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21 Fascinating Details In regards to the Galapagos Islands

Visiting the Galapagos Islands is like moving into a kind of BBC nature documentaries narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

On this archipelago, which is positioned 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, you’ll be able to swim with sea lions, stroll alongside the world’s largest tortoise, and discover dynamic, dramatic landscapes totally not like another place on Earth. 

On account of their distant location, the Galapagos Islands remained untouched for hundreds of thousands of years earlier than human discovery.

Probably the most well-known early explorer of the archipelago was Charles Darwin, who developed his principle of evolution by pure choice after his go to to the Galapagos in 1835. 

As a result of roughly 97% of the archipelago is protected as a part of the Galapagos Islands Nationwide Park, they nonetheless stay comparatively untouched in the present day.

That is really a nature-lovers’ haven, the place uncommon endemic vegetation and animals have tailored genetically so as to thrive.

In truth, the Galapagos Islands is such a spellbinding melting pot of scientifically vital species that it was named the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Web site in 1987.

The archipelago has been capturing the creativeness of vacationers for hundreds of years now, and a few 200,000 folks make the journey every year. However how a lot do you truly learn about these 19 exceptionally biodiverse islands? 

Learn on for 21 fascinating information in regards to the Galapagos Islands, together with trivial tidbits on the wildlife, locations to go, issues to do, and plenty of sensible data. 

READ MORE: 70 Cool & Bizarre Animals Across the World

Locations to Go to within the Galapagos Islands

The view from the summit of Bartolome Island - Places to Visit in the Galapagos Islands
The view from the summit of Bartolome Island by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. The Islands

The Galapagos is an archipelago of 19 islands within the Pacific Ocean. It’s positioned on a junction the place 3 tectonic plates meet, and 13 of the islands are volcanic. 

The archipelago is definitely a results of quite a few volcanic eruptions over hundreds of thousands of years (together with 13 within the final century).

The oldest island, Espanola, is estimated to be round 3.5 million years previous, however lots of the others are nonetheless forming. The youngest island is Fernandina, at a youthful 1 million years previous. 

Every island has its personal distinctive landscapes, wildlife, and actions, and solely 5 of them are literally inhabited by folks.

Small communities are dotted throughout San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, Floreana, and Baltra. The remainder of the islands are fully devoid of human presence. 

By boat, you’ll be able to go to uninhabited islands like Bartolome (one of the photographed locations within the Galapagos attributable to its beautiful crescent bays and moon-like panorama), Rabida (for a purple sand seashore that’s residence to flamingos), and Isla Mosquera (a small lava reef the place you’ll be able to swim with sea lions).

Some Galapagos small ship cruises will incorporate journeys to those uninhabited islands into the itinerary.  

READ MORE: The 30 Finest Unique Islands to Go to

Charles Darwin Research Station, Santa Cruz Island - Galapagos Islands Places to Visit
Charles Darwin Analysis Station, Santa Cruz Island by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

2. The Charles Darwin Analysis Station

The Charles Darwin Analysis Station is a brief stroll away from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.

It’s a fantastic place to study extra in regards to the pure historical past of the islands, in addition to the continued conservation work undertaken by the Charles Darwin Basis. 

They’ve an exhibition corridor the place you’ll be able to study 60 years of scientific analysis on the islands, in addition to see images reveals and pure historical past collections.

There’s additionally an unlimited skeleton of a Bryde’s whale, a backyard full of native flora, a Galapagos Tortoise breeding facility, and a public library with specialised books on pure sciences. 

After all, Darwin didn’t uncover the Galapagos Islands. They have been unintentionally found in 1535 by a Panamanian bishop, Father Tomas Berlanga, whose ship to Peru blew off target.

However Darwin’s identify has been inextricably linked to the Galapagos for the reason that 1859 publication of “On the Origin of Species,” which stays an essential piece of scientific literature in the present day. 

The Charles Darwin Basis continues his dedication to scientific analysis on the islands and advises the Ecuadorian authorities on the way to defend and protect Galapagos wildlife and pure sources. 

READ MORE:  30 Cool & Bizarre Ocean Animals Across the World

Ecotourists photographing a Galapagos Sea Lion - Galapagos Beaches
Photographing a Galapagos Sea Lion. Photograph by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

3. Tortuga Bay

Tortuga Bay is your stereotypical postcard-perfect powder white seashore.

It’s positioned on Santa Cruz Island, a 40-minute stroll from the gatehouse, and is among the hottest locations for swimming and snorkeling on the island.

You’ll doubtless have an opportunity to snorkel alongside fish, sea turtles, reef sharks, and marine iguanas, whereas boobies fly overhead and dive into the water for his or her dinner. 

READ MORE: What’s Ecotourism? (The Historical past & Ideas of Accountable Journey)

Galapagos Islands Wildlife - Facts About the Galapagos Islands
Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas & Sally Lightfoot Crabs by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

4. La Loberia

A $3 taxi trip will take you from the middle of San Cristobal to La Loberia, a small, crescent-shaped bay that’s effectively off the vacationer path.

It’s effectively price spending a day right here for the possibility to swim alongside dozens of Galapagos sea lions and their lovely pups. 

A number of sea lions could be discovered dozing on the seashore, and so they’re snug sufficient round people to permit you to doze close by with out concern.

Sea turtles are additionally sometimes current within the shallows, and the water provides wonderful visibility. 

When you can’t contact the wildlife within the Galapagos Islands, most species are so snug round folks that they could come near you.

Nonetheless, it’s suggested that you simply make an effort to remain no less than 10 ft away so that you don’t disturb them. This is applicable even when they strategy you of their very own accord. 

READ MORE: Swimming with Galapagos Sea Lions (Video)

Urbina Bay Beach on Isabela Island, Galapagos
Urbina Bay Seaside on Isabela Island, Galapagos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

5. Volcanoes

The Galapagos is residence to each extinct and lively volcanoes and does have occasional eruptions. The final volcanic eruption was on Fernandina in 2018.

There are 12 lively volcanoes, together with Pinta (which final erupted in 1928) and Marchena (which has one of many largest volcanic lakes on the islands). 

Most notably, you’ll be able to go to Wolf, which is the tallest volcano within the Galapagos.

Positioned on the northern tip of Isabela Island, it stands at an imposing 1707 meters (5600 ft) excessive, with lava masking the ground of the caldera. 

When you’re extra excited by large Galapagos tortoises wandering across the aspect a volcano, you’ll be able to request a allow to hike Volcan Alcedo.

The summit has a caldera that’s 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) broad, and the steaming fumaroles and views from the highest are really a sight to see. 

The Galapagos can be residence to a collection of underground tunnels, considered one of which is within the village of Bellavista within the Santa Cruz Highlands.

You possibly can stroll by way of these lava tubes, which have been fashioned by flowing lava that carved out tunnels because it moved beneath the earth’s floor. 

READ MORE: The 20 Finest Wildlife Parks & Wildlife Excursions within the World

Galapagos Islands Animals: Galapagos Tortoise
Galapagos Tortoise by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

 6. The Santa Cruz Highlands

The Santa Cruz Highlands are additionally the place you’ll discover the biggest inhabitants of large Galapagos tortoises, a few of whom are over 100 years previous. 

The upper altitude of the area allowed the Escalesia and Miconia forests to kind, and the luxurious vegetation and fertile soil there has created the proper pure habitat for the species. 

You’ll have the ability to stroll (or stand, as they don’t precisely transfer rapidly) subsequent to scores of tortoises as they slowly navigate by way of the leafy undergrowth.

The species was hunted almost to the purpose of extinction by whalers within the nineteenth century, however ongoing Galapagos conservation efforts managed to avoid wasting the inhabitants. 

The highlands are additionally a chief spot for hen watching. Practically all species of birds of the Galapagos Islands have been noticed right here sooner or later. 

READ MORE: 10 Eco Classes in Quotes from The Lorax (Dr Seuss’ Conservation Traditional)

Sunset on Kicker Rock, Galapagos Islands Facts
Sundown on Kicker Rock, Galapagos Islands by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

7. Kicker Rock

Kicker Rock is a well-liked day journey from San Cristobal Island and is included on many Galapagos Islands cruise itineraries.

That is an unmistakable rock that rises out of the Pacific Ocean and is a well-liked snorkeling and diving spot.

Enjoyable Galapagos Island reality: It’s additionally referred to as Leon Dormido, as a result of it’s mentioned to appear like a sleeping lion. 

The waters surrounding the rock can get uneven, however there’s a numerous vary of marine life that may be discovered right here.

You’re virtually assured sightings of an array of underwater animals, together with sea turtles, eagle rays, Galapagos sharks, and starfish. 

However don’t be so captivated by the marine life beneath that you simply overlook to lookup. The rock is a refuge for frigate birds, and you might also see Nazca boobies. 

READ MORE: Prime 15 Feminine Wildlife Conservationists & Animal Rights Activists

Issues to Do within the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands Cruise - Things to Do in the Galapagos Islands
Galapagos Islands Cruise by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

8. Go Island Hopping

With 19 islands, you in all probability gained’t have time to go to all of them. However one of many coolest perks of cruising the Galapagos is the power to hop between islands. 

Vacationers who select to discover the world by land can, in fact, arrange day journeys to islands which are near their chosen base.

However due to the lengthy distances concerned, one of the simplest ways to see extra of the Galapagos is by taking a cruise. 

Most Galapagos cruises journey between islands at evening so as to maximize your daylight time for actions.

Most days will embrace shore landings, snorkeling alternatives, and Zodiac rides to smaller islands that land-based vacationers often can’t go to. 

READ MORE: 20 Finest Caribbean Islands to Go to (If You Love Nature & Hate Crowds)

Bret Love of Green Global Travel Swimming with Galapagos Penguins - facts about galapagos penguins
Bret Love of Inexperienced International Journey Swimming with Galapagos Penguins

9. Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

The Galapagos Islands are thought of one of many prime locations on the earth for Scuba diving and snorkeling.

The waters all through the archipelago are completely teeming with marine life, most of which might’t be discovered wherever else.

With crystal clear water just about all 12 months spherical, the excessive ranges of visibility guarantee beautiful sightings. 

There are round 30 prime dive websites within the Galapagos (together with hotspots like Darwin’s Arch, Shark Level, and Gordon Rocks), however you’ll be able to snorkel virtually wherever. 

Whereas anybody can snorkel with out certification, it’s essential to concentrate on the sturdy currents that run by way of the Pacific.

When you’re snorkeling within the ocean, all the time use the buddy system. And don’t overlook to deliver an underwater digital camera, as marine animals are more likely to come proper in entrance of you!

READ MORE: Secrets and techniques to Swimming with Galapagos Penguins (Video)

Galapagos Islands Animals: Red footed boobies - animals on the galapagos islands
Purple footed boobies within the Galapagos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

10. {Photograph} Wildlife

Wildlife images is on most individuals’s minds once they go to the Galapagos Islands, with everybody hoping for pictures worthy of Nationwide Geographic’s “Your Shot.”

And whereas the islands’ landscapes are undoubtedly beautiful, it’s the chance for snapping distinctive wildlife portraits that pulls most photographers. 

Most Galapagos Islands animals don’t have any concern of shut proximity to people. So that you’ll simply get shut up photographs of Galapagos sea lions, marine iguanas, large tortoises, and birds.

Some could even strategy so intently that you simply’ll need to again up so as to get their entire physique within the shot! 

Nevertheless it’s essential to recollect to not disturb them or attempt to coerce them into transferring right into a extra appropriate place on your shot. If they appear uncomfortable, it’s finest to again away.

When you’re spending a lot time on the seashore (which you must), keep in mind to pack ziplocks or dry luggage to maintain your tools sand-free.  

READ MORE: 30 Wonderful Galapagos Islands Animals

Galapagos Birds: Galapagos island facts
The male Magnificent Frigate inflates his pouch to woo females by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

11. Birdwatching

The whole Galapagos archipelago is a protected sanctuary for an array of bizarre wildlife.

That features 56 totally different species of native birds (45 of that are endemic birds, and solely exist within the Galapagos). 

Look to the land, sea, and sky for a spread of sea birds, shore birds, and migratory species. 

Even those that don’t usually take into account themselves excited by birds might be fascinated by the blue footed boobies, American flamingos, Galapagos penguins, and puffed-up purple throat pouches of the male frigate hen.

READ MORE: Galapagos Birds: 25 Spectacular Species You Can See on a Galapagos Cruise

Galapagos Islands Animals: Painted Locust
Painted Locust seen on a hike within the Galapagos Islands by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

12. Climbing

With 97% of the Galapagos protected as nationwide park, it’s no shock that there are lots of distinctive mountain climbing trails all through the islands. 

Observe that not the entire islands could be explored by guests. However there are lots of alternatives for mountain climbing by way of various terrain, from blackened lava rock trails to coastal seashore walks and exploration of the luxurious, inexperienced highlands. 

One of the common hikes within the Galapagos is the trek up the Sierra Negra volcano, which is positioned on Isabela Island.

Right here you’ll climb for 5 miles to the highest of the volcano, till you attain a moon-like panorama coated in volcanic cones.

One other nice hike is on the island of Sante Fe, the place you’ll be able to stroll by way of a forest the place the cacti develop 10 meters (32 ft) excessive. 

When you’re planning on mountain climbing throughout your time right here, be sure you deliver correct strolling footwear, as many trails are rocky and finest not tried in flip-flops. 

READ MORE: 25 Largest Forests within the World (In your World Journey Bucket Record)

Galapagos Sea Lion swimming - Kayaking in the Galapagos
Galapagos Sea Lion swimming

13. Sea Kayaking, Swimming, and Browsing

There are lots of alternative ways to benefit from the water within the Galapagos, and also you don’t need to snorkel or Scuba dive so as to have an unimaginable expertise.

Shallow locations like Gardner Bay and Tagus Cove supply the chance to swim alongside all types of wildlife. 

Fascinating Galapagos Islands reality: If you’re swimming alongside the inexperienced sea turtle, take into consideration the truth that this species is believed to have swum alongside dinosaurs some 66 million years in the past!

It’s also possible to lease sea kayaks and surfboards from native outfitters. Probably the greatest surf seashores is Galapagos Seaside, however browsing could also be restricted at different places.

Ensure you verify the laws of every seashore earlier than you lease a board. 

READ MORE: 40 Inexperienced Journey Ideas: (The Final Information to Sustainable Journey)

antique Coffee Grinder in the Galapagos Islands Coffee
Vintage Espresso Grinder within the Galapagos Islands by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

14. Chocolate and Espresso

The Galapagos is finest identified for its wildlife variety, nevertheless it additionally has some fascinating agriculture. Dotted all through the islands are fincas (a.ok.a. farms) that produce each chocolate and occasional. 

The Galapagos has to import most of its meals and water from the mainland, however espresso and chocolate are in no quick provide right here.

Espresso plantations have operated there since 1869, when it was found that arabica typica espresso vegetation would thrive within the wealthy volcanic soil. 

Espresso is now the islands’ greatest export. Fascinating Galapagos Islands reality: Starbucks is their greatest importer. 

You possibly can go to espresso plantations on the island of Santa Cruz and study in regards to the journey of the espresso from cherry to bean to cup.

Additionally on the island is a store referred to as Chocolapagos, the place yow will discover chocolate turtles from a neighborhood chocolatier. 

READ MORE: Finest Espresso within the World (A Connoisseur’s Information to 30 Varieties of Espresso)

Wildlife within the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands Animals: The Blue-Footed Booby mating dance on Espanola Island.
Blue-Footed Booby Mating Dance within the Galapagos Islands by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

15. Blue-footed Booby

One of many signature species of the Galapagos Islands, the blue-footed booby is a sea hen identified for its distinctively colourful ft (and its fanciful mating dance). 

Have you ever ever questioned why this booby has blue ft? It’s believed that carotenoid pigments from their weight loss plan focus of their ft, which ends up in the blue coloring.

The upper focus of pigment a hen has, the extra intense the colour of his ft. 

Whereas the blue-footed booby is probably the most well-known, the Galapagos is definitely residence to 3 several types of booby (an in depth relation of the gannet).

You must also preserve an eye fixed out for the red-footed and Nazca (a.ok.a. masked) boobies. Watching them plunge from the air into the open ocean and emerge with a fish of their beak is sort of the visible deal with!

READ MORE: 35 Lovely Birds of Hawaii and the Polynesian Triangle

Galapagos Penguin Cooling Himself in the Midday Sun
Galapagos Penguin Cooling Himself within the Noon Solar by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

16. Galapagos Penguin

The Galapagos Penguin is sort of the anomaly. It’s the one penguin species on the earth that lives within the northern hemisphere, and breeds within the tropics above the equator.

It’s additionally the smallest species of penguin in South America. 

Though they’ve tailored to the nice and cozy climate, you’ll often discover the Galapagos penguin across the western islands, because the cool currents right here imply that the water temperature stays comparatively low.

You’ll most frequently see them swimming in locations round Bartolome Island or strolling on land across the coastlines of Isabela and Fernandina.  

READ MORE: Secrets and techniques to Swimming with Galapagos Penguins (Video)

Galapagos Birds: A mating ritual among the rare Flightless Cormorants.
A mating ritual among the many uncommon Flightless Cormorants. by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

17. Flightless Cormorant

One other Galapagos Island anomaly, the flightless cormorant is the biggest cormorant species on the earth, however the one one that’s unable to fly.

This genetic adaptation is because of the truth that there aren’t any pure predators within the Galapagos to threaten them, so flying has by no means been essential. 

In consequence, their wingspan has advanced over time to the purpose the place it’s round a 3rd of the dimensions that they would want in the event that they needed to take flight. So as a substitute, they swim down within the ocean to feed on algae. 

You’ll often discover these weird birds breeding on the islands of Isabela and Fernandina. 

READ MORE: Flightless Cormorants Mating Dance in Galapagos Islands

Marine Iguanas, Galapagos Islands
Marine Iguanas, Considered one of Many Galapagos Species Discovered Nowhere Else

18. Marine Iguanas

The Galapagos marine iguana is the one lizard on the earth that swims within the ocean. They’re distinctive to the islands, however they’re additionally inconceivable to overlook. 

You’ll discover 1000’s of them throughout the islands (in actual fact, there are considered upwards of 300,000), although the populations on Isabela and Fernandina are the biggest. 

They’re sometimes black, with a dragon-like look, although many males will change coloration when it comes time to mate.

Breeding season is between January and March, and males will usually flip vibrant purple or inexperienced to draw mates. 

You’ll often discover them lazing about within the solar on rocky shores, or within the water looking for seaweed and underwater algae (which they eat completely). 

READ MORE: Marine Iguanas of the Galapagos Islands (Video)

Galapagos Tortoise, Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands’ Unofficial Mascot, the Galapagos Tortoise by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

19. Galapagos Big Tortoise 

The Galapagos Islands are literally named after the enormous tortoise (Galapago in Spanish means tortoise).

So naturally these ancient-looking reptiles are one of many archipelago’s greatest attracts. 

That is the biggest sort of tortoise on the earth, weighing as much as 270 kilograms (595 kilos) and residing for as much as 170 years.

They’re believed to have arrived within the islands from the mainland some two to 3 million years in the past.

At the moment yow will discover them within the Santa Cruz Highlands in addition to wandering the volcanic slopes of Alcedo. 

READ MORE: Galapagos Tortoises (together with video of Lonesome George!)

Darwin’s Finches Collage by Kiwi Rex [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

20. Darwin’s Finches

Named for his or her pivotal position in Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution, there are 13 species of finches that change all through the Galapagos Islands. 

After learning the birds for 5 weeks, Darwin’s principle was that every one 13 had advanced from a single species on the mainland, adapting genetically to feed on the totally different meals sources on totally different islands.

This fashioned the spine for the remainder of his examine, which discovered comparable genetic variety among the many tortoise subspecies.  

Darwin’s finches are simply noticed all through the islands.

Variations between the species are delicate, however they’ll have noticeable variances in conduct, form, physique dimension, and/or plumage. 

READ MORE: 7 Vital Life Classes I Realized within the Galapagos Islands

Baby Sea Lion in Galapagos Islands
Child Sea Lion in Galapagos Islands by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

21. Galapagos Sea Lions & Fur Seals

You’ll discover the Galapagos sea lion in abundance all through the islands, as they’re the most typical marine mammal within the archipelago.

Head to any seashore or any dock, and also you’re more likely to encounter a sea lion sleeping or swimming near the shore. 

Fur seals are much less frequent and are not often seen out within the ocean. However you’ll be able to sometimes spot them napping among the many rocks in case you head to the western islands. 

Their inhabitants numbers are literally much like that of the Galapagos sea lions. However for unknown causes they typically select to hang around in additional remoted locations. 

Whereas they seem much like the Galapagos sea lion, fur seals are smaller, their eyes bulge extra, they’ve bigger flippers (which have advanced attributable to their choice for rocky cliffs), and so they have a a lot thicker coat and pores and skin.  by Meg Jerrard courtesy of Inexperienced Journey Media

BIO: Megan Jerrard is an Australian Journalist and the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan, an award-winning journey weblog bringing you the newest in journey journey from all around the globe. 

When you loved our story on Details In regards to the Galapagos Islands, you may also like: 

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: San Cristobal & Genovesa

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Genovesa & Fernandina 

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Isabela & Santiago

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: North Seymour & Bartolome

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: Santa Cruz & Espanola

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