Introducing the Galapagos
Introducing the Galapagos
Hans Lagerweij provides an introduction to the Galapagos Islands – the perfect destination for nature and wildlife enthusiasts, active travellers and exploring families.
“The Galapagos are an amazing open-air classroom. No wonder that these islands inspired Darwin, and influenced his theory of natural selection in The Origin of Species!”
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos are an archipelago of 21 islands in the Pacific Ocean, situated about 560 miles west of Ecuador’s mainland. The islands are of volcanic origin and feature their own unique wildlife. Four islands are inhabited, with a population of 25,000 living on just 3% of the islands’ overall land area. The remaining 97% of the archipelago is protected – forming the Galapagos National Park.
The main reason to visit the Galapagos is for its wildlife. A lot of fauna is endemic; animals that only can be found on the Galapagos islands and nowhere else. These include the Galapagos tortoise, Darwin’s finch, Galapagos fur seal, marine iguana, flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin, lava lizard, Galapagos flamingo and Galapagos hawk. Not endemic to the Galapagos, but no less appealing, are the boobies birds, especially the blue-footed boobies.
A lack of human intervention with nature in the Galapagos means that most animals don’t have any natural fear of humans, and can be viewed from just a short distance. You can observe their natural behaviour, such as the stunning mating dance of the blue-footed boobies, and everyone can return home with professional-looking wildlife photographs!
The wildlife in the water is just as spectacular. In the clear water it is easy to spot sea turtles, small sharks, sea lions, sting rays and vividly colored fish in large quantities. You don’t have to be an advanced diver exploring the depths of the ocean – just grab a snorkel and jump in!
The Galapagos is also interesting from a geographical point of view. Due to the volcanic nature of the islands, you can discover unique landscapes, including some still-active volcanoes. You can even crawl through some old (and cold!) lava tubes.
Another attractive feature of the Galapagos is the weather! Being on the equator, the temperatures are always comfortably warm without getting too hot: average temperatures range from 25°C in the cooler, cloudier ‘garua’ season (June to November) to 30°C in the warmer months (December to May). The warmer months are often slightly preferred for travel; although it can be humid, pleasant sunny periods are interspersed with rain showers and the ocean is warmer and clearer making for excellent snorkelling conditions.
Exploring the islands
A cruise is the best way to explore the islands, sailing around uninhabited islands in search of wildlife encounters and snorkeling sites whilst enjoying excellent meals, fantastic sunsets and the chance to relax and make new friends. Smaller yachts carry around 16-20 passengers and are great for intimate wildlife encounters; larger boats offer more space and facilities on board. Galapagos cruises vary in duration and itineraries but I would recommend a minimum of 5 days cruising, ideally up to 7.
Different islands offer different attractions so choose your itinerary based on your own interests – for example the island of Genovesa is one of the best for birding, whilst the western islands of Isabela and Fernandina showcase their volcanic origins with wild landscapes and the occasional eruption. Here you will also find the largest colony of marine iguanas and flightless cormorants, and 90% of the Galapagos penguin population!