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Take a trip to the fascinating Galapagos Islands off Ecuador’s coast

Galapagos Islands
Beach at Tortuga Negra, Isabela by Allan Harris CC BY-ND 2.0 

The Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage site, situated in the Pacific Ocean around 1,000 km off the Ecuadorian coast. The archipelago of islands and the surrounding huge marine reserve has been dubbed a unique "living museum and showcase of evolution.”

It is one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world due to its location at the confluence of three ocean currents. The ongoing seismic and volcanic activity in the area that formed the islands, along with the archipelago’s extreme isolation, led to the development of unusual plant and animal life, including many species like the giant tortoises, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, huge cacti and endemic trees, along with many different subspecies of birds including mockingbirds and finches.
Red Footed Booby in the Galapagos Islands
Red footed booby by Allan Harris CC BY-ND 2.0 

The diversity of the ecosystem in the Galapagos Islands inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit there back in 1835.

Diving in the Galapagos Marine Reserve

The marine reserve of the Galapagos Islands is an underwater spectacle of abundant marine life, with everything ranging from corals, to marine mammals, sharks and penguins. This makes the islands a unique site to experience diving with a huge diversity of marine life forms. These life forms are so familiar with humans they even accompany divers while in the water.
Moray Eel in the Galapagos Islands
Moray eel by Fabio Wakim Trentini CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Flora and fauna in the Galapagos Islands

Ever since Charles Darwin published “Voyage of the Beagle” back in 1839, the flora and fauna of the islands have become well known, including the many finches, mockingbirds, seabirds, marine iguanas, sea lions, giant tortoises, turtles, land snails and many unique plant and insect groups.
Green turtle in the Galapagos Islands
Green turtle by Allan Harris CC BY-ND 2.0

Cruising the Galapagos Islands

One of the best ways to see the area is via a cruise in the Galapagos. According to Nature Galapagos, there are several options available from a budget boat to a high-end motor yacht, offering the best in security and comfort while cruising around the islands for a period of anything from four to eight days.
Cruising in the Galapagos Islands
Elizabeth Bay sunrise by Allan Harris CC BY-ND 2.0

Getting to the Galapagos Islands

Access to the Galapagos Islands is via the airports on two of the islands, namely Baltra (pictured below) and San Cristobal, where various commercial and passenger planes fly in from continental Ecuador. There is a further airport on Isabela Island, which is mostly limited to inter-island traffic. All the inhabited islands have ports where they receive merchandise and supplies.

The uninhabited islands in the Galapagos are strictly controlled and can only be visited via carefully planned tourist itineraries, thereby limiting visitation.

There are around 30,000 people living in the Galapagos Islands on a regular basis and the area receives approximately 170,000 tourists each year.
Flying into the Galapagos Islands
Baltra Island Yacht basin by Alan CC BY 2.0

2016 Ecuador earthquakes in the news

While Ecuador was subjected to earthquakes during April 2016, these fortunately had no bad effects on the Galapagos Islands. According to a recent blog, anyone planning a trip to Galapagos in and around April 2016 should not be concerned, as all airports except that in Salinas are currently operating.

As reported by Travel and Leisure, while there was a tsunami alert at the time, this was lifted on Saturday, April 16 and all parks, nature reserves and public tourism sites that were closed for 24 hours for damage inspections are now open and available for visiting.
Iguana in the Galapagos Islands
Iguana by Roderick Eime CC BY 2.0


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