A Tourist’s View of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – Part 1

Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands are world famous for being the place where British naturalist and evolutionist Charles Darwin was inspired to write his seminal volume “The Origin of Species” in the mid 19th century. The islands are certainly a hotbed of evolutionary ferment, as recent reports have noted that some of the island’s finches are evolving in response to competition from birds with larger beaks. The exotic fauna and flora of the Galapagos has proven to be a beacon for tourists from around the world and they have been declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. Besides the aforementioned finches, there are magnificent long-lived Giant Tortoises, colorful Sea Iguanas and a variety of marine mammals that thrive in the cold Pacific waters that are rich in fish and other nutrients.

The Galapagos Islands are located approximately 600 miles west of Ecuador’s Pacific coast and consist of more than 60 islands of various sizes. Approximately 17,000 people call the Galapagos their home, although about half live on a single island, Santa Cruz. The islands display surprising diversity in their geography, certainly a large factor that spurs micro-evolution in their wildlife. The largest island, Isla Isabella features no less than 6 volcanoes, all of which are active and occasionally erupt. Tourists should consult with their travel agent to ensure that no active or dangerous eruptions are occurring or expected at the time they wish to visit.

The Galapagos are typically reached by air from Ecuadorian cities Quito or Guayaquil. Planes land twice daily on the barren and rocky island of Baltra, from which small planes travel from one island to another. Many tourists opt for a Galapagos Cruise, which is a great way to enjoy all the fun and frivolity cruise ships are famous for while also taking in the sights and sounds of the islands. One should keep in mind the us$100 “National Park Tax” charged to any and all foreign nationals who wish to visit the Galapagos Islands.