In a letter to his sister upon a visit to South America, Charles Darwin wrote:
Think of the Andes; the luxuriant forest of the Guayaquil, the islands of the South Sea & New South Wales. How many magnificent and characteristic views… What fine opportunities for geology and studying the infinite host of living beings.
Opportunities for geology, magnificent views, and an infinite host of living beings: This is exactly what visitors to the Galapagos Islands encounter with an eager traveler’s spirit; a spirit that encompasses the appetite for an enlightening adventure, the desire to see something for the first time, the search for an unfamiliar world.
These sentiments correspond to the offering of the unique “Galapagos Experience.” Famous for its incredible biodiversity and home of Charles Darwin’s paramount observations, the archipelago enchants visitors year after year with its volcanic landscape, intriguing history, and fascinating wildlife.
Formed between 3 million and 5 million years ago, the Galapagos Islands are relatively young. Most of the islands were created when an individual large volcano’s eruptions caused basaltic lava to flow expanding its shores. The island of Isabela, however, is the result of six different volcanoes that flowed into one another.
Today, these islands boast a variety of landscapes: the juxtaposition of dark volcanic rock and extensive white sandy beaches, the contrast of a burnt-orange terrain against a silvery brush; From the luscious green Scalasia forest to the bright blue surrounding ocean, the islands display extraordinary landscapes that dazzle the eyes of visitors and locals alike.
When Charles Darwin arrived on the islands in 1835 aboard the Beagle, he observed many characteristics of the wildlife. Isolated from other ecosystems, the animals have adapted uniquely to varying environments on each island. Iguanas and lizards vary depending on the island, as do finches and other species of birds.
Reddish-orange Sally-Foot Crabs decorate the dark black volcanic terrain resembling hot red lava among the rocks; Colonies of sea lions and nurseries of sea lion pups provide tourists with close-up observation of these fascinating mammals; Marine life tantalizes snorkelers with sightings of sharks, octopi, ray, and other colorful tropical fish; Groups of iguanas lounge lazily in the sun and Booby birds, albatrosses, and hawks offer unique bird-watching experiences.
The animals of the Galapagos live in an enthralling harmony among one another, unperturbed by human company.
The human history of the islands and presence of Ecuadorian culture contributes to the “Galapagos Experience”. In 1535 Tomas de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama, discovered the islands by chance on his way to Peru when currents pushed his ship off course. Although he did not name the islands, he coined the name “Galapagos” after the giant tortoises. When English pirates arrived to the islands, they began to name individual islands after famous captains as well as English kings and aristocracy. For this reason the islands often have two names, an English name and a Spanish name.
Later, Norwegian fisherman and German philosophers were attracted to the island, most of who were accompanied by strange fates. The islands became part of Ecuador in 1832 and during World War II were used as an American naval base, leaving abandoned structures and ruins that can be seen today.
A province of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are home to over 20,000 Ecuadorians who maintain their native culture and the integrity of the islands. In addition to the fascinating nature of the islands, Ecuadorian cuisine and customs also provide visitors with an enriching cultural experience.
Rightfully nicknamed “Las Encantadas” (“The Enchanted”) by Spanish explorers, the captivating islands continue to seduce travelers who marvel at the alluring landscape and wildlife.
The “Galapagos Experience” is a truly unique experience that charms travelers and satisfies quests for enlightenment and adventure.