Spanish Island nestles 99% of the waved albatross colony, which consists of about 15,000 pairs. The giant tortoises also inhabit the island as a result of the Captive Breeding Program conducted by the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station; however, these turtles are out of sight of tourists.
Gardner Bay is located on the northern coast of the Spanish island. There are two beaches that have the same total length of 1300 meters.
The main attraction is the colony of sea lions ( Zalophus wollebaki ) , who lives on the beach. The turtle population of the island was reduced by human predation that in 1965 only 12 females and 2 males were found. Here are three species of Darwin’s finches: a subspecies of cactus finch grosbeak, which is similar to the large peak ground finch, the Small Ground Finch peak and singer finch.
Resident and migratory birds can be observed. This is an important nesting area for sea turtles.
Named in honor of Juan Jose Flores the first president of Ecuador. It has an area of 173 km ² and a maximum altitude of 640 meters. This island is also known by the name of Santa Maria in honor to one of the ships of Christopher Columbus.
Punta Cormorant is located on the northern coast of Floreana. The trail has an approximate distance of 720 meters; in the lagoon you can find a large population of flamingos and on the beach one nesting area for sea turtles (Chelonia midas).
In Punta Cormorant are two plant species on endemic Site: Hairy Scalesia and Lecocarpuspinaffitidus.
Santiago Island has an area of 585 km ² and a maximum height of 907 meters. It is the fourth largest island, has lakes and volcanoes, arid coasts and green mountains.Here are sea lions, fur seals, land and sea turtles, flamingos, dolphins and sharks. A large population of goats and wild pigs that were introduced has caused great harm to the endemic flora and fauna of the region. Darwin’s finches, Galapagos hawks, and a colony of fur seals are commonly seen on this island.
In Santiago Island there are also beaches ideal for swimming you can take long walks through trails of solidified lava. You can also go diving here.
Genovese has a type shield volcano; the crater has about 600 meters wide at the edge and a deep of 60 meters. The total distance of the trail is about 1,500 meters. We also find here nests red-footed booby, which is the largest nesting colony in Galapagos archipelago.
El Barranco is located in the southern part of Darwin Bay on Genovese Island. The trail is on a volcanic rock that has a route of 1.5 km and the visit can be done in about 2 hours. The cliffs located in the southern part of Darwin Bay are composed of very fragile lava.
Natural erosion that has occurred in these lava flows has become an ideal nesting site for storm swallows. Here we can observe two species of terns that nest on cavities and holes of lava. The wooden petrel feed at night and the has its population is more than 200,000 couples. The red-footed booby nests only in the outlying islands of the archipelago. During boat rides on the cliffs you can see fur seals and several species of seabirds.