The Galápagos Islands are one of those places on most people's Bucket Lists. It's one of those remote corners of the world that's still untouched and remains home to some of the world's rarest animals and most ancient preserved landscapes. Everyone has heard of The Galapagos but most people don't know a lot about them. For those of you who don't, they're an archipelago of volcanic islands situated around the equator to the west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. The islands consist of 15 main islands, three smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets, most of which have been given Spanish names by the Ecuadorian government. What most people don't realize is that, animals aside, the islands are also populated with around 25,000 Spanish speaking people who collectively work to preserve the islands as much as possible.
The islands were made famous by Charles Darwin when he visited them during the voyage of the Beagle and closely studied the diverse wildlife found there. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of his theory of evolution by natural selection.
Conde Nast Traveller recently did a story on Island Hopping around the Galapagos and I'm going to share with you some of the beautiful images and information from the story below.
Charles Darwin once wrote about them: 'We seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact - that mystery of mysteries - the first appearance of new beings on this earth.'
Santa Cruz Island is one of the most built up islands, where you can meet the famous Lonesome George, an ancient giant tortoise, the last of his line. He lives with five female tortoises (of a separate subspecies).
The Galápagos National Park covers more than 7,500 square kilometres, but only one per cent is accessible to visitors. You visit the islands by boat and land at permitted spots and take short walks along trails. Groups are limited to 16 people, each with a guide who urges you to stick together to avoid any human damage.
These marine iguanas spend their days basking in the sun, cooling down with dips in the water and gorging on algae. Everything endemic to the islands descends from something which made the journey from South America, either by flying, swimming or floating, as the tortoises are thought to have done. In the case of the forbears of the iguana, lava lizard and the Galápagos mouse, it took a voyage estimated at 15 days, minimum, given the ideal current and raft of vegetation. Two large mammals made the trip: fur seals from Peru and sea lions from California, and their Galápagos descendants are endemic.
There are Galápagos penguins swimming around in the waters and flamingos inland.
What's equally amazing is the volcanic rock and petrified lava which has a prehistoric feel.
Snorkelling is a wonderful way to birdwatch, not just because boobies and pelicans plunge around you, but because you can swim near their perches without offering the least threat. You study lava gulls, the world's rarest gull, from a distance of two feet, look cormorants in their sapphire eyes, and meet the intense lemon-eyed stare of the boobie..
My Galapagos Islands trip saving fund starts today...
Sources of Information
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