ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Wild and Wonderful Galapagos Islands

Updated on February 8, 2013

Why visit the Galapagos

In addition to being blessed with great weather throughout the year, the Galapagos islands is where famous evolutionist Charles Darwin did his studies on natural selection to support in his theory of evolution. The islands comprise of hundreds of animal and plant lifeforms that are endemic to the islands. There are evolutionary wonders such as the Darwin finches, fur seals, flamingos, along with giant tortoises and even tropical penguins. A lot of the animals such as seals, iguanas, tortoises and birds are not afraid of people due to a lack of natural predators. You can snap pictures of these animals and have a memory for life. The Galapagos is a place where people love nature with all its biodiversity at its best. In 1959, the Galapagos National Park was established to preserve the island's natural state.

Location

Located 600 miles west of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands were discovered in 1535 by tomas de Berlanga. The islands are volcanic in origin (similar to Hawaii) and is comprised of 16 main islands, 6 smaller islands and 10 rocks and islets. Galapagos are a province of Ecuador and five of the islands are inhabited by people for a total population of about 18,000.

Darwin identified 13 different species of finches in the Galapagos islands, whereas in the mainland there was only one species. He noted how each different finch had a different type of beak and shape based on its diet. Because each finch occupied a select geographical area isolated from other finches, he concluded that the finches had to adapt to different varied conditions on the islands. After many generations of varied diet and isolated reproductive variety, these finches formed different beak shapes.

Most interesting facts of the Animals of the Galapagos

Galapagos Tortoise

These prehistoric looking creatures are one of the most unique symbols of the Galapagos. They are divided into 14 distinct species, 3 which are extinct. They can live from 150 to 200 years. Their name actually gave name to the islands because their carapace reminded Spanish settlers of a type of saddle which was named "galapago". When mating season begins, males will stretch out their necks (see picture below) to see which one of them is the tallest. The tallest tortoise will be the most dominant male and will have the opportunity to mate with a female. I guess in the case of tortoises, size does matter! The tortoises are herbivorous animals (meaning they eat only plants) and by obtaining moisture from the dew below, they can go on long periods without needing to drink water.

The Waved Albatross

The only member of its family that lives in the tropics. They are distinctive for their yellowish-cream neck and head. They also have a long and bright yellow bill. They measure about 34 inches long (86 cm), weigh approximately 7.5 lbs (3.4 kg) and has a wingspan of 2.27 meters long. It lives up to 40 years. They eat mostly fish, squid and crustaceans. They are famous for being spectacular fliers, they can fly for hours at a time without stalling. Breeding is limited to Espanola Island of the Galapagos.

The Marine Iguana

One of the only modern lizards that can live and forage in the sea. Usually black or gray in color because they are cold blooded and they need to conserve as much heat as possible after their sea diving foraging runs. When they are cold, they cannot move very well and in order to avoid predation, they become very agressive. An interesting fact is that they become smaller in size by as much as 20% on seasons where food in not as readily available.

The colorful skin reflects it is ready for mating

Handsome guy, isn't he?

Blue Footed Boobies

They have pointed wings, wedge shaped tails, and excellent binocular vision. It also has permanently closed nostrils for diving. When diving they breathe through the corners of their mouth. They use their blue feet as part of their mating ritual by stomping them on the ground while pulling back their wings. Another interesting fact is that they are monogamous and return to their nests to meet with their partner every 8 months or so.

And no, the images were not redone in photoshop

Flightless Cormorant

This flightless bird has a resticted range and can only be found on two of the Galapagos Islands, the Fernandina and the Isabela. The female lays three eggs, but usually only one survives. The parents both take an active role in feeding and taking care of the baby. The cormorants evolved on an island habitat that was free of predators. Because of this and because of the island's food rich shores, the bird became flightless. These birds do not fear man and can easily be picked up. With introduction of rats can cats to the islands, the existance of these unique and beautiful animals have become threatened.

Galapagos Penguins

My personal favorite of all the Galapagos Island animals, these beautiful penguins are endangered with about 1,500 of them left in 1984. These are the only penguins that live on the equator; they live more north than any other penguin! They are small animals that live in colonies feeding on small fish like mullet and sardine caught while swimming underwater. They are about 14 inches in height with a bluish black head. The strong sun sometimes is a problem for them. They hunch forward to keep the sun from their feet where they can lose heat from their flippers due to the blood flow there. Because of their small size, they have many predators including sharks, seals and fishermen that catch them by mistake.

Awwwwww

Galapagos hawks

about 55 cm from beak to tail with a wingspan of 120 cm. This hawk eats mostly locusts, giant centepedes, iguanas, sea turtle hatchlings, rodents, lizards and snakes. They like to hunt in groups of two or three and when a rotting carcass is spotted, the dominant hawk has to consume it first while the others have to wait. They have no fear and the young can hang around people to beg for food. This hawk is the only predator in existance on the islands.

Sally Light-foot Crab

Initially dark, they grow vermillion as they get older. These crabs move extremely quick and seem to read the mind of the hunter. When you move to the right, they move to the right, when you move quickly, they move quickly as well.

Giant Tortoises of the Galapagos

The Islands of Galapagos

A brief description of some of the main islands

Isabela Island - largest island on in the archipelago, it has 5 volcanos, with Volcano Wolf being the highest. Inside it is Tagus Cove, a great place to see the Galapagos Penguin and the Flightless Cormorant.

Santa Cruz - Second largest island. The small town of Puerto Ayora is the economic center of the archipielago, with the highest population and greatest number of tourist facilities.

Fernandina Island - Youngest and Third largest Island. It has Puerto Espinosa where one can view many animal species including marine iguanas.

Santiago Island - Fourth largest with many sights to see. Puerto Egas is a good spot for pictures and snorkeling.

San Cristobal Island - fifth largest island in the archipielago with second largest population. It has Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the provincial capital, on the Southern Tip.

A trip to the Galapagos for about 10 days will cost you approximately $5,000 per person.

If you are interested in traveling to the Galapagos for your next vacation, here are a handful of resouces that I found. One thing is for sure, it won't be cheap! However, the experience you will get will be unforgettable.

Is a Galapagos vacation good for the entire family? I don't recommend the vacation if you have very young children. You will have to do a lot of walking and ship travel as well. It's more for adventure seekers that LOVE nature at its best!

Scuba Diving in the Galapagos

Galapagos Today

In order to preserve its beauty and its natural habitat with its unique flora and fauna, Ecuador has established specific visitor sites. All visitors are accompanied by licensed Galapagos guides who can describe the beauty of Galapagos as well as enforce the national park rules.

The Galapagos Conservancy (GC), is a non profit organization that has a vision of continuing to preserve this awesome piece of nature. It has helped detect and in some cases eradicate invasive species that have harmed the islands. Among these:

  • Goats introduced by sailor and settlers that are competing with native species for habitat and transforming forests into barren grasslands.
  • Cats introduced by sailor and settlers that target native wildlife, such as birds, snakes and young iguanas.
  • Rats introduced by sailors and settlers have affected many wildlife with diseases and by aggressively competing for food.

To read more about the work of the Galapagos Conservancy foundation and/or to donate, visit the link.

Poll on the Galapagos Animals

What animal of the Galapagos fascinated you the most?

See results

Comment on the Galapagos

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • PizmoBeach LM profile image

      PizmoBeach LM 6 years ago

      This lens is fantastic. I think the photos are superb.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This lens is awesome. I love it. I am going to tell my editors on my Thai News website to write something about this lens and probably feature it.

      I will comment here again once we do.

      Great Work

    • ElizaRayner profile image

      Eliza Rayner 7 years ago from Boulder, Colorado

      I just found this page and really loved it so I am adding it to my newest lens - a few of my favorite things. plus 5 stars. I dream of going to the Galapagos some day, it fascinates me as an animal lover and biology teacher.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 8 years ago

      Wonderful footage and great pictures. Thank you for sharing. Enjoyed it very much

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 8 years ago from USA

      Congratulations and welcome to the Giants program! Well done!

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 8 years ago

      My friend just got back from here and I'm soooo jealous! Nice job. 5*

    • stoetzels lm profile image

      stoetzels lm 8 years ago

      I want to escape and live on this island....

    • EelKat13 profile image

      EelKat13 8 years ago

      I love turtles... we live near a swamp so big snappers are always getting hit by cars, I end up nursing injured snapping turtles back to health almost every summer. Everyone I know is scared of them, because they are really mean, and their beaks are wicked sharp (can snap your finger off in one bite if your not careful) but I just pick them up. I've been doing it so long now, that I can pick them up without getting bitten, because I know how to handle them. After a week or so they get really tame and can be hand feed by anyone. Once they are well again I take them back out to the swamp and let them go.

    • EelKat13 profile image

      EelKat13 8 years ago

      When I was about 4 or 5 years old, we went to a zoo that had a Galapagos Giant Tortoise and they let me ride on his back. We got a picture of me somewhere, it's of me sitting on the turtle's back. That was back in the 1970's when zoos would let anyone touch the animals. WOW, I bet you couldn't do that today!

      The one in the zoo was a small one, about the size of a German Shepard dog. I've always wanted to see one of the full grown ones though.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 8 years ago

      This place is definitely on my list. Nice lens

    • profile image

      littlemisspiggy 9 years ago

      beautiful! very nice. 5* from me. :)

      pretty photos.

    • rebeccahiatt profile image

      rebeccahiatt 9 years ago

      Awesome lens, gorgeous photos.

    • Shellonline LM profile image

      Shellonline LM 9 years ago

      This lens is awesome! The photos are absolutely amazing. Excellent job!!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 9 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Very nice lens, love the photos. 5*****

    • annetteghallowe1 profile image

      annetteghallowe1 9 years ago

      Hi again! I forgot to add that I found your lens at the Give and Take Group!

    • annetteghallowe1 profile image

      annetteghallowe1 9 years ago

      Hi and thanks for a great lens. I have always had the Galapagos on my short list of place I will visit one day. I had no idea about the blue footed boobie bird! I am making this a favorite for my travel resource pages!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Hi there, thanks for visiting my lens..

      This is really an interesting lens....

      =D

    • beeobrien lm profile image

      beeobrien lm 9 years ago

      Incredible lens. I love the photos! Thank you for so much information.

    • The Homeopath profile image

      The Homeopath 9 years ago

      I don't know if it's still in print or not, but you should see if Amazon has "Galapagos, Discovery on Darwin's Islands" by David Steadman and Steven Zousmer. The work of brothers David and Lee Steadman is gorgeous!!! I've had this book for about 20 years and I never tire of looking at the photography and illustration plates. Great lens!

    • profile image

      nkobayashi 9 years ago

      Awesome lens! I've learned alot, thanks for the info! P.S. love the pics!

    • K Linda profile image

      K Linda 9 years ago

      Fantastic photos! The Galapagos have been on my go to list for sometime. Someday! 5*'s and a lensroll.

    • triathlontraini1 profile image

      triathlontraini1 9 years ago

      Beautiful lens! I'd love to visit the Galopogos some day! 5*

    • Amanda Blue profile image

      Amanda Blue 9 years ago

      Oh golly all this is just too marvelous for words. BLUEFOOTED Boobies?!! These untampered-with islands seem to be the stuff of dreams but are simply the stuff of natural reality if we would just leave it alone! The photos are divine.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Fantastic lens! Super informative. 5 stars!

    • profile image

      bdkz 9 years ago

      Awesome lens and great photos! I gave you 5 Stars and a Squid Angel Blessing!

    • TopStyleTravel profile image

      TopStyleTravel 9 years ago

      Beautiful pictures. I once saw an IMAX film on this island. It is on my list of places to visit.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      Welcome to All Things Travel. I'm also featuring your gorgeous lens on my Squid Angel Diary this week!

    • raswook profile image

      Jeff Wendland 9 years ago from Kalamazoo, MI

      Beautiful pictures, the blue feet on that bird are really something. Squid Angel blessings.

    • carrieokier profile image

      carrieokier 9 years ago

      Really nice job. I would love to visit. Maybe one day!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Incredible Lens 5* plus and welcome to Travelmania Group!

      Online travel booking and worldwide destination guides

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      Great lens! The pictures are awesome. As a science teacher I dream of visiting the Galapagos Islands. It would be the ultimate vacation.

      5 stars and lensroll to several of my bird lenses.

      Liz

    • Barkely profile image

      Barkely 9 years ago

      Wow! It's beautiful. I love the photos. Especially the tortoises an the blue footed boobies. Definitely worth a Squid Angel blessing.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 9 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Incredible creatures! God is a Master Designer! Great lens! Now I want to go.