The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Republic of Ecuador is located in South America, bordering Peru to the north, Colombia to the northeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the southeast. Its capital city is Quito, while Guayaquil serves as the main commercial hub. The Galapagos Islands are located off the coast of Ecuador, about 1,000 km (620 mi) west of the continental coastline.
The name Ecuador derives from the word ‘Ecuatoria’, meaning ‘land of the equator’. The indigenous population of Ecuador consists mainly of the Kichwa people, whose language belongs to the Arawakan family. The majority of Ecuadorians speak Spanish as their native tongue.
– GDP per capita at purchasing power parity – $10,900 (2017 est.)
– GDP growth – 2.0% (2018 est.)
– Inflation – 4.4% (2018 est.) -3.1% (2017 est.)
· Agriculture – 20.4%
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most fascinating places on Earth. This archipelago is located about 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador and is home to a large variety of animals and plants. The islands are part of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, which protects the area from human exploitation.
Situated in the Pacific Ocean, about one thousand kilometers south of the South American continent, are nine volcanic islands and their surrounding marine reserve. These seventeen islands consist of three main groups – Santa Cruz, Isabela and Fernandina – and together constitute the Galapagos Islands National Park. They are home to unique species such as giant tortoise, flightless cormorant, frigate bird, penguin, sea lion, blue-footed booby, mockingbird, lava lizard, land iguanas, red-footed tortoise, Darwin finch, Galapagos hawk, rufous motmot, black noddy, Nazca boobies and white tern. This activity illustrates geological processes responsible for the formation of the islands. Their isolation due to the high level of seismic activity and volcanism has led to the development of a very special flora and fauna. Darwin’s voyage inspired his theory of evolution by natural selection. After travelling to the Galapagos Islands in 1835 he observed how different animals adapted to life on each island and concluded that living things evolved over time.
The Galapagos Islands are volcanic islands formed during the Pleistocene epoch. They lie about halfway between the Equator and the Antarctic Circle, within the Pacific Ocean, east of continental Chile and Peru. The islands are named after Spanish explorer Charles Darwin, whose voyage aboard HMS Beagle led him to study them. He described his findings in 1835 in his book On the Origin of Species.
The islands are located in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, 973 kilometers (605 miles) off the western coast of South America. Most of the islands are also more broadly included in the South Pacific; however, the nearest landmass is that of mainland Ecuador, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) away. The islands straddle the equator, with Volcan Wolf and Volcan Ecuador lying directly on the equator itself, while others such as Floreana and San Cristobal are slightly further north.
Española Island, on the south side of the archipelago and the largest island, is separated from the rest of the group by a narrow strait. Darwin Island, the northern most island, is spread across a distance of 220 kilometers (137 miles), while Santa Cruz, the second largest island, lies farther north still, at a latitude of approximately 2°30′N. The third largest island, Fernandina, lies much closer to the equator, at roughly 1°40′S.
The Galapogos Islands are volcanically active, and thus subject to frequent earthquakes. The highest peak is Mount Wolf, at 10,927 feet (3,264 m). There are no permanent rivers, but there are several small streams running down the sides of the mountains. A few springs provide water for drinking and irrigation purposes.
The climate varies greatly among different parts of the islands. In general, it is dryer and cooler in the interior, and wetter and warmer along the coasts. Rainfall averages around 800 millimeters per year, although some areas receive considerably less rain than average.
The 18 main islands (each with a land area of at least 1 kilometer squared) are inhabited by about 10,000 people, most of whom live in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Santa Cruz, San Jorge and Isabela.
At least one person lives permanently on each island except Floreana, where there are no permanent residents. Most of the inhabitants work in tourism or fishing.
Most of the islands are volcanoes, including some of the highest peaks in the world. These include El Altar, Cerro Azul, Villamil, Volcan Wolf, Volcan Darwin, Pico Alvarado, and Pico Bordon. A few of the islands, such as Isla de la Plata, are formed by lava domes. Some of the islands, like Española, are volcanic cones rather than true mountains.
There are several types of soil on the archipelago, ranging from black basaltic soils to red clay soils. There are many beaches, particularly around the coastal areas of the larger islands.
In addition to the main islands, there are numerous smaller islands, rocks, reefs and shoals scattered throughout the Pacific Ocean.
The largest islets are Islas Marías (María Islands), west of Isla San Ambrosio. They consist of three large rock formations separated by shallow water channels. The largest islet, María Elena, is about 4 kilometers long by 2 kilometers wide, with a maximum height of 50 meters above sea level.
There are also numerous islets off the coast of the main islands, most notably those in the western part of the group. Many of these are uninhabited, though others have been developed into tourist resorts.
When to Go to the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most visited destinations in the world. While there are many reasons why people travel here, we wanted to know what it takes to make the best trip. We asked our experts about the best time to visit and how weather conditions affect the experience. Here’s what they had to say:
• Best Time to Visit: “There is no bad time to visit,” says Dr. John Mutter, director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology’s National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. He adds that while July through September tend to be the hottest, the islands themselves are relatively cool during those months. However, he cautions that visitors should always check the weather forecast before traveling.
• When to Avoid Traveling: “You don’t want to come when there is lots of wind because you’ll feel like you’re being blown around,” says Dr. David Rauch, professor emeritus of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “If you’re going to be out walking, try to avoid coming in high winds.”
• How Weather Affects Visits: “Even though it’s the rainy season, the water doesn’t really seem to bother me much,” says Dr. Mark Laidre, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “I’ve been in the middle of the ocean in storms and I’m fine.” He notes that the waves do pose some hazards for swimmers, however. “Be careful if you’re swimming,” he warns.
• What You Should Bring: “Bring sunscreen, insect repellant, sunglasses, a hat, a camera with extra batteries, and a waterproof bag for your gear,” says Dr. James D. Watson, president of the American Psychiatric Association. “And bring cash, especially if you plan to buy souvenirs. Don’t forget to pack your passport!”