What to See During Your Trip to the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Archipelago contains 13 main islands, 6 islets, 133,000 square miles (51,352 square miles) of marine reserve and one of the largest rates of endemism in the world (not to mention a society-shaking history). This grouping of islands has become world renowned among biologists, geologists, scuba divers and tourists alike, but it can be hard to narrow these treasures down and figure out what, exactly, you want to see on your Galapagos vacation. What should you keep in mind when narrowing your options down?
Unique Flora and Fauna
It was the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands that first put the archipelago on the map, and they remain one of the key features of Galapagos tourism. Life that arrived to these isolated islands was forced to adapt and it did so over several millennia. Today, Galapagos marine iguanas are the only ocean-faring lizards in the world, and the flightless cormorant has, indeed, completely lost its ability to fly. Additionally, 80% of land birds and 97% of Galapagos reptiles are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Merely strolling along park trails, guests can observe some of the most unique life on earth, but keep in mind that not every species can be seen on all of the islands. You will want to do a bit of research beforehand to determine which species are a must-see for you.
An excellent point to begin your Galapagos adventure is the Charles Darwin Research Station. Here, visitors are welcome to learn about Galapagos wildlife conservation efforts, as well as explore the Galapagos tortoise breeding center. However, for those interested in seeing giant tortoises in their natural habitat, the El Chato Tortoise Reserve is a beautiful location where, apart from tortoises, visitors can walk amongst sub-tropical plants and birds.
The Galapagos Islands make up one of the most volcanically active locations in the world, which has resulted in remarkably dramatic and beautiful landscapes. The Galapagos Islands are home to the second largest volcanic caldera in the world (Sierra Negra Volcano) as well as the world’s largest pit crater (Los Gemelos), and a series of fantastic lava tunnels and lava cones. Las Grietas pools have attracted particular fame for their beautiful emerald water, sourced from an underground spring. Formed from a fracture in the earth’s crust, Las Grietas measure 10 meters (33 feet) deep and 7 meters (23 feet) wide, yet the crystal-clear water allows swimmers’ gaze to follow the rocky walls all the way down to the white sandy bottom.
The Galapagos Marine Reserve is a popular attraction for many tourists around the world thanks its records in size, marine diversity and scuba diving. The Galapagos Islands sit at the point of convergence of three main ocean currents. The nutrients that collect around the islands thanks to these currents attract an enormous variety of marine life, resulting in the largest average fish biomass per hectare in the world, at 17.5 tons per hectare. This includes the largest shark biomass in the world, as well as giant sting rays, tropical fish, seahorses, penguins, octopuses, sea turtles and much more. As a result of this diversity, the Galapagos Islands offer unparalleled scuba diving opportunities.
Visitors can also enjoy glass-bottom boat rides and snorkeling, not to mention breathtakingly beautiful beaches. Gardner Bay, Tortuga Bay and Punta Pitt are just a few of the pristine, white-sand beaches in the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Islands have developed world-wide fame for the stunning marine and land life they host, as well as their natural geologic beauty. However, each of the 13 islands is different in its own way, and it is important to research each island to determine which ones are right for you.