Following in Darwin's Footsteps
Look around and you will understand why this is the place where Darwin's theory of evolution was born. The Galapagos Islands are a place where the weird and wonderful adapt and thrive. There are tortoises that grow to 900 pounds and live for 100 years, iguanas that dive for their dinner, penguins living 5,000 miles away from polar regions, birds that don't fly, and others that inflate their chests like bright red balloons to attract a mate. In all, there are several hundred species of plants and animals found nowhere else on earth, all of which can be discovered on an island-hopping itinerary that takes in a fantastic range of ecosystems and experiences.
- Best for: Active travelers with an interest in wildlife
- Best season to visit: Year round
- Weather: During the season known as the garúa (June - Nov), coastal temperatures are in the low 70s. Fog may conceal the islands and drizzles can last most of the day. During the warm season from Dec - May, temps rise to the high 70s on the water
Animal Interactions in Galapagos
The 21 volcanic islands and hundred-plus rock pinnacles of the Galapagos are home to the world's greatest number of endemic species. Each island offers a unique range of microclimates, and a wide variety of different plants and animals have adapted to fill each of these ecological niches. There are few other places on earth where so many different environments can be found in a relatively small area.
Animal Interactions in Galapagos Tips
The giant Galapagos tortoise is the most famous animal found on these islands, but there are many unique and fascinating species to discover. To take in the full diversity requires a multi-day, multi-island itinerary. Caradonna can coordinate tours of four to eight-day durations that take in a wide range of ecosystems, and include adventures such as hikes, sea kayaking and snorkeling.
Best Places for Animal Interactions in Galapagos
Giant Galapagos tortoises thrive at Los Gemelos. Galapagos penguins, flamingos and Galapagos hawks gather at Pinnacle Rock. Sea Turtles and manta rays move about the shallow water of Franklin Bay. Seymour Island is a rookery for blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. The shores of South Plaza are home to a large sea lion colony, while land iguanas roam the arid interior. Darwin's famous finches can be seen at Garrapatero Beach.
What to Pack for Animal Interactions in Galapagos
Sturdy walking shoes for inland and sandals for the beach. Changing weather conditions call for a mixed wardrobe that includes a sun hat and sunglasses, swimsuit, rain jacket and light evening cover up. Include a day pack to hold jackets, cameras and extra water. Pick up a compact guidebook for species identification, or download an app to the smartphone.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry Requirements: All Americans are required to present a valid passport that must be valid for 6 months beyond your date of entry into the country. Proof of onward or return ticket may also be required and you should have one blank page in your passport for entry stamp. Visas are not required, but you will be required to pay a $100 park fee for diving, sometimes in cash. All persons must pay for a $20 Galapagos Visitor Card.
Although no vaccines are required for entry into Ecuador/Galapagos, it is always advisable to check with your doctor and The Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations.
Culture and Customs
Europeans discovered the then uninhabited Galapagos Islands by accident when a Spanish ship was becalmed and drifted with the currents. The islands first appeared on maps around 1570, where they were named "Insulae de Los Galopegos" (Islands of the Tortoises) in reference to the giant tortoises found there. The Galapagos giant tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise on earth, weighing up to 900 pounds, with a lifespan of over 100 years. The islands became a base for pirates, and later whalers, who also harvested the island's abundant fur seals, and put a significant dent in the tortoise population. The 1800s saw the arrival of colonists who managed to eke out subsistence livings through a combination of farming, ranching fishing and mining. Of the region’s 18 primary islands, only five are inhabited: Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. Together, they are now home to some 25,000 people. The largest ethnic group is composed of Ecuadorian Mestizos, the mixed descendants of Spanish colonists and indigenous Native Americans, who arrived mainly in the last century from the continental part of Ecuador. Some descendants of the early European and American colonists also remain on the islands. Today, tourism is the largest sector of the local economy, attracting more than 200,000 visitors each year.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in the Galapagos is 110 volts, 60 cycles, so no adapter is generally needed for U.S. Visitors. Some outlets are only 2 prong outlets so a 3 prong adapter may be needed. The country code for Galapagos is 593. Check with your cell phone provider for international phone and data plans. Some hotels offer WiFi. If traveling by liveaboard, usually only satellite phones are an option.
Drinking tap water is not recommended. It is best to drink bottled water or purified water may be supplied by many resorts.
Language & Currency
Spanish is the official language, but English is widely spoken. The local currency is the U.S. dollar, which the Ecuadorian government adopted as its national currency in 2000.
The Galapagos observes Galapagos Island Time, referred to as GALT. It is 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-6 GMT). The Galapagos Islands do not observe Daylight Savings Time.
Location, Size and Population
The Galapagos are a volcanic archipelago of islands on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are part of Ecuador and located approximately 600 miles west of the mainland. There are 18 main islands each having a land area of at least 1 square Kilometer and some much larger. The islands include Baltra (8 square miles), Bartolome, Darwin, Espanola (37 square miles), Fernandina, Floreana (107 square miles), Genovesa, Isabela (1803 square miles), Marchena (50 square miles), North Seymour, Pinta (23 square miles), Pinzon, Rabida, San Cristobal (215 square miles), Santa Cruz, Sante Fe (9 square miles), Santiago (221 square miles) and Wolf. There are some minor islands as well, like Daphne Major, South Plaza Island, Nameless Island and Roca Redonda.
The population of the Galapagos Islands is slightly over 25,000. This does not include 1,800 temporary residents or 5,000 irregular residents.