The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are a group of twelve volcanic islands and numerous islets an rocks 650 miles off the Pacific coast of Ecuador. The area of the islands is 3,086 square miles. Only two are inhabited: Isabela, the largest of the group, and San Cristobal. Current estimated population in the islands is 20,000.
The islands are hilly, rising to a height of 5,000 feet, and there are several active volcanoes. The Galapagos Islands are famous for their unique fauna and flora, which include species not found elsewhere. Best known are the huge tortoise (galapago) and some species of lizards. Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1830.
It was here that he made the major portion of his observation that led to his theories on evolution and the Origin of the Species. Many scientists have since carried out research on the islands The Galapagos also offer some of the world's best scuba diving. Dive boats that tour the islands can be reserved on the mainland. Devil's Crown, an atoll near Floreana Island, is a submarine wonderland that shouldn't be missed.
The shallows of this sunken volcano are burgeoning with an incredible myriad of corals and fish. Giant tortoises hover over the reef like living balloons, and sharks can sometimes be found at sandy bottoms. Much of the same flora and fauna that inspired Darwin's The Origin of Species still thrives on the Galapagos today. Appropriately, ninety-seven percent of the island is a national park. The legendary marine and land iguanas, the giant tortoises, and seal colonies of the Galapagos are among nature's most fantastic beings.
Visitors will gasp at these stunning animals, all of which are highly approachable as their isolated evolution has not conditioned them to fear humans. Iguanas and tortoises bask in the sun like bored movie stars, feet away from the photo-snapping Homo Sapiens. Though their indifference may make the animals seem humorously aloof, their very ignorance makes them vulnerable. A few bad experiences with humans can alter their behavior irrevocably and turn them reclusive. Respect their natural hospitality and keep your hands to yourself.
A visit to the islands is expensive; a high season flight from Ecuador and a week cruising the islands will set you back at least a four-figure sum. Boat trips to the Galápagos can be arranged from Guayaquil, but it's a hassle and will seldom save you any money. Flights - Flights from Guayaquil takes about an hour and a half, and visitors can land on either Baltra or San Cristobal. (Galapagos Islands Travel Tips) Upon reaching the Galapagos, the only way to tour the islands is to do it the way Darwin did, by boat. Due to the biologically sensitive nature of the islands, trips ashore must be taken in the presence of a licensed guide. Taxes - National Park Tax = $100 USD/person.