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Galapagos 2018

In December of 2018, I traveled to the Galapagos Islands for 8 days, living on a boat and hopping from the different islands. After flying to Guayaquil, Ecudaor, the next day was the flight out to the isolated islands. Everyday was full of adventure, going on hikes, boat rides through mangroves, and snorkeling.

A brief history of the Galapagos:

According to The Galapagos Conservancy, the first discovery of the islands was not by Charles Darwin, but by Fray Tomas de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama , in 1535. For the next two hundred years, the islands were used by pirates, buccaneers, and whalers. Charles Darwin, the father of the scientific theory of evolution, arrived on September 15, 1835. He noticed differences in the same species of birds as well as  giant tortoises on the different islands. Darwin used his findings in On the Origin of Species, which was against the scientific community of the time.

In 1979, the Galapagos Islands became the world’s first UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “in 1998, the Ecuadorian government enacted the Galápagos Special Law, a legal framework to protect the Galápagos, and created the Galápagos Marine Reserve.”

The Galapagos is one of the world’s locations that practices the most sustainable tourism. Some guidlines are below for tour providers.

Galapagos tour providers must take steps to:

  • Conserve water and energy
  • Recycle and treat waste material
  • Source locally-produced products
  • Hire local employees, pay them a fair wage, and offer them additional training

Tourists can only stay for a certain amount of time, and tour operators itineraries are monitored. It is important to have strict rules so that the biodiversity is protected and not altered.

The first day was at San Cristobal Island, one of the populated islands. It is home to a variety of bird species, and is the only island where three  species of boobys and the great frigatebird all nest in the same area. There are also sea lions everywhere on this island.

Day 2 was Sante Fe island, one of the archipeligos oldest islands.  It is not inhabitated and home to two endemic species, the santa fe land iguana and the santa fe rice rat. It is important to practice sustainable tourism here, as other islands might have had these species in the past, but factors such as introduction of invasive species made them go extinct. It is thought that a species if the Galapagos tortoise was here in the past, but went extinct.  Sea lions, Galapagos hawks, and land iguanas were seen. The afternoon was spent at South Plazas Island, famous for marine iguanas. Today was the first chance to get in the water and see some ocean life.

Galapagos Land Iguanas

Next was Santa Cruz island, the second largest and another one of the Galapagos’ populated islands (with over 25,000 inhabitants.) It is the main tourism area for all of the islands, as it is close to the airport This is home to the Charles Darwin Station and to the giant Galapagos tortoises. The Darwin Station conducts research and helps researchers and governmental agencies. Research is published in scientific journals, and also included in interpretive displays for visitors. The Darwin Station also provides environmental education to communities and schools in Galapagos.

Galapagos Tortoises

Day 4 was Isabelle Island,  the largest island. It is larger than all of the other islands combined! The island was formed Isabela Island was formed by the joining of six shield volcanoes, five out of the six are still active. One highlight is the Wall of Tears, remains of a cruel history. A colony existed from 1944 to 1959. The wall was built by the prisoners to keep them busy, standing 5-6 m high, 3 m wide and 100 m long. Similar to Florida, there are many brackish water mangrove lagoons, home to a variety of birds. In these lagoons were flamingos, common stilts, and other birds. This is also to place where I saw the most blue footed boobies out of the whole trip.