Six Fun Facts about the Galapagos Islands
Discover Darwin's Playground
Find yourself stepping into a National Geographic documentary as you embark on an adventure brimming with surreal landscapes, captivating history, and fascinating endemic species. There are hundreds of reasons the Galapagos Islands provide an enchanting and unique travel experience, so let’s discover some of our favorite fun facts!
1. Tortoise Namesake
The first thing most people think when imagining the Galapagos Islands is the Galapagos Giant Tortoises that inhabit the region. This is fitting because the name of these islands is said to have stemmed from the tortoises. “Galapago” is the Spanish word for riding saddle, and was used by explorers to describe the giant tortoises that live on the islands with their iconic saddle-like shells. These gentle giants often live well over a century, making them one of the longest-lived vertebrates on the planet. There are several subspecies endemic to different islands within the archipelago. They are thought to be decedents of mainland tortoises that washed ashore in the Galapagos long ago.
2. Endemic Organisms
The islands are home to many species of plants and animals that can be found nowhere else on earth, also known as endemic species. About 80% of the land birds, 97% of the reptiles and land mammals, 20% of the marine species, and 30% of the plants are endemic. The best recognized of these animals are the five types of giant tortoises and the marine iguana, the only sea-faring iguana in the world. There are many types of birds on the islands, the most iconic tend to be the three species of Boobies. The Red-Footed use branches for nesting whereas the Blue-Footed nest inland. Flightless Cormorants are another bird-watcher’s dream sighting. They are the only one of their kind to have lost their ability to fly, with wings around one third of the size required for flight. Discover the only penguin found in the Northern Hemisphere, the Galapagos Penguin, who has adapted to this warm-weather climate by walking with their flippers over their sensitive feet on the hot rocky terrain.
It’s no mystery the islands capture the imagination, including that of British Scientist and Theorist Charles Darwin. Follow in his footsteps as you explore the very same sites he visited in 1835. Learn first-hand from naturalists about Darwin’s studies of the local flora and fauna that helped shape the theory of evolution in his publication The Origin of Species. He noted distinctions between tortoises, finches, and hummingbirds that varied from island to island and how they evolved based on natural selection.
4. All Days Are Created Equal
The Galapagos Islands are located near the equator, providing idyllic weather year-round. While there are two distinct seasons on the islands, turning the landscape from lush tropical paradises to barren tropical deserts, both seasons provide unique and unforgettable experiences. The temperature averages between 79-86 degrees Fahrenheit all year. Every day provides 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness, offering plenty of time to encounter tons of wildlife, including nocturnal species.
5. No Fear!
The lack of large predators on the islands means animals have very little natural fear of humans. You will likely find yourself face-to-face with some of the local inhabitants, including fuzzy fur seals, ancient giant tortoises, spiny lizards, countless birds, and maybe even a dolphin! For this reason there are key rules in place to help protect the environment and animals that inhabit the islands. In fact, the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, a biosphere reserve in 1985, a marine reserve in 1986, and a whale sanctuary in 1990.
6. Shaking Things Up
Located on a three-way tectonic plate junction, the archipelago is comprised of 20 islands and countless islets resulting from numerous volcanic eruptions. Because of the constant seismic and volcanic activity, the archipelago is constantly morphing. The oldest island of Espanola, estimated to be 3.5 million years old, is slowly sinking while the youngest islands, estimated around one million years old, are still forming. To keep things extra electrifying, the North and South Equatorial, Panama, Cromwell, and Humboldt ocean currents also converge at the islands, making for unpredictable ocean currents and water temperature.
How to Explore
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