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21 Fascinating Facts About the Galapagos Islands

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Visiting the Galapagos Islands is like getting 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 completely in contrast to some other place on Earth. 

Attributable to their distant location, the Galapagos Islands remained untouched for tens of millions of years earlier than human discovery.

Essentially 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 immediately.

That is actually a nature-lovers’ haven, the place uncommon endemic vegetation and animals have tailored genetically with a purpose to thrive.

The truth is, 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 individuals make the journey every year. However how a lot do you really find out about these 19 exceptionally biodiverse islands? 

Learn on for 21 fascinating details 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 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 tens of millions of years (together with 13 within the final century).

The oldest island, Espanola, is estimated to be round 3.5 million years outdated, however lots of the others are nonetheless forming. The youngest island is Fernandina, at a youthful 1 million years outdated. 

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

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 because of its gorgeous crescent bays and moon-like panorama), Rabida (for a purple sand seashore that’s dwelling 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 Greatest 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 terrific 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 pictures reveals and pure historical past collections.

There’s additionally an unlimited skeleton of a Bryde’s whale, a backyard crammed with 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 by chance found in 1535 by a Panamanian bishop, Father Tomas Berlanga, whose ship to Peru blew off beam.

However Darwin’s identify has been inextricably linked to the Galapagos because the 1859 publication of “On the Origin of Species,” which stays an necessary piece of scientific literature immediately. 

The Charles Darwin Basis continues his dedication to scientific analysis on the islands and advises the Ecuadorian authorities on learn how 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 possible 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 & Rules 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 experience 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 value spending a day right here for the possibility to swim alongside dozens of Galapagos sea lions and their lovely pups. 

Plenty of sea lions will be discovered dozing on the seashore, and so they’re comfy sufficient round people to can help you 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 comfy round those who they might come near you.

Nonetheless, it’s suggested that you simply make an effort to remain at the least 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 dwelling to each extinct and energetic volcanoes and does have occasional eruptions. The final volcanic eruption was on Fernandina in 2018.

There are 12 energetic 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.

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

In the event you’re extra enthusiastic about big Galapagos tortoises wandering across the facet 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) extensive, and the steaming fumaroles and views from the highest are actually a sight to see. 

The Galapagos can also be dwelling to a sequence of underground tunnels, certainly one of which is within the village of Bellavista within the Santa Cruz Highlands.

You may stroll via 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 Greatest 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 big Galapagos tortoises, a few of whom are over 100 years outdated. 

The upper altitude of the area allowed the Escalesia and Miconia forests to kind, and the plush vegetation and fertile soil there has created the right 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 via the leafy undergrowth.

The species was hunted practically to the purpose of extinction by whalers within the nineteenth century, however ongoing Galapagos conservation efforts managed to save lots of the inhabitants. 

The highlands are additionally a primary spot for chook 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 Basic)

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 truth: It’s additionally known as Leon Dormido, as a result of it’s mentioned to appear to be a sleeping lion. 

The waters surrounding the rock can get uneven, however there’s a various 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 neglect to lookup. The rock is a refuge for frigate birds, and you may additionally see Nazca boobies. 

READ MORE: High 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 flexibility to hop between islands. 

Vacationers who select to discover the world by land can, after all, set up day journeys to islands which are near their chosen base.

However due to the lengthy distances concerned, the easiest way to see extra of the Galapagos is by taking a cruise. 

Most Galapagos cruises journey between islands at night time with a purpose 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 Greatest 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-about 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 yr spherical, the excessive ranges of visibility guarantee gorgeous 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 necessary to pay attention to the sturdy currents that run via the Pacific.

In the event you’re snorkeling within the ocean, all the time use the buddy system. And don’t neglect to deliver an underwater digital camera, as marine animals are prone 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 pictures 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 gorgeous, it’s the chance for snapping distinctive wildlife portraits that draws most photographers. 

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

Some could even strategy so carefully that you simply’ll should again up with a purpose to get their complete physique within the shot! 

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

In the event you’re spending a lot time on the seashore (which it is best to), bear in mind to pack ziplocks or dry baggage to maintain your tools sand-free.  

READ MORE: 30 Superb 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 extraordinary 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 think about themselves enthusiastic about birds will likely be fascinated by the blue footed boobies, American flamingos, Galapagos penguins, and puffed-up purple throat pouches of the male frigate chook.

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. Mountaineering

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

Be aware that not the entire islands will be explored by guests. However there are various alternatives for climbing via diverse terrain, from blackened lava rock trails to coastal seashore walks and exploration of the plush, inexperienced highlands. 

Probably the most standard 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 lined in volcanic cones.

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

In the event you’re planning on climbing throughout your time right here, be sure to deliver correct strolling sneakers, 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 Checklist)

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

13. Sea Kayaking, Swimming, and Browsing

There are numerous alternative ways to benefit from the water within the Galapagos, and also you don’t should snorkel or Scuba dive with a purpose to have an unbelievable expertise.

Shallow locations like Gardner Bay and Tagus Cove provide the chance to swim alongside every kind of wildlife. 

Fascinating Galapagos Islands truth: Once 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!

You may as well hire sea kayaks and surfboards from native outfitters. Probably the greatest surf seashores is Galapagos Seaside, however browsing could also be restricted at different areas.

Be sure to examine the laws of every seashore earlier than you hire a board. 

READ MORE: 40 Inexperienced Journey Suggestions: (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 recognized for its wildlife variety, but it surely additionally has some fascinating agriculture. Dotted all through the islands are fincas (a.ok.a. farms) that produce each chocolate and low. 

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 truth: Starbucks is their greatest importer. 

You may 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 known as Chocolapagos, the place you will discover chocolate turtles from an area chocolatier. 

READ MORE: Greatest Espresso within the World (A Gourmand’s Information to 30 Forms 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 chook recognized for its distinctively colourful ft (and its fanciful mating dance). 

Have you ever ever puzzled why this booby has blue ft? It’s believed that carotenoid pigments from their weight-reduction plan focus of their ft, which leads to the blue coloring.

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

Whereas the blue-footed booby is probably the most well-known, the Galapagos is definitely dwelling to a few various kinds of booby (a detailed relation of the gannet).

You also needs to hold 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 kind 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 kind 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 mandatory. 

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 wished to take flight. So as an alternative, 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 unattainable to overlook. 

You’ll discover 1000’s of them throughout the islands (in truth, there are regarded as 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 colour when it comes time to mate.

Breeding season is between January and March, and males will usually flip shiny 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 Large 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 kind 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 a few million years in the past.

As we speak you 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
Darwin’s Finches Collage by Kiwi Rex [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

20. Darwin’s Finches

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

After finding out the birds for 5 weeks, Darwin’s principle was that each 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 related genetic variety among the many tortoise subspecies.  

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

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

READ MORE: 7 Essential Life Classes I Discovered 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 commonest marine mammal within the archipelago.

Head to any seashore or any dock, and also you’re prone 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 often 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 because of 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 everywhere in the globe. 

In the event you loved our story on Info In regards to the Galapagos Islands, you may additionally 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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