The Galapagas Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and 2009 is the 200th Anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. The English naturalist visited the islands in September 1835 during the second voyage of HMS Beagle, a Royal Navy survey vessel. His observations and research there and elsewhere, became the basis of his Modern Evolution Theory, proving that all species evolved over time from common ancestors. A classic example found on the Galapagos Islands is the Marine Iguana which evolved from the Land Iguana which had to take to the ocean to obtain food.
The Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago, straddles the Equator, 973 Km off the coast of Ecuador. The group consists of 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands and 107 rocks and islets. The oldest island is thought to have been formed 5-10 million years ago whereas Isabela and Fernandina Islands are still in formation. Cerro Azul Mountain on Isabela, erupted in 2008.
Many rare species of birds and reptiles inhabit this rare eco system. These include the previously mentioned Marine Iguana, which is totally indifferent to humans and it enjoys a basic diet of algae.
The Galapagos Hawk has less than 150 mating pairs. It has wing spans of up to four feet. Another very interesting bird is the Frigatebird, it makes a habit of stealing catches from others. The male has a bright red airsack and a wonderful head-shaking routine when mating. The Nocturnal Swallow Tailed Gull often follows cruise vessels, feeding on the night-swimming marine life. The Mocking Birds do not actually mock the calls of other birds and live off lizards, small fishes and insects. They have no obvious fear of people and will often follow you out of curiosity.
Other interesting species include the colorful Sally Lightfoot Crab a most photogenic creature, growing more vermilion in colour as it grows older. The Land Iguanas perhaps not as attractive to look at, feed on raw cactus, spines and all! Marine Turtles, eat algae like the Marine Iguana and can hold their breath for hours, allowing swimmers to join them!
The Galapagos Penguins were allegedly stranded by the Humboldt Current on the islands. Finally, the Blue-Footed Boobie Birds are perhaps the most famous. Named after the Spanish word for Clown, their courtship dance has to be seen to be believed and they also seem indifferent to human company.
With the wide spread nature of the archipelago, the only practical way to view each island is by sea. You have a choice of Cruise Ship or Motor Yachts which provide Galapagos Island Tours. A typical cruise ship is up to 300 feet in length and provides all the expected facilities of an hotel. Its speed enables you to see more of the Galapagos in less time. All ships carry a team of naturalist to prepare passengers for the excursions on the islands.
A typical luxury motor yacht carries around 30 passengers allowing personal service and a familiar atmosphere. With suites, cabins, air conditioning, library, bars and a clinic etc, they have all the facilities of a much larger cruise vessel.
With its equatorial location, the islands are blessed with good weather all year round. June to December is the Dry Season with blue skies and often mid-day showers. During this period mammals and land birds are active with sea birds performing courtship rituals. December to May is the Warm Season, with more tropical weather. There are specific breeding patterns and you should check these if you have a particular bird or mammal in mind. In October the Albatross arrive and commence their breeding courtship. No matter the date, you will find amazing wildlife activity.
The isolation and late discovery of the Galapagos Islands, together with an absence of predators has made for a unique environment and examples of evolution not seen anywhere else. Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and enjoy this wildlife showcase on one of the wonderful Galapagos Island Tours.