The Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a very special place on Earth to visit that few people ever get the chance to see. With their fierce combination of dazzling natural beauty, untouched landscapes, biodiversity and unique wildlife, it’s no wonder why it features at the top of many traveler’s bucket list.
Here are 5 amazing facts about the Galapagos Island that makes it so special.
1. VOLCANOES OF THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
The Galapagos is a group of Islands made up of 13 major islands, 6 smaller islands, and scores of islets, located about 1,000km offshore from mainland Ecuador. Numerous dynamic volcanic eruptions and continuous streams of lava oozing up from the ocean floor over time formed the Galapagos Islands and gave them their distinctive conical shape, along with steep slopes that rise-up fiercely from the sea level.
Some volcanoes are still active, with occasional eruptions. The most recent eruption was May 2015, from the highest volcano on Isabella Island.
2. MUSEUM OF EVOLUTION
Galapagos Islands are renowned for being a ‘museum of evolution’. The great distance to land makes it too challenging for many small animals to cross thus creating an island brimming with unique flora and fauna such as iguanas, fur seals, sea lions, sharks, rays, and 26 species of native birds. Shortly after Charles Darwin arrived in 1835 he penned his theory of natural selection, in “The Origin of Species” published in 1859, that will forever change our understanding of the natural world. He observed how several species of finches had many physical variations unique to different islands, as well as how it is possible to determine which island a tortoise came from by the shape of its shell.
Photos: John Jackson; Kookr, Flickr Creative Commons
3. THE BLUE FOOTED BOOBY
A famous inhabitant of the Galapagos Island is the blue footed booby.
Blue-footed boobies with their clown like feet often appear rather comical and are notoriously clumsy-looking on land. The name “booby” derives from the Spanish term bobo meaning “stupid”, “foolish” or “dummy”.
Their distinctive courtship dance is truly a sight to behold, consisting of fancy footwork to flaunt their blue feet and head bopping. Witnessing a blue footed booby courtship dance is a highlight of any Galapagos Island tour.
4. DISTINCTIVE WILDLIFE OF THE GALAPAGOS
With a treasure trove of endemic species, the Galapagos Islands are renowned for their unique wildlife. Some of the unique animals include:
Galapagos Marine Iguana, the only lizard in the world which feeds in a marine environment; Galapagos Penguin, the only penguin to live permanently north of the equator in the wild; Galapagos Cormorants, the only cormorant in the world that has evolved so much in size that it has lost the ability to fly and a carnivorous 30cm long centipede.
5. TORTOISE & LONESOME GEORGE
The giant tortoise is probably the most iconic species of the Galapagos. In fact, the name Galapagos means saddle in Spanish and is a reference to the tortoise’s shell. The shape of their shell varies depending on the island from which they originate. Those on larger islands have dome shaped shells whereas those that live in drier conditions have saddleback shells. They are thought to have some of the longest life spans of any creature on Earth, up to 150 years.
On June 24, 2012, the world famous giant tortoise affectionately known as Lonesome George passed away, at approximately 100 years old. He was the last surviving land tortoise from Pinta Island.
If you’re looking to explore a truly unique and quirky paradise on Earth, then a visit to the Galapagos Islands is a must. Make sure to include a cruise to The Galapagos in any South America tour.
Explore our Galapagos Island Tours or speak to one of our destination specialists to customise your journey of a lifetime. Phone us on 02 43512133