Situated 1,000km off the coast of Ecuador, The Galapagos Islands are regarded as a living laboratory and museum. Made famous by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, this archipelago represents an important turning point in scientific theory. Furthermore, the islands are home to some of the most unique and fascinating creatures in the world. Read on to discover all the reasons why the Galapagos should be on your bucket list…
Unique Location & Geology
The fascinating ecology of the Galapagos Islands is due to its unique position, on the equator and at the confluence of three currents. The archipelago consists of 19 islands, 6 small and 13 large. The earliest island dates back around 5 million years– considered relatively new in terms of geological formation!
Continuously evolving, these islands grow 3-4 inches in height every year, caused by the significant tectonic movement of the area. Evidence of this activity is all around you on these islands. Explore barren rocky shores, lava tunnels, and witness stunning lava flows. The islands are also volcanoes, with the exception of Isabela. This incredible island is made up of six volcanoes!
You may have seen the slow-moving Galapagos tortoise or the astonishing variety of Darwin’s finches. When you think of the Galapagos, otherworldly-looking marine iguanas may spring to mind. Known for its fascinating wildlife, these islands are home to some truly unique creatures. Due to its isolation, the Galapagos exists as an oasis from the outside world, and more importantly, from introduced species.
There are many reasons why the Galapagos Islands are a must-see for any nature lover. However, their adaptations and the evolution each species has undergone are what make these islands unique. Through the process of natural selection and encouraged by the isolation of the islands, iguanas learnt to dive and breathe underwater. Cormorants began to swim faster and dive deeper, whilst some finches adopted the ability to drink blood.
The wildlife of the Galapagos is diverse and stunning, and a true testament to the power of nature. Furthermore, because of their little interaction with humans, much of the islands’ wildlife has little fear of people.
Discovery by Humans & Charles Darwin
Chanced upon in 1535, the Galapagos Islands were discovered by Fray Tomás de Berlanga after his ship drifted towards the archipelago on a dead wind. Several decades after, the islands appeared for the first time on maps.
It wasn’t until almost 300 years later that the revered Charles Darwin would set foot on the sandy shores of the Galapagos. Departing from England in 1831, Darwin embarked on a five-year voyage that intended to map the coast of South America.
On a stopover in these islands, Darwin would soon discover his main source material for his revolutionary book, “On The Origin of Species”. Presenting an alternative to the creation theory, Darwin’s work was (and still is!) seen as radical and ground-breaking.
This theory of natural selection made note of the genetic adaptations between different generations of species. One of the most well known examples of this is Darwin’s finches. During his travels, Darwin had collected several specimens of bird. Later, upon further study, he would realise that whilst the birds belonged to the same family they all exhibited different characteristics. This depended on the island they were found on and the diet they ate. This finding led Darwin to question the stability of species and the adaptability of each generation of bird.
The Galapagos Islands offer insight into a world like nothing you have ever seen before. Follow in the footsteps of Darwin and explore the breathtaking beauty and diversity of these islands. Captivating wildlife, stunning landscapes and a remarkable history, the Galapagos is waiting to be explored…