These islands are a land that time forgot, for they are cut off from the coast of Ecuador by 1,000 kilometers of water. They hug the equator and are scattered across 17 thousand square miles of ocean, a cluster of 13 major islands, seventeen islets and 47 reefs.
"I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago; it is, that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings" -- Charles Darwin
Sunrise over the Galapagos Islands
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Discovered in 1536, the Galapagos Islands have never been connected to the mainland so the myriads of reptiles, birds, plants and shorefish which drifted or flew to its shores have remained isolated in a unique environment to undergo their own distinct evolution.
A young frigate bird A blue-footed booby
Because of what he saw here, Charles Darwin first conceived the revolutionary theory of "the origin of species". Indeed, so rare are these species, that virtually all the reptiles and half the plants and bird life are found nowhere else in the world.
The Galapagos Islands
A land of breathtaking contrast with grey volcanic rock, parch deserts and lush cool forests located off traditional maritime routes, it is not surprising that the early marinas were disbelieved when they talked about strange flightless birds, fire spitting volcanoes, bubbling black rocks, seaweed eating dragons and tortoises big enough to carry men on their backs.
A wildlife paradise almost prime evil in its splendour, the animals are so tame you can walk among them, swim with them and photograph them up close. Today, the Galapagos Islands are an Ecuadorian National Park with a strict yearly visitor quota limit.
A brown pelican, an endemic sub-species of the Galapagos
Only cruise vessels with permits are allowed on specific islands and then only at certain times. No one is allowed ashore without a qualified naturalist guide. Once on shore, you stick to set paths so that the eco-structure is not spoiled.
Sunset at the Galapagos Islands
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FACTS AT A GLANCE
Climate Tropical heat tempered by the Pacific Ocean breezes.
Clothing Casual. Take good walking shoes, bathing suit and a light jacket for evenings.
Electricity 110 volt generated on cruise vessels only.
Time Zone GMT minus 6 hours.
Currency American dollars or Ecuador sucres
Tipping Expected on cruise vessels.
Visas & Health An entrance fee of US$100 is payable on arrival.
Aerolineas Argentinas and LanChile to South America, then to Equador where the Government-run TAME Airline flies from Quito to Galapagos. San Airlines (non-government) also flies to the Galapagos Islands from Quito.