In Nature’s Lap Galapagos Islands
Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, are the Galápagos Islands, discovered by chance in 1535 by Father Tomás Berlanga, Bishop of Panama. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 1978, this cluster of archipelago islands have been distributed on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean. Renowned as a ‘melting pot’ of marine species, the formation of Galapagos Islands traces its origin to volcanoes erupting violently out of the sea. This resulted in a number of plant and animal species, led to the development of unusual animal life, which evolved independently on different islands. Darwin, during the voyage of the Beagle, made these observations which significantly contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. The Galapagos Islands, was claimed by newly-independent Ecuador in 1832.
The Galapagos Islands constitute 13 volcanic islands and more than 100 islets. From scenery as varied as green highlands, turquoise bays and tropical beaches, every island has its own unique climate, distinctive landscape and wildlife. In order to preserve this spectacle of nature and prevent it from overcrowding, strict controls on tourist access are maintained. In fact, tourists can only visit certain sections of the national park by walking on marked trails accompanied by local certified guides at all landing sites.
Galapagos Islands are one tourist destination for which it is very difficult to state the best time to visit, as not only every season but every month has something to offer, in terms of wildlife activities. Essentially, the Galapagos Islands experience a variable climate. Broadly, there are two seasons here. In the months of December to June, the average temperatures are in the range of 26°-30° C. The humidity is high in these months, resulting in occasional showers. However, the mornings are bright and sunny. From June to November, the average temperatures range between 20°-24° C during day. The temperature tends to dip lower during night. Usually, the busiest periods are December to January and July to August. Wildlife enthusiasts ought to note that July to September is the best period to witness most seabird activity. December is the month for hatching giant tortoise eggs which begin their egg-laying in January.
In order to reach Galapagos Islands, your first destination is Ecquador. Since Galapagos Islands are situated at a distance of nearly 1,000 km off of Ecuador’s coast, the best way to travel is by taking a domestic flight. There are two airports in Galapagos: Baltra Island and San Cristobal Island. For exploring the Galapagos Islands, the most practical way is to go by live-aboard boats, which travel between islands, and make different stops each day. As for the currency in circulation, it is the US dollar which is accepted here.
As mentioned before, Galapagos Islands is a cluster of numerous islands. Some of the important ones which tourists should not miss include:
• Floreana Island: This is among the quieter islands in the Galapagos, away from the other crowded tourist spots. This is one of the best islands for snorkelling, through which you can spy on sea turtles and dolphins.
• Isabela Island: Largest of the Galapagos Islands, Isabela Island is home to the Sierra Negra Volcano. Unexpected sights of sea lions, iguanas, and even sharks resting in a lively lagoon are likely to greet visitors here.
• Santa Cruz Island: The most popular of the Galapagos Islands, this island is a must-see. To celebrate, sun-bathe, and enjoy good food, tourists make it a point to visit Santa Cruz Island.
• Charles Darwin Research Station: A short walk from Puerto Ayora, this is the best place to learn the history of the Galapagos and her wildlife. The tour also includes a glimpse of the station’s tortoise rearing and breeding project.
Galapagos Islands have numerous culinary delights to offer, if you’re willing to experiment. Encocados. (Fish in a coconut cream sauce), Locro (a creamy potato soup with avocado and cheese), sopa de quinoa, and llapingachos (potato croquettes) are some of the must haves when exploring Galapagos Islands.
To enjoy nature at its pristine best, plan a trip to Galapagos Islands.