The Galapagos Islands have an extraordinary flora and fauna with lots of unique species. They have also become a scientific research center and ecological tourism in Ecuador.
The Enchanted Islands are made up of 13 major islands, 6 minor islands, 42 islets and many rocks, which cover a total area of 7,850 km2.
Galapagos is known for its numerous endemic species and for the studies of Charles Darwin that led him to establish his theory of evolution. This extraordinary natural laboratory was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. "They are the most famous destination in the world for wildlife observation." Mark Carwardine, zoologist.
Road to the Enchanted Islands
The Galapagos Islands have two seasons:
- The warm and humid season lasts from January to June.
- The cold and dry season lasts from July to December and brings cooler water temperatures, so remember to bring your wetsuit.
- The Galapagos archipelago is occupying both sides of the equinoctial line, approximately 970 km (600 miles) west of mainland Ecuador.
Requirements to enter Galapagos
To enter the Galapagos, all travellers need to present their passport. It is also necessary to obtain a Transit Control Card (INGALA TCT) at the Quito or Guayaquil airport before arriving to the islands.
- Most commercial flights arrive to the Baltra Island, after a 2-hour air journey from Quito or 1 hour and a half from Guayaquil.
Galapagos Fauna and Flora
Meet the Flora and Fauna of Galapagos, Ecuador
The Galapagos archipelago has an aspect that makes Galapagos flora and fauna unique is the existence of species that are not found anywhere else in the world: giant tortoises, Darwin's finches, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies
- This area has extraordinary biological characteristics, mainly due to ocean currents coming from tropical and subtropical regions that converge on the islands, bringing animals from all over the Pacific and part of the Indo-Pacific, creating a great biodiversity and producing a genetic isolation curtain. The temperatures of these currents also contribute to the variety of marine ecosystems.
- That is why there is 23% of endemism and it is also the only refuge for endangered species of reptiles and marine mammals, such as turtles and whales, which find their main breeding site in the archipelago, their fascinating colors, have elaborate courtship dances: Adult males and females cluster very close to each other and raise and contract their long necks, while deploying their long flight feathers, with very coordinated movements. "They are characterized by their long legs and their unique walking.”
- Sea lions, whales, sharks, frigates, boobies, penguins, albatrosses, giant turtles, flamingos, sea turtles, iguanas, and many more species.
Galapagos: Protected Area of Ecuador
The Islands were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. Gardner Bay was chosen by the US chain CNN as one of the 25 best beaches in the world. Bartolome Island was nominated for the 2013 World Travel Awards as "Best Beach Destination".
The Galapagos are formed by the following islands:
- San Cristóbal
- Santa Cruz
- Santa Fe Galapagos
Tourist Places in Galapagos
The most visited Galapagos tourist places are:
- San Bartolomé Island: It is a small island, one of the “youngest”. Characterized by its beautiful beaches, green mangroves and famous for its rock pinnacle.
- Kicker Rock: León dormido (Sleeping Lion Islet) or Kicker Rock is what is left of an ancient volcanic cone.
- Mann Beach: It is a white sand beach formed by the fragmentation of shells, the clarity of its waters allows the practice of surface diving.
- Galapagos National Park: Tourism Galapagos National Park, ideal place to be in contact with a unique nature in the world.
- Islet of Las Tintoreras: It is 10 minutes by boat from Puerto Villamil, it is a small rocky islet, it takes its name from the reef shark that rests around the islet.
- The Tunnels: The Tunnels is one of the best places for surface diving because its waters are calm, clear and shallow.
- Charles Darwin Research Station: Charles Darwin Research Station aims to provide knowledge and support to ensure the conservation of the environment and biodiversity.
- Las Grietas: It is one of those places that you would like to call "house". Las Grietas is a naturally formed lagoon, where you can snorkel and swim peacefully.
- La Lobería: Denominated beach of the wolf by the large number of sea lions that perch on its coasts. It is located on the San Cristobal Island.
- Charles Darwin Station: It is located in Puerto Ayora - San Cristóbal
The typical Galapagos food is made up of the delicious seafood in its main dishes, green and cassava are the complementary components for the realization of such exquisite recipes.
- Marine rice
- Cod with potatoes
- Plantain ball
- Canchalagua ceviche
- Varied seafood
- Cassava bread
- Marine soup
- The Galapagos provincialization parties
- Inti - Raymi Galapagos
- Patron Saints Festivals
- The Festival of Santa Agueda
The Galapagos Islands were discovered by chance on March 10, 1535, when the ship of the bishop of Panama Fray Tomás de Berlanga deviated from his destination to Peru, where he would fulfill an order of the Spanish king Carlos V to arbitrate in a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and his subordinates after the conquest of the Inca Empire.
The first maps to include the islands were made by cartographers Abraham Ortelius y Mercator around 1570. The islands were described as "Insulae de los Galopegos" (Turtle Islands).
The Galapagos were used by English pirates as a hiding place in their pillage trips to the Spanish galleons carrying gold and silver from the Americas to Spain. The first recorded pirate who visited the islands was the Englishman Richard Hawkins, in 1593. Since then and until 1816 many pirates arrived in the archipelago.
Right after being discovered the islands were uninhabited and the ships that passed by their location coincided when the archipelago was covered by fog. Various events led them to be known as the Enchanted Islands and even some Spanish navigators claimed that they did not exist and were only mirages.
On board the Beagle ship, the British expedition under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy arrived in Galapagos on September 15, 1835 to carry out surveys and cartography, within a list of isolated places hardly visited by navigators such as Valparaiso, Callao, Galapagos Islands , Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Cape Good Hope and returned to Falmouth on October 2, 1836. The captain and others on board, including the young naturalist Charles Darwin, conducted a scientific study of geology and biology on four of the islands before continuing his expedition around the world. The ship toured the islands for five weeks, but Darwin was grounded for only two weeks. He investigated the animals and plants of the region; along with all the studies of his trip, this allowed Darwin to formulate the theory of the origin of the species.