Ecuador's Galapagos Archipelago, Part 1 - REASONS TO VISIT
12/20/2021POSTED BY IGNACIO MAZA
I visited Ecuador's mainland and its Galapagos Archipelago earlier this month. While I have the trip fresh on my mind, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you, including reasons to visit, a great expedition ship in this market, and practical advice.
Before I get started, the obvious question: Why visit? No question - it takes some effort to get to the Galapagos. The islands are located about 620 Miles/1000 Kms. West of the Ecuadorean mainland. Visitors normally fly to either Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE), spend the night, then fly to the main airport at Baltra Island (GPS). Because 97% of the archipelago is a protected national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are forms to fill out prior to arriving, and a park admission fee that every visitor must pay. In addition, the Galapagos is an expensive trip. Having said all of this, is the destination worth the effort? The answer is absolutely YES.
Here are 7 reasons why The Galapagos are so special:
Nature's Showcase. The Galapagos has the highest concentration of endemic not found anywhere else - over 1,000 indigenous birds, plants, fish, and mammals. Think iguanas that swim, flightless birds, the only penguins north of the equator, blue and red footed birds, and - giant tortoises that live up to 150 years and can weigh 800 lbs. The Galapagos are a world apart.
Wildlife without fear. Because the islands are very remote and have been isolated for so long, wildlife has nothing to fear. There are few predators and most of the archipelago is a protected national park. Don't be surprised if sea lions swim with you when you snorkel. Birds will sit right next to you. Giant iguanas sit undisturbed on the beach. You are the visitor. The wildlife is home.
A landscape like no other. The archipelago is 'oceanic', this is to say the islands rose up from the ocean floor millions of years ago, and were never part of any land mass. There are 13 active volcanoes spread out over the islands, and evidence of volcanic activity is everywhere. Every island is different and as you explore the archipelago you will see lava flows and landscapes that look like the surface of the moon. Some islands have green highlands and forests. Expect to be surprised.
Range of activities. You can explore the Galapagos on foot, skirting the coast on a zodiac, kayaking along the shore, and swimming, snorkeling, and diving - both near the coast, and out in the ocean. It's up to you how much you want to do and how you want to experience the islands.
Beaches in every color of the rainbow. You'll find black, grey, white, ochre, and red sand beaches. I also visited a beach that had sand of a light olive green color. The beaches are amazing, but -- the ocean water temperatures tends to be cold most of the year, due to the strong Humboldt Antarctic current coming up the West Coast of South America.
Nineteen islands to explore. The Galapagos islands are very close to each other. On a typical cruise, you have the opportunity to visit 6-10 different islands. The proximity facilitates your being able to see more in a short time.
Walk in Darwin's Footsteps. In 1835, a young scientist named Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos. His research and observation of endemic species in the islands and how they adapted over millions of years helped him form the Theory of Evolution, which changed how science views life on earth forever. As you make your way through the islands, you will see a "living natural museum" that continues to evolve. Don't miss the Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island.