Spread across the equator into the Pacific are a group of 18 main islands and 3 smaller islands that together are called Galapagos Islands. Part of the Ecuador province, it is located 926km to the west of the South America. The islands are located at Galapagos Triple Junction located atop the tectonic plates and some of these islands are almost millions of years old formed by the immense tectonic and volcanic activities. It was here at Galapagos that Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist and geologist studied and unshielded various laws that govern evolution. These islands get you close to nature with its immense resources rich in flora and fauna. Some of the rarest species on earth are endemic to these islands. Here you get to see birds, reptiles, flowers and plant species that are untouched by the outside world and roam fearlessly on these isolated islands. Some of the main islands are few of the fascinating tourist spots. If you are a nature lover and wish to see the endemic birds, reptiles and sea animals in the wild this is the place for you.
A small flat piece of land, with an area of just about 21 square kilometers Baltra is also known as South Seymour. Baltra has two airports which connects the Galapagos to Ecuador. After one gets out of the airport, you are ransported by bus to the cruise ships at Aeolian Bay or to Itabaca Canal, where ferry ply to Santa Cruz. Land iguanas are among the animals that have been successively re-introduced, after their extermination during World War II, and can be seen near Baltra airport.
Darwin Island (Culpepper Island)
This island is named after the famous naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin. It is one of the mini- islands with an area of 1.1 square kilometers and a maximum altitude of 168 meters. Here one can find a number of flora and fauna species. Some exotic animals species include swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions, whales, marine turtles and red footed and Nazca boobies.
It is one of the volcanic islands. This and its neighboring island Sulivan Bay on Santiago(James) island are named after a close friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan. The island homes Galapagos penguins, the only wild penguin species that live on the equator. The green turtle is another species that lives here.
It is one of the oldest islands, formed 3.5 million years ago. Also known as Hood Islands, it spreads to an area of 60 square kilometers. You get to see wide variety of species here including lava lizards, mocking bird, tortoise, and marine iguanas. It is also the only place where Waved Albatross nests. Gardner Bay is a site for snorkeling and swimming and also had a beautiful beach. Punta Suarez witnesses an active wildlife which include brightly colored marine iguanas, Española lava lizards, Hood mockingbirds, Swallow-tailed Gulls, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Galápagos hawks and the waved albatross.
Here you will find the town of Puerto Ayora, The famous Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of Galapagos National Park. The research center and the National Park serve the purpose of a breeding center for tortoise to be later put into their natural habitat. The highlands of Santa Cruz have a wide variety of fauna and flora which include large tortoise, sea turtles, rays, small sharks. This area is called the Black Turtle Cove and is used as a mating area by the animals. These highlands are also famous for the lava tunnels. Cerro dragon’ is a place where one can easily spot an Iguana on a hunt.
If you are a keen bird watcher this is the perfect place for you. Also called as tower island, it is a bird watching plateau with a plethora of beautiful bird species to watch out for. You can spot frigate birds and Swallow-tailed Gulls at the Darwin Bay. Other species include Red-footed boobies, noddy terns, lava gulls, tropic birds, doves, storm petrels and Darwin finches can also be seen. Because of the exotic bird species that the island homes it is nicknamed as the bird island.
Named in the honour of Queen Isabela, it is the largest island of Galapagos. It has got a surprising number of six volcanoes on an area of 4604 square kilometers. This island homes the only penguin species in the Northern Hemisphere in its natural habitat at Puerto Vilamil. The tourist locations include Wall of Tears, which is a 2 to 3 hours hike across the beach and lakes where you would find iguanas, flamingos, sea lions and giant tortoise. Taking a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water is a must for the hike. Snorkeling at the beaches of La Tintoreras offers an excellent view of the eagle rays and sea turtles. Concha de Perla is a a natural pool for snorkeling as well. You can play with the sea lions and have some good view under the sea.
Galapagos Islands bring you closer to nature. Its raw, full of wildlife and has around 29 endemic species. Explore the islands for yourself with each one of them having something different to offer and witness the wild come alive around you. Some of the good hotels you can find at Puerto Ayora and Puerto Villamil. Angermeyer Waterfront Inn (Puerto Ayora), Iguana Crossing (Puerto Villami), Finch Bay Eco Hotel(Puerto Ayora), La Casa de Marita(Puerto Villami) are to name a few.