Galapagos Islands Holidays

by Kshaunish Jaini

The Galapagos group of Islands is one of those places which you have to see to believe that it exists. In pictures, Galapagos looks like a dreamlike place, with fantastic beasts roaming on its lands and waters. Studded with volcanoes which have been active for as long as 20 million years, this group of islands is one of the oldest landmasses in the world, and therefore fosters an ecosystem that is impossible to find anywhere else in the world. Perhaps it is because of this that in 1859 Charles Darwin came up with and wrote about his theory of evolution after studying the geography and animal life on these islands.

But it's not just Darwin who was fascinated by these islands. Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with the closest landmass being nearly a thousand kilometers away, for Centuries the Galapagos islands remained an elusive myth, something like the stories of Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels. The islands were occupied by the Spanish in the 16th Century along with parts of South America, and in the late 19th Century, the islands were officially annexed by the South American nation of Ecuador. Today, the Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and efforts are being made to preserve the extremely rare and endangered animal life that exists here. More than 97% of the Islands’ surface area has been declared a National Park. Holidaying in the Galapagos islands is being a witness to some of the oldest and most fascinating life processes on earth and is something that you shouldn’t miss if you really want to try and understand nature better.

Galapagos islands are famous for the Iguanas that live here

Galapagos islands are famous for the Iguanas that live here

Where are the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Archipelago is located in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, 973 km from the west coast of South America. The closest landmass to it is that of mainland Ecuador, the country to which it belongs. Interestingly, the islands fall right across the equator, with the equatorial line going through the islands of Wolf and Isabela. The islands also fall over the Galapagos hotspot - a place where the earth’s crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume, creating volcanoes. The group of islands itself is by some estimates, 90 million years old. But within the group, the older islands become extinguished by going below the sea level and newer islands keep forming. The newest islands - Isabela and Fernandina - are still in the process of being formed. There have been 24 documented volcanic eruptions in the Galapagos islands since 1969, with the latest having occurred in 2009. At this time, there are 19 major islands in the Galapagos archipelago, with many smaller minor islands to boot.

How to Get to Galapagos?

The best way to reach Galapagos is to go through Ecuador. Regular flights to the Galapagos are available from the capital city of Quito and Guayaquil. There are two options for flying into Galapagos - the San Cristobal Airport on the San Cristobal Island and the Seymour Airport at the Baltra Islands. The island of Santa Cruz is a short bus ride and ferry ride away from the Baltra airport, and is the most populated island within the group. Most accommodation and other facilities are available in and around the town of Puerta Ayora on the Santa Cruz Island. Note that you are disallowed from entering the National Park if you are not accompanied by a licensed guide.

Galapagos Climate

The climate in Galapagos is tropical, with mid-December to May being the peak summer and monsoon months and June to November being the colder season. Most tourist operations are conducted in June, July and August and also in December/January. The average temperature around this time is a cool 22 degrees Celsius.

The blue footed booby is a unique bird found in the Galapagos

The blue footed booby is a unique bird found in the Galapagos

Major Islands and Animal Life

Galapagos has about 19 major islands and many minor ones. Each island has its unique characteristic, ranging from black volcanic sands to crystal clear lagoons and mangrove forests. Historically, due to the lack of apex predators in the region, the evolutionary patterns of animal life flourished in various directions. Today, animals like the Galapagos tortoise, the Galapagos sea turtle, the land and marine iguanas and the blue footed boobies are almost exclusively found in various islands in the archipelago. Some of the major islands are:

Activities in Galapagos

Because of its vast ecological diversity both on land and underwater and fantastical animal species, things to do in Galapagos have no bounds. You can choose to explore an island on foot or rent a boat and go snorkelling. There are many cruises available throughout the year which design package tours through the islands according to your needs. Some of the things that you can expect to do in Galapagos are:

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