The Galápagos Islands are famed for their vast number of endemic species and the studies by Charles Darwin that led to his theory of evolution by natural selection.
It is an archipelago made up of 13 main volcanic islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. The oldest island is thought to have formed between 5 and 10 million years ago, a result of tectonic activity. The youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed, with the most recent volcanic eruption in 2005.
The islands are distributed around the equator, 965 kilometres (about 600 miles) west of Ecuador.
Laura Barber - November 2011
We traveled to the Galapagos Islands in early September. We spent time in Quito,Ecuador on both ends of the trip. We spent 8 days in the Galapagos on a 16 passenger cozy boat. the crew were great and they only roughness we experienced was during the night travel when the boat rocked and rolled due to the Humboldt current and our speed. When you visit the islands your itinerary isn't set definitely until you sail. The govt monitors the numbers on the islands by day. We left from San Cristobal and traveled to several different islands. I was initially worried that we would not find any animals but I was amazed at their numbers and that they didn't scatter when we arrived! The birds, sea lions, penguins etc were all amazing. We had a naturalist with us and he had tons of info to share. The trip was well managed and we spent a morning in one location, had lunch and a rest period and then went out again until dinner time. The climate was warm and sunny each day but the water was extremely cold due to the current. When we went, many of the birds had their babies and that was pretty amazing. No matter when you go to the Galapagos, you are guaranteed to see a lot of birds, iguanas, sea lions, tortoises,lizards, albatross, frigates, blue footed boobies, herons, warblers, finches etc...it is nature at its' best!
The usual problem with taking “wild life” holidays is the uncertainty as to whether one will actually see the creatures one is traveling so far (and often paying so much!) to see. Over the years we have seen most of the animals we have gone to see – but it has sometimes taken several visits to do so – thus we have failed to see Gorillas in Gabon, Wolves in Alaska and Jaguars in Guyana.
A great thing about the Galapagos is that the animals WILL turn up on cue. There may not be a vast variety of species but, if an island is supposed to have a species, you will have to be very unlucky not to see it!!
And on top of that of course they are incredibly tame.
Darwin wrote at one point in his diary - 'I pushed off a branch with the end of my gun, a large hawk'.
It was wonderful to have this episode confirmed as we landed on an island and there in front of us was a Galapagos Hawk. As we approached closer and closer it did not attempt to move. We did not of course push it off its perch with a gun or anything else but there was no doubt that we could have if we had been so minded!
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Full name: Galapagos Islands
2009 - Removed from Danger list
2007 - In DangerSerious conservation threats have intensified
2001 - ExtendedTo include the Galapagos Marine Reserve
1995 - Extension deferredMarine extension deferred again - this time at request of Ecuador
1994 - Extension deferredMarine Reserve: deferred until mitigative action taken regarding threats
1978 - InscribedReasons for inscription
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- Affected by El Niño Crit ix: "the Marine Reserve, situated at the confluence of 3 major eastern Pacific currents and influenced by climatic phenomena such as El Niño, has had major evolutionary consequences and provides important clues about species evolution under changing conditions"
- Anchialine Habitats
- Captive Breeding Centre Tortoise and Marine Iguana at Darwin Research Institute
- Cloud forest An unusual form of cloud forest is found between 1500m and 1700m on the mountains and volcanoes of the larger islands (UNEP-WCMC)
- Critically endangered fauna species Galapagos Petrel - "10,000-19,999 mature individuals" & Waved Albatross - ca. 34,700, of which 34,660 live on the Galapagos
- Endemic Bird Species Galapagos Finches (13), Mocking birds (4), Flycatcher, Rail, Hawk and Heron
- Lava tubes Sta Cruz - near Bellavista
- Lazarus species Fernandina rice rat: thought extinct in 1996 (last seen 1980) but found again in the late 1990s. Santiago Galápagos mouse: thought extinct and last recorded in 1906, but was rediscovered in 1997.
- Natural Arches and Bridges
- Notable examples of island gigantism Tortoises
- Notable examples of multiple speciation in one site Finches
- Notable Extremophiles Pompeii worm (an extremophile found only at hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean) - wiki
- Penguins Galapagos
- Reintroduced Species 39 Espanola tortoises have been introduced to Pinta. They are regarded as being the closest genetic match to the Pinta tortoise - of which only "Lonesome George" remains. Whilst there remains a slight hope that George might father hybrid offspring with captive Espanola tortoises, those released are sterile. If they survive, and no hybrid emerges, it is the intention to release fertile creatures with the objective of re-engineering a full "ecosystem" of which a tortoise presence of some sort is an essential element.
- Sea Stacks Kicker Rock (off San Cristobal). See No 7 at link
- Seals fur seal
- Tombolos Bartholome Island
- Turtles and tortoises Habitat of Galápagos giant tortoise
- Volcanic Hotspots Galapagos Hotspot
- Archipelagos (Volcanic) Official name: Archipi?lago de Col?n. The group consists of 15 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. All are inscribed - with only a few built up areas excluded from the NP
- Caldera Fernandina Island
- Deepest "The islands have been formed by volcanoes rising out of a submarine platform at a depth of 1,300m. In outer waters, ocean depths fall to 4,000m except for the existence of several seamounts which rise to less than 100m below sea level." AB (Exact location of site boundary not clear! The park includes "all waters within 15 nautical miles of a baseline joining the outermost points of the Galapagos Islands").
- Largest area 133,000 sq kms
- Marine sites 133000 sq kms M (after extension in 2001), 76651 sq kms T
- Pacific Ocean
- Recently Active Volcanoes One of the world?s most active volcanic areas, with more than 50 eruptions in the past 200 years. Six of the volcanoes are still active (1 on Fernandina and 5 on Isabela). The most recent explosion was Cerro Azul on Isabela in September of 1998.
- Scientific Developments Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection
- Charles Darwin Research for his evolutionary theory
- Christopher Columbus Their official Ecuadorian name is "Archipiélago de Colón" or "Islas de Colón". However, Columbus never went there.
- Jacques-Yves Cousteau 1971
- Thor Heyerdahl Following the success of the Kon-Tiki Expedition, Heyerdahl organized and led the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to the Galapagos Islands. The group investigated the pre-Columbian habitation sites, locating an Inca flute and shards from more than 130 pieces of ceramics which were later identified as pre-Incan. (1952)
- Tupac Inca Yupanqui may have visited them
- Visited by Nicolas Hulot Émission 25 : La vie pas à pas (Équateur, Iles Galápagos, 2004)
- Miocene In comparison with most oceanic archipelagos, the Galapagos are very young with the largest and youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, with less than one million years of existence, and the oldest islands, Espanola and San Cristobal, somewhere between three to five million years. (Wiki)
WHS on Other Lists
- Alliance for Zero Extinction Áreas costeras de Fernandina y del occidente de Isabela: Camarhynchus heliobates (Mangrove Finch), Isla Española: Phoebastria irrorata (Waved Albatross)
- Biodiversity hotspot Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena
- World Biosphere Reserves Archipielago de Colon (Galápagos) (1984)
- WWF Global 200 Galápagos Islands xeric scrub