Galapagos tours should be on everyone's bucket list. A haven for endemic wildlife and a proverbial living Eden, close encounters with the Galapagos Islands' amazing and unique inhabitants are every nature enthusiasts dream. Prepare to be enchanted by the spectacular volcanic landscapes and shimmering blue waters of this remarkable archipelago, home to Darwin's famous finches, giant tortoises, sea lions, iguanas and many more magical flora and fauna. Rainforest Cruises has selected some of the best Galapagos cruise expedition ships to make your once-in-a-lifetime adventure to the most iconic marine habitat the best yet.
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Galapagos Adventure of a Lifetime
The Galapagos Islands are a magical and almost mythical isolated archipelago. It's no wonder that for centuries they were called the Enchanted Isles by many sailors and to this day continue to amaze visitors of all ages. Chosen by UNESCO as a natural World Heritage Site, the Galapagos Islands possess an astounding range of marine life, and its volcanic formation and activity give the islands a striking variety of landscapes.
A Galapagos Islands cruise is an incredible and unforgettable experience. Explore the environment that amazed Charles Darwin and contributed to his Theory of Evolution, with its collection of exotic and unusual endemic species that wander as freely and fearlessly today as they ever have. Each day will take you to new, rich and varied sites. You may be snorkeling among sea turtles, playful sea lions, or Galapagos Penguins. On land bask in the sun alongside Galapagos land iguanas or relax in green meadows with the giant tortoises. You could even climb to the rim of one of the largest volcano craters in the world.
About the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are a group of 19 main volcanic islands distributed on both sides of the Equator 575 miles west of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Contrary to popular belief, five of the islands have a human population with some 25,000 people inhabiting the archipelago year-round. The majority of these people live in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, the commercial center of the Galapagos.
The formation of the islands is still somewhat of a mystery to scientists, yet there are numerous credible theories. The most accepted theory lies with the involvement of tectonic plates and hot spot volcanism. The Galapagos Islands are situated on top of a hot mantle that essentially burns through the Earths crust creating volcanic activity. In these areas, continuous volcanic eruptions eventually pile on top of each other until the volcanic earth is eventually pushed above the surface of the ocean. This is how the islands were created. Furthermore, as the tectonic plates shift, the volcanic activity moves with it. Therefore, the newer islands are constantly being created to the west and the older islands remain to the east. It is for this reason that the islands to the west are much bigger and newer (2 million years old), whereas the islands to the east are much older (5 million years old) and smaller, either partially under water or completely under water.
Galapagos Wildlife & Climate
The islands boast one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world and the unique wildlife is known to be completely fearless due to a lack of natural predators inhabiting the archipelago. Around 20% of the indigenous wildlife can be found nowhere else on the globe. Famous species that inhabit the island include; the Galapagos Giant tortoise that can weigh up to 450 pounds and typically live for over 100 years; the Marine iguana, a lizard that can live and feed in the ocean; the Galapagos penguin which is the only penguin to live natively north of the equator; and the Waved albatross, the only member of the diomedeidae family inhabiting a tropical region.
The climate in the Galapagos can drastically vary and there are generally two seasons. The hot and rainy season occurs between December and June: high humidity is common and average temperatures reach 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit. There is some rainfall but it comes in patches and for the most, the days are sunny and warm. This period is normally the most active time to travel amongst tourists as the temperature is warmer and the sea is calmer. The dry season occurs between July and November and the temperature is normally lower, hovering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It is normally cloudy with an occasional light drizzle, yet sunshine often prevails and the animals tend to be more active in this period. Nevertheless, the islands are a truly remarkable spectacle to appreciate at any point in the year.
The History of the Galapagos
The islands are reported to have first been discovered in 1535 by a Spanish bishop of Panama, Fray Tomás de Berlanga, when his ship sailed off course whilst en-route to Peru. Up until the early 19th century, the islands were used as a base for English pirates who attacked Spanish ships that were carrying gold and silver from South America back to Spain. The islands were also commonly used as a hunting ground for Humpback whales, sea lions and the famous Giant tortoise, which almost became extinct. It was not until 1959 that the Ecuadorian government turned the islands into a protected national park, but illegal poachers continue to hunt the animals even today.
There are numerous reasons as to how these endemic species arrived on the islands but they largely originate from mainland South America. Some animals like rice rats, tortoises and iguanas are believed to have survived rough storms. They were able to hang onto tree branches or other clumps of vegetation before being washed out to sea and drifting towards the shores of the Galapagos. Animals like birds and bats flew from the mainland, having been driven away by a storm or a predator and finally larger flightless animals like penguins and sea lions most likely arrived on the Galapagos shores, having drifted from their homes by a storm.