The experience that most enthralls
vistors to the Galapagos Islands is how close one can get to the animals.
The blue footed boobies, iguanas and turtles of Galapagos seemingly
have no fear! This, of course, is explained by the fact that the animals
on Galapagos have evolved without any natural predators. To the animals,
you are merely a curiosity and not a threat.
The islands are considered to be a "living museum". Due to the fact
that they are bathed by three important marine currents (cold Humboldt,
cold Sub Equatorial Counter Current, warm Panama) a great variety
of fish and aquatic animals come together in its waters. The islands
isolation, volcanic topography and characteristic climate have conspired
to provide a place for new species like the land iguana, the giant
Galapagos tortoise and other species to thrive.
Visiting the Galapagos is a venture into the geological past; the
scenery has remained unaltered for thousands of years. The numerous
volcanoes and petrified lava flows preserve the memory of the brutal
encounter between water and fire that gave origin to these islands--
and continues still.
One can only wonder what Charles Darwin was thinking as he walked
about these peculiar islands 170 years ago. Of all of Galapagos wondrous
sights, it was the small variations in the shape of the beaks of the
islands' finches that ultimately cemented the theory of Evolution
and Natural Selection in Darwin's brain. This history makes coming
to Galapagos for the naturalist akin to visiting Jerusalem or Mecca
for the pious.
The Galapagos are located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, 90
degrees west of the Greenwich Meridian on the equatorial line. The
archipelago consists of 13 large islands and 6 smaller ones plus 42
islets. The total land surace area is 8000 square kilometers. The
largest island is Isabela which also happens to be the twelfth largest
island in the South Pacific.
The highest point on the islands is Wolf Volcano (1707 meters)
on Isabela Island.