Off the coast of mainland Ecuador is a group of islands known as the Galapagos Islands. These islands were formed from a lava vent on the ocean floor, just as the Hawaiian Islands were. Altogether, there are 60 named islands, with the main islands of Fernandina, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Santiago, Iasbela, and Baltra being the most popular to visit. The Galapagos and the water surrounding them are a national park, as well as a biological marine reserve.
The Galapagos Islands were discovered in 1535 by a Spanish bishop, who named them in honor of the giant tortoises he found there. However, Charles Darwin is recognized as the one who brought attention to the islands when he traveled there in 1885. Through his observations, the basis of the theory of evolution by natural selection was introduced.
Although the Galapagos Islands are located on the Equator, the ocean currents nearby bring cold water to the area, resulting in frequent drizzle during part of the year, especially from June to November, the cool season. From December to May, the warm season, there is practically no wind, except with sporadic heavy rain, and the sun is more pronounced. Interestingly, at times the islands seem to disappear, especially in the dense fog early in the morning. In fact, the islands are nicknamed “Las Encantadas”, which means “Enchanted”.
Of all the islands in the Galapagos, the only four that are populated are Santa Cruz, Isabela, Floreana, and San Cristobal. These islands are one area of the world that has no truly indigenous population. The largest ethnic group is composed of the descendants of Spanish colonists and Native Americans who came from mainland Ecuador. However, the population also includes those of German and Norwegian descent.
As in the past, most of the men on the islands work as fishermen and this is their main source of income. In addition, gathering Sea Cucumbers, a marine invertebrate believed to be an aphrodisiac by many in Asia, is an important part of the economy as well as the culture of the area. Recently, tourism has become a more important part of the economy, as the interest in the unique flora and fauna of the islands grows.
As in the past, travelers journey to these islands to view for themselves the diverse population of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Visitors are able to fly from Guayaquil, on the mainland, to either Baltra or San Cristobal. Because of the precarious nature of the plant, land, and marine ecology of the area, travel to the protected areas is strictly limited to boat with a licensed tour guide. When touring in this manner, one is then permitted to swim and wade in the clear waters surrounding the islands, where some of the best scuba diving in the world is found, as well as beautiful white sand beaches set off by dark rocks. Visits to the islands themselves allow one up close views of giant tortoises, iguanas, and seal colonies, to name a few. Due to the controlled interactions of humans with the animals, most are unafraid of the visitors, which allows for incredible photo opportunities.
As can be seen, for anyone desiring a unique travel adventure, a visit to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador cannot be beat. These islands will transport one from the electronic, busy world of the present, back in time to a view of the world similar to that in prehistoric times. A visit to this area can give one an appreciation and respect of nature and the effect it has on these special islands.
Not what you were looking for? Search Google and Beachcomber Pete
Beachcomber Pete Travel Tips
Periodic issues- Free advice and suggestions for making your next travel adventure more enjoyable. Learn from fellow traveler’s like yourself the secrets at your next Travel destination.