Few places in the world (if indeed any) can boast such a unique diversity of animals and plants as can be found on the Galapagos islands. These 19 tiny volcanic islands have been created within the last 4 million years, making them some of the newest bits of land on our planet.

Sitting 600 miles west of the Ecuadorian mainland, the species that settled here arrived by air or sea and made their way along their own distinct evolutionary path.

It is no wonder that Charles Darwin took such an interest in the wildlife of the islands when he arrived in his ship the Beagle in 1835, discovering species that he found to be very different from anything previously seen.

Darwin’s first interest had been in the volcanic craters that he found on the islands, noting not only the impressive quantity but also their size. Soon however his attention turned to the animals that he encountered and how they differed from island to island. The tortoises and finches had lived isolated on their own islands for many thousands of years and in his latest published works Darwin pointed to these findings to propose his ground-breaking theory of evolution.

One of the first things that visitors to the Galapagos islands notice is that many of the animals are not afraid of human visitors. With no predators and plenty of food to support the population the over-riding behaviour trait of animals here is their curiosity.
It’s not unusual for seals to come right up to tourists sitting on the beach or for birds to waddle quite happily up to the lens of a camera.

Visitors invariably marvel at the strange species that they encounter on the islands. The big draws are the blue-footed booby and winged albatross, while many tourists are keen to meet Lonesome George, the 100 year old tortoise and last surviving specimen of Pinta Island tortoise.

Visitor numbers to the Galapagos Islands are tightly controlled and there is a limited amount of hotel space with most tourists staying off-shore as part of a multi-day cruise package. As a result it’s advisable to book a trip to the islands several months ahead. The Galapagos Island are becoming an increasingly popular destination. Given the unique experiences and species on display it’s easy to see why.

Visit our special site for more information on Galapagos holidays.

by Andy Jarosz