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For many, Guayaquil is the starting place of a trip to the Galápagos Islands, one of the most fascinating archipelagos in the world. The islands are home to unique iguanas, flamingos and penguins. Rare turtles, sharks and sea horses live in the local waters. Diving will be an unforgettable experience.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) made some remarkable discoveries on these islands in the Pacific Ocean. His world famous theory of evolution was formed here. And this destination is still a favourite among many nature lovers, who are happy to don a pair of binoculars and spend days exploring the inhabited and uninhabited islands. Although some islands are off limits to visitors, many can be toured with an experienced guide. They will lead you around, pointing out the unique features of the animals and sharing fascinating stories about this ancient environment.
Each island of the Galápagos archipelago has its own one-of-a-kind residents. So no matter which island you visit, there will be plenty to see. The friendly Galápagos turtle, giant turtles that weigh up to 250 kilos, will patiently pose for a picture. The small penguins that inhabit these islands are the most northern living penguins in the world. This is remarkable because penguins usually live in much colder climates. On the white beach of Bahía Tortuga you can snorkel with them. And although anywhere else in the world cormorants can fly, the birds here have wings that are too small to take flight. So they waddle around on the ground. Look up to spot the large frigate birds. Their wing span is up to 2 metres and the male birds inflate their red chest into a huge balloon to seduce the female. The mating ritual of the blue footed booby is also very amusing. The male will arrogantly toss back his head and march around on his chunky blue feet. Does the female copy his behaviour? If she does, then he knows he has found a mate.
The Galápagos Islands consist of 19 large and 40 small volcanic islands. These are located 1000 kilometres from the South American mainland; unlike most islands, these rose up from the sea and have never been connected to the mainland. Because of this remote location, the animals have never interacted with other species and have undergone their own evolution. This is what Darwin discovered. By studying 13 different finches (now named Darwin’s finches), Darwin confirmed his theory. At the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz, you can learn everything about his important discoveries. You will also learn that there are no large predators on the islands. The buzzard is at the top of the food chain, so the large biodiversity has remained intact. Due to the lack of predators, the animals are also unusually tame and not afraid to be approached by visitors.
Most visitors to the Galápagos Islands fly from Guayaquil to one of the larger inhabited islands and then take a boat to spend a few days or a few weeks in the region. Please note: every visitor must pay a 100 dollar entry fee, which is used for nature conservation. You can opt to stay on a boat or on some of the islands. Both options offer a variety of accommodations, ranging from camp grounds to luxury hotels. Another alternative is to spend some time volunteering, for example by reforesting the farmland on San Cristobál Island. As a volunteer you will help to replace non-native plants with young bushes and trees that are indigenous to the island.