Marine iguana, Galapagos Island

Galapagos, Ecuador: Nature, Evolution and Tourism

Activities, Ecuador, Quito

The Galapagos Islands won the award for being “South America’s Leading Destination” for two years and were nominated for the same award 12 years in a row, from 2005 to 2017, and with good reason: this place is absolutely fascinating!

The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands are one of the main attractions for eco-tourists visiting South America, and an important part of their itinerary. This is an archipelago of numerous volcanic islands with a total population of not more than 25,000. There are a total of 18 big islands, 3 smaller islands and more than 107 scattered rocks and small isles making up the Galapagos archipelago. The numerous volcanoes around these islands have been active for the last 20 million years, but the last minor explosion was in 2011.

Sea lion, Galapagos island
Sea turtle, Galapagos Island

The Galapagos Islands: Evolution

The wildlife found around the Galapagos Islands was one of the main inspirations behind Charles Darwin’s famous “Theory of Origin of Species”. The sea turtles and sea lions scattered around this area are friendly, and don’t mind when tourists come close or pet them; the iguanas, the mockingbirds and the finches roam around as if they own the islands. The unique wildlife found here is not available anywhere else in the world.

Indeed, the term “bio-diversity” is more true here than anywhere else. Each island is unique in its geology; some are black and barren, while others contain white sandy beaches. Some islands feature rocks formed by volcanic eruptions, and some islands are in the middle of clear blue water. Every single island is unique and should be visited at least once while on a tour here, just to enjoy their variety.

Santa Cruz Island
Tagus cove, Isabella Island

The Galapagos Islands: Tourism

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most visited locations in South America, visited by thousands of tourists every day. Each of the islands has something different to offer eager tourists, and there are a number of attractions to visit.

Take Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island, for example. Tourists love the white sandy beaches and the huge marine turtles, marine iguanas and the Sally Lightfoot crabs that roam these beaches. attractions on this island are the Rancho Primicias and the El Chato Tortoise Reserve, two animal sanctuaries for these giant marine turtles.

Tourists love the snorkeling and diving facilities available throughout the Galapagos Islands, especially at Wolf Island’s Shark Point and the Santa Cruz Island’s Gordon Rocks. Other notable locations for these activities include Los Tuneles of Isabella Island, Las Grietas on Santa Cruz Island and Frigatebird Hill on Saint Cristobel Island.

The quiet little town of Puerto Villamil on Isabella Island is one of the largest residential areas of the Galapagos Islands, and the perfect place to understand the lives of people living offshore. There are a number of hotels and restaurants to choose from, making it one of the most popular locations for tourists.

Isabella Island is where you will find the Galapagos Penguins, and North Seymour Island is the home of frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. You will also find waved albatross and Darwin’s famous finches on Espanola Island, and red-footed Nazca boobies on Genovesa Island. In fact, all around the Galapagos Islands, you can find more than 45 species of birds you won’t see anywhere else in the world.

If you are interested in Darwin’s theory, the Charles Darwin Research Center in Santa Cruz Island would be a great place to visit. The Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabella Island offers a number of tours that take you close to the crater. Saint Cristobal Island, the archipelago’s capital, is close to Kicker Rock, a 460 feet high rock formation that attracts a large crowd. This island is also perfect to get a little shopping done or have lunch.

Besides these, there are plenty of attractions for you to choose from on your trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Visiting the Galapagos Islands: Some Tips

Most of these attractions are free for tourists, such as the beaches and bird watching. All you need to pay for will be traveling around the islands of your choice. Diving, snorkeling and visiting the animal sanctuaries will require fees, and also the tours that take you to the volcanoes. If you pay the fees for the Galapagos National Park, you can get into the main attractions of many of these islands for free.

Making reservations for the off-season usually guarantees you can pay less, especially if you book months ahead. However, the best time to visit would depend on you; you can choose between the dry season (June to November), or the wet season (December to June). The heat can be harsh at times, so be sure to wear light, breathable clothes. Also, remember to pack plenty of sunscreen, a hat and a pair of comfortable shoes. Local restaurants and hotels serve amazing seafood, and freshly caught fish from the ocean. Not much vegetation grows on the islands; so don’t expect the cuisine to be very diverse. Traveling between the islands of course requires boats, which are readily available on the shores.

Three of the main islands provide adequate accommodations, but you can also choose a live-aboard boat. This will provide both a place to spend the nights and transportation between the islands.

If you want diversity in a single package, a trip to the Galapagos Islands is without equal. No other place on Earth can offer such diverse landscapes and wildlife as the Galapagos Islands, and this is indeed something that should be on your bucket list.

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