The Galápagos Islands are possibly Ecuador’s most valuable asset, located roughly 620 miles off the coast. They are home to a mere 25,000 inhabitants. Charles Darwin brought fame to the islands when he used his observations and findings to support his theory of evolution by natural selection. You can’t blame him, the islands are home to animal species which are found nowhere else on the planet. Nowadays, the Galápagos serve as living laboratory to research for instance birds such as blue-footed boobies, flamingoes, penguins, and albatrosses, or other wildlife, including giant tortoises. Here, you will also find white-sand beaches and cactus forests.
UNESCO declared the marine reserve a World Natural Heritage Site and 97% of this archipelago are protected by the government. It certainly is one of the world’s most exciting places to snorkel and scuba dive in, as you will swim among manta rays, whales, turtles, sharks, or seals - just to name a few.
In total there are 18 main islands and three smaller ones, and 107 rocks and islets, making up 3,040 square miles of landmass. The Galápagos are not only located on the Nazca tectonic plate, which moves 2.5 inches southeast each year, but also sits atop the “Galápagos Hotspot”. This is where a mantle plume melts Earth’s crust resulting in volcanoes. As a result, Galápagos youngest islands Fernandina and Isabela are still growing and being formed.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the capital of the Galapagos Islands and is located on San Cristóbal Island. Its attractions include El Junco Lake, León Dormido (Kicker Rock), Lobos Island, and Cerro Tijeretas (Frigate Bird Hill). On Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station has been working on various conservation projects for several decades. There, you can see the ancient giant Galapagos tortoises, which live for an average of 150 years. Floreana, Genovesa, Santiago, Española, Seymour Norte, Plazas, Santa Fé, and Isabela islands are all home to a large range of endemic species that live in this paradise.