The Galápagos Islands became world famous for the evolution theory of Charles Darwin. However, the unique ecosystem doesn’t only interest biologists. A thousand kilometers west of Ecuador, a number of islands suddenly emerge from the Pacific Ocean. What is all the fuzz about those mysterious islands that still attracts visitors from all over the globe every year?
Five to ten million years ago, the volcanoes were lifted directly from the seabed. The tops of the volcanoes are now known as the Galápagos Islands we know. The total lack of geographical contact with the rest of the world brought the Galápagos Islands the fame by Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. Their isolation brought the Galápagos Islands a unique ecosystem. Many animals that live on the islands do not live anywhere else in the world. This makes the 128 islands unique for nature lovers and for biological research.
In 1835, one British ship, the HMS Beagle, was docked at the archipelago. A 26 year old biologist, Charles Darwin, was on board. He explored four islands for five weeks during his stay there.
He discovered that the finches on each island had different features, such as their various shapes of beaks for example. And it seemed the beak shapes depended on their food on each island.
Darwin also learned from other passengers that this is not only about the finches, but it also applies for the giant tortoises. These giant creatures, he concluded, must have been genetically adapted to different living conditions as well. This formed the basis for his theory of natural selection. This is when the evolution theory was born.
A visit to the islands
If you want to follow Darwin’s footsteps, you have to explore deep into the islands. However, a stay on the Galápagos islands is expensive. Most foods must be brought from the mainland.
The number of visitors is limited, therefore, you should not be surprised if you have to spend around 1000+ Euros for a week of island hopping.
Most visitors start their journey on central Island Santa Cruz. Here is the capital of the Puerto Ayora archipelago. Most boat cruises depart from this small town. If you want to see the Galápagos well by seeing more creatures, you will have to consider traveling between islands. This is possible with a day tour, however, it is more common to book a yacht that lets you explore Galápagos for four days up to two weeks.
Galapagos, the name of the islands
You will pass penguins, sea lions, whales, hammerhead sharks and the two hundred kilogram heavy giant tortoises that gave the islands its famous name. It is said that the Spanish explorers who visited the archipelago in the 16th century thought the carapaces of these tortoises resemble the Spanish horseback saddles. The saddles are called “Galapago” in Spanish.
If you also want to relax after a boat trip, you walk from your hotel in Puerto Ayora, via a three-kilometer hike trail, to Bahia Tortuga. This white coral beach, shaded by mangrove forests, is heavenly. While swimming, you can come across sea turtles. Furthermore, pelicans and harmless lizards will keep you company on the beach. About 40,000 people live on the Galápagos Islands. This in itself is not much, but still forty times more than fifty years ago. This population growth and tourism threaten nature in the archipelago. Responsible tourism is for sure the keyword when it comes to visiting Galápagos Islands.
What’s to do on the Galápagos Islands?
Do you want to go to the Galápagos Islands? Then go now! It is highly likely that several islands will be closed to tourists in the future.
Photograph a giant tortoise less than a meter away. The tortoises can live up to 150 years. The turtle that Darwin himself took with him back to his hometown lived until 2006.
Snorkel with penguins and sea lions on the white beach of Bahia Tortuga. You normally never get so close to these wild animals. Because of their secluded location, these animals were never hunted, therefore, they are not endangered.
Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz. Scientists do a lot of research here to preserve the islands. You can learn about the Galápagos Islands on a deeper level and gain more knowledge on the islands.