THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
A trip to the Galapagos is a journey of a lifetime! Located 620 miles off the west coast of Ecuador, this World Heritage Site seems a world apart from anywhere else on earth. In this brutal and breathtaking, volcanic landscape, the islands, and their surrounding ocean, offer a unique opportunity to observe and study an incredible diversity of wildlife and plant life, in one of the Earth’s greatest natural laboratories.
In late 1835, while observing the strange reptiles and birds of the island, Charles Darwin first began to question the evolutionary process. His visit to the archipelago was largely responsible for setting up the train of thought that culminated in his “theory of evolution” and his ground-breaking book, “Origin of the Species”, twenty years later. Since Darwin, the archipelago, has served as a living laboratory of evolutionary change, for biologists seeking to trace the evolution of life on earth.
The almost entire isolation of these islands, for millions of years, has led to a high level of endemism, with a staggering number of species being found nowhere else on earth. Millions of sea birds, land and marine iguanas, fur seals, playful sea lions, and the endangered Galapagos tortoise call these islands home. Being largely unaffected by humans, they have never learned to fear them. This lack of fear allows for incredible, up-close encounters with wildlife and has led to the Galapagos Islands being considered one the worlds foremost wildlife-viewing destinations.
Tragically, threats from high levels of poorly regulated tourism (the islands welcome some 100,000 yearly visitors), overfishing, and the introduction of invasive species, placed the islands on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2007.
Today, most of the 13 major and 7 smaller islands remain uninhabited with over 97% of the archipelago preserved as a national park.
As a result of these conservation efforts, the Galapagos Islands remains one of the world’s most pristine and unspoiled UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with a remarkable array of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and bird species to be seen.