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What should I know before traveling to the Galapagos?

Galapagos Islands Information

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For centuries, the Galapagos Islands have been an inspiration for countless explorers. Everything about these islands is extraordinary, from their “rising from the sea depths” inception to their incredible diversity of flora and fauna. They prompted Charles Darwin, the “Father of Evolution,” to have his eureka moment that allowed for the development of his theory of natural selection back in 1835, thanks in large part to his visit to the archipelago. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the islands still continue to enchant newcomers to this very day!

Recognizing the islands’ value, the Ecuadorian government founded the Galapagos National Park (GNP) in 1959. Since then, the Galapagos’ sea lions, giant tortoises, and countless other wonderful species have captivated the awe and wonder of tourists from all over the world. Annually, around 160,000 tourists come to visit this unique destination.

The Galapagos Islands are regarded as tremendously unique because they were formed through volcanic activity and are still continuously changing. Additionally, they were never connected to the mainland, allowing the flora and fauna that arrived by chance to evolve in isolation without interference from predators. This led to the creation of an entirely new world, hidden away from natural threats.

As a result, visitors to the Galapagos have an exclusive, awe-inspiring experience where animals not only roam freely but are also completely fearless in our presence. We, as humans, have the privilege of admiring these iconic Galapagos species in their natural habitat from mere footsteps away, especially when venturing into the National Park! Visiting the Park with certified naturalist guides, as required by park rules, is truly the best way to see the Galapagos!

Where are the Galapagos Islands located? 

The location of the Galapagos Islands is one of the reasons why it is so rich in biodiversity. Firstly, the islands enjoy warm weather year-round, as they’re clustered around the equator. They are also about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) west of the South American continent, which helps mitigate the frequency of human impact. Finally, the islands are situated right at the crossroads of three primary ocean currents: The cold Humboldt current, the warm Panama Current, and the deep-sea Cromwell Current which merge around the archipelago, creating an upwelling of ocean floor nutrients in the process. This is what fosters the tremendous amount of marine biodiversity and activity in Galapagos, which you yourself will get to appreciate while snorkeling and checking out any number of shark species, a vast variety of colorful fish, penguins, marine mammals, and, of course, sea turtles!

COMBINED GALAPAGOS ITINERARIES

Looking for an even more adventurous journey? Each of our itineraries has been meticulously planned out, but we understand the need for a little more exploration in this once-in-a-lifetime destination. That’s why we offer combined Galapagos itineraries! Contact us today to find out how easy it is to get the Galapagos and experience the expedition of your dreams aboard Yacht La Pinta!

What makes the Galapagos Islands so unique?

The reptiles and marine birds that arrived on the Galapagos Islands had to adapt to survive in isolation from the landmasses they originally came from. Additionally, they are still, to this day, free from the threat of predation. Consequently, the fauna found here managed to evolve over the course of millions of years, naturally selecting characteristics that made it easier for them to find food in this new environment. In the end, visitors are granted the unique privilege of witnessing these unique—and at times, even dramatic—adaptations that Galapagos fauna have undergone.

As a result, one is left with a truly unique archipelago that is teeming with extraordinary endemic species that have adapted to a (once) alien world. Visitors to the Galapagos for example can admire land iguanas chewing on their favorite food—the prickly pear cactus. Just a few feet away, camouflaged black marine iguanas are found basking on the blackened volcanic rocks. These marine iguanas are distant relatives of the land iguanas and, through natural selection, have developed the ability to swim underwater for their food. Additionally, they possess the unique ability to recognize the alarm calls of mockingbirds and run for safety— the only recorded instance of a non-vocal species responding to another species’ vocal call.

Similar to the marine iguana, the Santa Fe iguana has emerged as a highly-specific endemic land iguana that only lives on Santa Fe Island, and nowhere else in the world! Its larger and paler body blends in perfectly with the island’s terrain. What’s more? This is only one genus of many more peculiar and wonderful species that are found throughout the Galapagos archipelago!

Tortoises have grown to impressive sizes, weighing over 500 pounds (227 kg). Finches have adapted to their preferred food sources—nuts, berries, or cacti. Even the flora has evolved uniquely! While cacti have adapted to their specific environments, the scalesia tree, a relative of the common daisy, can reach up to 30 feet (10 meters) in height!

Here are some incredible statistics on just how amazing the Galapagos flora and fauna are:

  • 30% of all plant species are endemic
  • 20 out of 22 reptile species are endemic
  • 24 out of 29 land bird species are endemic

On every Galapagos tour, no matter what island you are visiting, or if you choose to explore the archipelago by sea or on land, every inch of this paradise holds a new marvel to behold. Incredible expedition cruises—like those offered by Galapagos Yacht La Pintatake you to so many different Galapagos Islands visitor sites that allow you to observe the wonderful world that Charles Darwin witnessed so many years ago. Plus, exploring the archipelago will reveal the wonders of how nearly every living organism here is intrinsically connected throughout these fascinating ecosystems.

Why are the Galapagos Islands protected?

Discovered in the 1500s, the Galapagos Islands were initially known for their inhospitable environment. Despite this, humans were not easily deterred. Between June and December, the Humboldt Current carries nutrient-rich waters from Antarctica to the Galapagos, attracting large schools of fish and cetaceans, followed by whales. Early whalers quickly recognized the abundance of sea life brought by this current and, consequently, whaling ships often followed the whales all the way to the Galapagos, where crews earned substantial sums by selling whale oil to growing cities in North America and Europe. This lucrative trade drew more men to the archipelago, who sought their fortune in its bountiful waters.

Tragically, in the 17th century, the Galapagos Islands transformed from a paradise to a nearly decimated wasteland. Whalers cut down thousands of trees to burn the whale fat they had collected. Additionally, they hunted the slow-moving giant tortoises for food. Invasive species that hitched a ride on their ships also invaded the archipelago, preying on the eggs and offspring of endemic species, causing erosion on many islands in the process. The impact was so severe that by 1960, only 200 adult tortoises remained on Pinzon Island, and just 14 on Española.

Encounters with Galapagos fauna are pretty common during your Galapagos tours! This is why we make efforts to conserve the Galapagos Islands.
Encounters with Galapagos fauna are pretty common during your Galapagos tours! This is why we make efforts to conserve the Galapagos Islands.

Despite all of the damage done, the Ecuadorian government took on the huge project of creating the Galapagos National Park in 1959. Slowly, all of the invasive species were captured and the islands began to return to their original glory. However, this is all still a work in progress. Restorative projects are at different stages all over the archipelago—a mission which stands as one of the biggest conservation projects in the history of mankind! And the hard work has paid off— from 14 tortoises on Española 60 years ago, there are now more than 1,700 today!

Surprisingly, much of the conservation work in the Galapagos Islands is funded by tourism and the entrance fee all visitors must pay upon entering the archipelago. Expedition tours showcase this paradise to travelers from around the world and highlight the importance of conservation, all while the National Park continues its efforts to protect every plant and animal species on the islands.

When considering why you should visit the archipelago or what you can do there, it’s important to know that the Galapagos offers more than just science- and nature-based experiences. The Galapagos National Park (GNP) regulates numerous fun and engaging activities, including swimming, hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, and more. In fact, Yacht La Pinta offers all these activities to its guests!

Why is the Galapagos Islands' wildlife so unique?

The purest interaction humans can have with animals is experiencing a genuine connection with them in their natural environment. Imagine encountering endemic species outside of a zoo, in their original habitat, where the animals show no fear but, instead, exhibit pure curiosity towards you. This almost unimaginable scenario is precisely what makes the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands so unique.

Fortunately, the actions of whalers did not negatively impact the wildlife’s attitude toward humans. As you traverse the otherworldly terrain of the many protected islands, you’ll witness a peaceful coexistence between animals and humans. Male frigatebirds, with their enormous red throat pouches, remain undisturbed as you pass by while they call out to potential mates in the sky. Male blue-footed boobies even seem to enjoy the attention of human onlookers as they perform their famous mating dance to attract females.

The main “challenge” when visiting the Galapagos Islands is avoiding tripping over a quietly nesting bird or stepping onto a statuesque land iguana. The GNP goes to great lengths to ensure guests enjoy their adventure and truly experience the magic of the islands while ensuring the flora and fauna remain undisturbed by human presence—which is why you’ll always be accompanied by a naturalist guide while in the National Park.

Though animals in the Galapagos aren’t disturbed by human presence, you should always keep a distance with wildlife.
Though animals in the Galapagos aren’t disturbed by human presence, you should always keep a distance with wildlife.

Which Galapagos Islands should I visit?

This scattered archipelago covers a vast area of 17,000 square miles (45,000 square kilometers) that cross the equatorial line. Although there are officially 19 islands (as well as many islets and rocks) according to the Galapagos Island National Park, this number is still changing. Why? Well, the islands were originally formed by volcanic activity—either by eruptions, lava flow, or uplifts from the ocean floor. In fact, in the last 200 years, there have been over 50 eruptions in the Galapagos Islands where some have threatened island life, and others have revealed new patches of land. Each island has a unique formation and terrain, and is inhabited by a unique medley of curious species.

In addition to the incredible fauna, the flora on each island is also unique. Scientists have identified three major vegetation zones: the coastal zone, the arid zone, and the humid highlands. Each island produces a variety of flora depending on its location and altitude.

The Galapagos Islands are a fragile paradise that must be protected in every way possible. Therefore, over 97% of the islands are National Park, and only certain islands have been approved for visits. Even then, there are strict guidelines that must be followed by everyone upon disembarking. Also, each ship must not be over a predetermined size, and must have a National Park-certified guide or multiple guides to lead any excursion. The size of each excursion group accompanied by a guide cannot exceed 16 explorers. Though, some vessels, like Yacht La Pinta, average far fewer explorers (around 12) per excursion, thanks to having multiple naturalist guides.

Because of these meticulous conservation efforts, guests can enjoy a world that almost seems like its been pulled straight out of a Dr. Seuss book! The black volcanic rock carves through some islands while others are covered in greenery, red sand, and surrounded by turquoise waters. No two islands are the same, meaning that a cruise through this archipelago is full of beautiful surprises.

The islands that can be visited in the Galapagos are:

Although some islands are strictly protected and do not allow visitors in order to safeguard their endemic Galapagos species, there are fourteen islands that we can explore as part of various Galapagos cruise itineraries. You’ll be pleased to know that each one of the accessible islands is included in at least one of Yacht La Pinta’s itineraries. Which one will you choose?

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La Pinta’s expeditions travel to every accessible island in the Galapagos archipelago, and each itinerary has been carefully created to guarantee that every guest onboard will experience the Enchanted Islands in a wholly satisfying way. The extraordinary location and history of the archipelago mean that every island is teeming with unique flora and fauna and incredible landscapes. Make sure you have the chance to encounter all of the iconic BIG15 animal species and enjoy every second of your Galapagos adventure! Allow Yacht La Pinta take you on the journey of a lifetime with a combination of land and water activities, premium accommodation and dining, and the very best service and naturalist guides offered in the Galapagos.

We'll guide you to plan your trip to the Galapagos Islands

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