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ISLANDS OF LIFE

GALAPAGOS

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GALAPAGOS

ISLANDS OF LIFE


The Galapagos Islands are located within the archipelago by the same name, and at the point of intersection of the equator and the nutrient-laden cold sea currents. This combination of factors makes them different from other island groups in the world. In "Galapagos Marine Reserve" we can find corals, sharks and other typically tropical fauna and flora species living together with penguins, sea lions, peleteros and other species from colder waters, making up a unique environment thanks to this special location.

A trip to Ecuador is not complete without a visit to the Galapagos Islands Archipelago, located almost 1,000 km from the continental Ecuadorian coast, and formed by 13 major islands, 17 smaller ones and 47 rocky outcrops, covering altogether an area of 8,000 sq km.

Survival for almost all the species living on the Galapagos and their surroundings depends on the sea. For example, the flora and fauna from the higher parts of the islands use the nutrients from the guano of marine birds that nest in this area. Likewise, the productive coastal waters contain a complete food chain, ranging from plankton up to sharks and whales, as well as land birds, plants and insects.

The Islands were discovered in 1535 by Fray Tomas de Berlanga. As from 1959 they were declared a National Park, and a Charles Darwin Foundation was created. In 1973 the area was named the Province of Galapagos. In 1979 UNESCO declared them to be the "Natural World Heritage".

Tourists come here every year, attracted by the natural environment and the local flora and fauna, which are authentically unique in the world. Enjoying a cruise around the islands will depend on the type of vessel one chooses: these range from a small boat to a motor yacht or a 90-passenger ship, offering 3 to 14-night cruise tours in an informal atmosphere with planned itineraries, including two or more daily visits to the closer islands.

To get to the islands, you can take a plane from Quito or Guayaquil to the islands of Baltra or San Cristobal, embarking there on the cruise of your choice. The islands have a hotel infrastructure for those who wish to spend more time on dry land, and do a few short excursions to the nearby islands. The country's law specifies that the excursions must always include an accompanying guide, for each group of up to 20 people. The islands have clearly marked out pathways that must be followed after paying a fee to visit the National Park.

In the Galapagos Archipelago there is a lot to see, and each island has its local name as well as its English one. To give you an idea of the attractions, we can mention some of the more important islands:

SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND (CHATMAN):
This is the new starting point for tourism cruises; very close by is located the special rock formation known as the "Sleeping Lion", as well as: Laguna del Junco, the Bay, the Tijereta (forktail duck) Center, the sweet-water lake and the Colina de las Fragatas (Frigate Hill). There is a small airport and a modest hotel.

ESPAÑOLA ISLAND (HOOD):
This is the only place in the world where albatrosses reproduce; there are colonies of blue-legged and masked piqueros here. You may also visit Punta Suarez, and the Hueco Soplador (whistling hole in the rocks).

FLOREANA OR SANTA MARIA ISLAND (CHARLES):
It has attractions such as Cormorant Point, where one can see colonies of flamingoes, penguins and marine iguanas, as well as Post Office Bay.

FERNANDINA ISLAND (NARBOROUGH):
This island has colonies of marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, pelicans and penguins; you can also visit Espinoza Point, and admire the majesty of the straits between Fernandina and Isabella Islands.

SANTA CRUZ ISLAND (INDEFATIGABLE):
On this island we will find Academy Bay and the Charles Darwin Scientific Station, with its collection of different species of land tortoises on display; Tortoise Bay, with its colonies of marine turtles, and the capital of the Islands, Puerto Ayora; finally, the Giant Cactus Woods and the "Los Gemelos" (Twins) crater.

PLAZA ISLANDS:
Visit the cliff that is used as a nesting place by exotic birds, as well as the colonies of sea lions, land iguanas, white seagulls and blue-legged piqueros, a real ecological "treat".

BARTOLOME ISLAND:
Adventure lovers can explore extinct volcano craters and, from the highest points on the island have a beautiful view of the area, while getting a chance to swim and scuba dive as well as watch the penguin colonies.

SANTA FE ISLAND (BARRINGTON):
Here we have sea lions, colonies of land and sea iguanas and giant cacti.

ISABELA ISLAND (ALBEMARLE):
It has five great volcanoes and a salt lake in the Darwin Crater; also, the crater of Alcedo Volcano, colonies of flamingoes, Galapagos turtles and flightless cormorants, Port Villamil and the Equator Marker.

SANTIAGO ISLAND (JAMES):
You can do interesting treks over solid lava trails, as well as admiring colonies of fur seals, sea lions and flamingoes and enjoying Espumilla beach.

GENOVESA ISLAND (TOWER):
Get to know Darwin Bay and admire the frigate bird, red-legged piquero and sea swallow colonies.

SEYMOUR NORTH ISLAND:
This island is home to a large colony of sea lions, frigate birds and blue-legged piqueros.

BALTRA ISLAND:
The location of the islands' first airport, its landing strip was built by U.S. troops during the Second World War. Its landscapes feature giant cacti that can be seen on the horizon.
Visiting the Galapagos is returning to past eras and setting foot on a natural environment that has remained intact for thousands of years. As a mere spectator, the tourist is privileged to witness a unique spectacle in our day and time.
The numerous volcanoes and rivers of petrified lava are the reminders of the primeval battle between fire and water that created the islands.
Its fauna and flora, unique species that have remained safe from all external influences are what make the Archipelago special. The birds, reptiles, mammals and plants that occupy the islands, make them a privileged place to observe the phenomena of life and its evolution, inspiring scientist Charles Darwin to create his Theory of Evolution.
The underwater world of the Galapagos offers those who are fond of scuba diving the chance to share its waters with the gentle local sea creatures and live an unforgettable experience.

The islands are of volcanic origin. Their shores are flat, and the mountainous interior presents high-placed central craters, the edges of some of which are at an altitude of over 1,520 m. There are several active volcanoes. Mangroves surround the islands. Inland, and on the coastal areas where rainfall is scarce, the vegetation is mainly thorn bushes, cacti and mesquite. On the highlands, blanketed in thick fog, the flora is more exuberant, and up to 750 vegetable species have been numbered. The cold Humboldt marine current from the Antarctic modifies the climate and also the temperature of the sea surrounding the islands.

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