The Galapagos Islands is a world icon made famous by Charles Darwin. Since then, many tourists have come to visit its shores. With more than 400 species of fish and an abundance of wildlife in Galapagos, there is certainly plenty to see. Here are just a few things about the Galapagos for all avid Island hoppers.
1. A National Park
In Ecuador, 97 percent of the Galapagos is a National Park protected by law. There are approximately 25,000 locals living in areas outside the Park, and visitors to the park are expected to pay an entrance fee.
2. Volcanic Activity
The most recent eruption was recorded in May 2015 on Islabela Island, bringing the total count to 13 in the last century. Scientists at the time were particularly worried about the pink Iguana population being affected, but it miraculously remained unharmed on the northwest side of the Island. Witnessing a volcanic eruption is quite common for many who visit the Islands these days, and it is quite a spectacle.
3. An Expansive Chain
The Islands lie in the Pacific Ocean 926km east of the Ecuadorean mainland. The archipelago hosts 20 volcanic islands and 42 islets consisting of over 250 types of volcanic rock, here you can find the best Galapagos islands maps
4. Boobies Come in three colors
Didn’t you know? We are talking about a type of seabird, belonging to the Gannet group (Sulidae) – the blue-footed boobies, the red-footed boobies and the Nazca boobies. Characteristically different in behavior and appearance, they all have one thing in common – plunge diving for food out in the open ocean.
5. Penguins in the Northern Hemisphere
You´ve got to see it to believe it, but yes! The only species of penguins to be found north of the Equator waddles around the Galapagos. Although typically found on Isabela and Fernandina, they are also seen on the central islands and as far south as Floreana.
6. Swimming Lizards
Twenty percent of marine life is endemic to the islands. Marine Iguanas are the only lizards that have adapted over time to a marine habitat making them excellent swimmers and herbivores that feed solely on seaweed.
7. Every Month is the best time to visit
Being on the equator, the Islands experience relatively constant temperatures throughout the year. However there is a difference- the hot season starting in December and ending around May is beautifully warm and balmy. Periodic showers turn the Islands into lush paradises while the oceans lay still, inviting snorkelers and sleepy ocean cruisers to explore their most hidden corners. The dry season starts in June and lasts through to November, a little cooler and dryer yet still as interesting and dynamic as hot season.
8. Equality between day and night
In perfect balance, you’ll get 12 hours of daylight and 12 of night. There is ample time to enjoy the wildlife… the diurnal and nocturnal kind, that is. No daylight saving on the Equator!
9. Long Live the Tortoise
The Galapagos Tortoise can live well over 100 years, making them the oldest existing vertebrates on the planet.
10. Swimming with Turtles
The green sea turtle is believed to be a dinosaurian species having swum with the oldest and biggest of dinosaurs on the planet.
11. Tectonic Intersection
The Pacific, Cocos and Nazca plates meet here, making the Galapagos Isles one of a kind. Sporadic volcanic activity and its incredibly ecologically diverse landscapes make it a very special place on Earth.
12. Land of Discovery for Charles Darwin
The Galapagos was made famous by Charles Darwin back in 1835, for it is where he developed his Theory of Natural Selection. A stone bust in the town square on Santa Cruz commemorates the scientist – a big hit with many tourists.
13. 800 Species of Mollusks and Myriads of Fish species
The ocean waters teem with an enormous variety of snails, octopus, cuttlefish, oysters and squid.
14. The word ‘Galapago’ for Islands’ iconic Turtles
‘Galapago’ seems a fitting name for the Islands oldest inhabitants. The old Castellan word referred to the shells of these giant tortoises which looked like riding saddles back in the day.
15. Comfortable Temperatures
Not as hot and sticky as you would think, the equatorial climate is pleasantly warm throughout the year with highs of 79 – 86 degrees F and water temperatures ranging between 78 and 71 degrees F.
16. Less than 79 000 Visitors on Live-aboards Annually
Quite trendy in the Galapagos are people living aboard sailing vessels (liveaboards) as they explore the islands. Most tourists come visit in June through August and then again around mid-Dec until mid- January. So although the islands are constantly busy, they’re rarely over-crowded, making it a perfect holiday destination.
17. Constantly Changing
The islands aren’t dormant relics of the past. They are continually evolving; younger ones forming while the older ones are slowly slipping back into the ocean.
18. Unpredictable Ocean Currents
As the Islands converge on tectonic plates below, so to do the 4 currents that crisscross them in the salty waters above. The confluence of the Equatorial, Cromwell, Panama and Humboldt currents all add to the diversity and evolution of this fascinating UNESCO heritage site.
19. Little Fear of Humans, one of the most amazing things about the Galapagos!
Unsurprisingly, the local fauna have adjusted to man just as they’ve adjusted to the Islands themselves. But we’re cautioned not to touch them, thus protecting both habitat and species that will continue to live there long after we have gotten home.
20. Post Office Bay
If you go to the Island of Floreana, be sure to stop by a barrel shaped post box left there by whaling ships in the 18th century. I doubt that they would use it today though. Tourists just love a piece of history they are able to relate to in modern times.
Don’t think of the Galapagos cruise as simply a holiday destination. Much more than that, it’s a monumental site bearing homage not only to a scientist and his contributions, but above all else to its unique flora and fauna which excite and beguile even the most unassuming naturalist in all of us, children and adults alike.
Please do come and visit- we would love to have you!