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Galapagos Islands vacations information - Galapagos Explorer cruise

Galapagos Islands - exploring evolution

The Galapagos Islands Archipelago consists of thirteen large islands (greater than 10 km2), six smaller islands, and over forty islets that have official names. The Archipelago is well isolated from other land masses (South America, 960 km, Cocos Island 720 km, Central America 1,100 km). The total land area is 7,882 square kilometers within a marine reserve of 45,000 square kilometers.

What makes the Galapagos Islands so special for visitors and scientists?

Geology

The Galapagos Islands are located on one of the most active volcanic regions on earth: the Nazca Plate. This plate moves eastward towards South America because of the spreading of the sea floor, at a rate of 7 cm/yr. This plate moves over a stationary area of intense heat or "hot spot" which "builds" the islands. Thus, the oldest part of the Archipielago is found at the east of the cluster. Each Island is the tip of an underwater volcano!

Arrival and establishment of species

When the tips of the Galapagos volcanoes first appeared above the sea surface, some three to five million years ago, they were isolated from life. We will never know how colonization occurred, what we do know is that one thousand kilometers separate the Galapagos from the mainland and despite this barrier, a number of species have made it to the islands. Of course, species are present due to their capacity to disperse, whether actively or passively, but also their ability to establish themselves after arrival.

Vegetation zones

The diferent altitudes throughout the islands allow for different vegetation.

  • Coastal Zone
  • Arid Zone
  • Transition Zone
  • Scalesia Zone
  • Miconia Zone
  • Pampa Zone

Wildlife

The most interesting aspect of the Galapagos Islands are its fantastic animal life, many species are endemic to the Islands (not found anywhere else on the planet). Aniumals do not fear man and close encounters are the hallmark of the archipelago. You will find weird contradictions: Wingless birds, tropical penguins, marine going iguanas, pirate birds, boobie birds with red and blue feet and many more species who have adapted and evolved to the unique and harsh environment.

Marine currents produce rich cool waters

Despite their tropical location, two moving currents affect the islands. The cold Humboldt Current, the cool and dry garua season ( The Humboldt Current ) from July to December and the warm marine Panama Current which produces the warm and wet season from January to June.

Evolution

The Galapagos Islands have often been called a "laboratory of evolution" There are very few places in the world where it has been possible to find such a variety of species, both plants and animals that show so many degrees of evolutionary changes in such a restricted area. Oceanic islands can have species that, though related to mainland forms, have evolved in ways that differ from their relatives because of their isolation in a different environment. This is the key factor in island evolution. It is not surprising that Charles Darwin was so struck by the life he found on these islands.

Natural Events

There is always something going on in the Galapagos Islands, different animals have their time of the year for being active. No matter when you visit you will find wildlife performing for visitors, animals of the archipelago are not shy nor do they feel disturbed by people.

Galapagos vacation excuses

There are many reasons to pay the Galapagos Islands a visit, find your own, but one thing is for shore :

nobody leaves the Islands without being touched at the deepest of their heart and soul for the need of protecting this sanctuary of unique creatures.

Read through our website and find info about each Island and the visitor sites we include in our itineraries. You will be rewarded by reading ahead about the natural history of the Islands. With the help of our naturalist guides, the scientists at the Darwin station and based on our experience cruising this land of fire, we have included a complete knowledge base to help you get ready for your Galapagos vacation.

Location

The Galapagos Archipelago is located 600 miles off the coasts of South America in the Pacific Ocean, it is part of the Republic of Ecuador.

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