The Galapagos Islands | History / General
The name “Galapagos” comes from the Spanish word “Galapago,” a type of saddle. This name was applied when visitors saw the Giant Tortoises and called them (plural) “Galapagos,” the name was later coined for the archipelago. Galapagos Islands are relatively young, geologically speaking. The archipelago was formed by volcanic eruptions that eventually surfaced.
While the islands have a unique environment, very much untouched and pristine, it also has an interesting human history. The first person to set foot on the islands was Panama Bishop Tomas Berlanga in 1535, he came upon the islands when his ship sailed off course going from Panama to Peru. Later, English whalers came to the islands, and many of the Islands were given English names. In 1832, the archipelago became part of Ecuador. Soon after, in 1835, one of the Islands’ most famous visitors arrived on the Beagle.
Charles Darwin, an English naturalist, spent several weeks on the islands where he observed the unique adaptations of various species to each island, the basis of his theory was the natural selection, detailed in his book Origin of Species. During World War II, Ecuador granted the United States permission to utilize Baltra Island as a military base. In 1959, the archipelago became a National Park.
Situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the South American continent, these 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galapagos Islands are a ‘melting pot’ of marine species. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands.
The Galapagos Islands* Click on each island´s name to display or hide the information
Espanola Island, located to the southeast of the archipelago, the main visitor site isSuarez Point. This site is certainly one of the highlights of every cruise. After descending from the boat, you will be greeted by a colony of friendly sea lions. Further along the walk, you will have the opportunity to spot thefamous Blue-footed Booby, as well as the Great Frigatebirds, Waved Albatross, Hood Mocking Bird, large Cactus Ground Finch, and more. The most talked about feature of this island is the famous “blow-hole” spurting water into the air and boasting a spectacular view. On the other side of the island is Gardner Bay, a white sandy beach and an excellent place for swimming and snorkeling.
This small island is located southeast of Santa Cruz, between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. A thick forest of Opuntia Cactus covers thiswhole island.The walk through the small island is easy and short, and you’ll have the chance to see the yellow endemic land iguanas munching on the fallen cactus pads.
South Plaza is one of the smallest islands in the archipelago, just over 1 km. (0.6 mi.) long and 200 meters (650 ft.) wide. A narrow channel divides South Plaza from North Plaza. A small Opuntia Cactus forest is found on the island and this is the home to land iguanas. Sea lions and various species of birds can also be seen on this small, but memorable, island.
The second largest island and located at East of Isabela, Santa Cruz is home to the Islands’ largest port, Puerto Ayora. There are many visitor sites on the island, the most famous being the TheCharles Darwin Research Station, home to the deceased Lonesome George. The Research Station is a laboratory directed by scientists from all over the world studying the wildlife of the archipelago, and young adult Galapagos Giant Tortoises can be also visited here.
Located at north of Baltra Island, this small island has a large population of sea lions and iguanas. Visitors may also observe Blue-footed Boobies, Frigatebirds, Lava Gulls, Galapagos Mocking Birds, Yellow Warblers and other kind of birds.
One of the most out-lying islands, Genovesa Island is located to the far north of Santa Cruz. This island is wonderful for bird watching activities; here, visitors have the unique opportunity to spot the beautiful Red-footed Booby, as well as the Swallow-tailed Gull, Short-eared Owl, Galapagos Dove, mockingbirds, and the Magnificent Frigatebird.
This small island situated to the east of Santiago Island, this island boasts a spectacular view of the other islands. The visit includes a hike to the peak of a carbon cone at 109 meters (359 feet) high for a panoramic view of the islands and its moonlike terrain. Offshore is a beautiful sit for snorkeling and swimming, where visitors may spot the Galapagos Penguin, a unique species endemic to the islands and the second smallest penguin in the world.
Santiago Island is one of the largest islands, situated northwest of Santa Cruz. Sullivan Bay is its most famous visitor point, where visitors will walk along an extensive pahoehoe lava filed formed by volcanic eruptions from this century. The visit also includes a walk around the channels formed on the coast and see fish and other marine life in the pools.
This amazing islandis located directly to south of Santa Cruz Island, has a few highlighted visitor points. Cormorant Point is a unique, green-sanded beach, given its color from the high concentration of olive-colored crystals in the sand. Further into the island is a lagoon where visitors may have the opportunity to see flamingoes. Post Office Bay is another visitor favorite – this post office dates back to whalers, who left mail as they through the islands to be delivered back to their homeland by travelers returning. Today, visitors still drop letters to friends and family in the old barrels in the hopes that someday the mail will get delivered. Devil’s Crown is a snorkeling site off the coast, perhaps the best in the Islands. A submerged volcanic crater next to Cormorant Point, the cold waters of this area permit an abundant marine life. Snorkelers may spot hammerhead sharks, king angelfish, starfish, and more.
San Cristobal Island is situated to the east of the archipelago and is home to the second largest port and capital of the Islands, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The highlands boast beautiful scenery and many visitor sites are located on San Cristobal, including Witch Hill, Pitt Point, Tijeretas Hill, and the Interpretation Center.
This small but beautiful island, located directly south of Santiago Island, hosts a picturesque landscape with beautiful maroon coloring. On this island visitors have the opportunity to see the rare Brown Pelican nesting among the mangroves. Flamingoes and white-cheeked Pintail Ducks feed around the lagoon as well. A small island where brown pelicans nest among the mangrove vegetation, flamingos and long tailed white checked pintail ducks feed and glide around in the lagoon.
Isabela Island is the largest of the whole islands with an area of 4640 sq. km (1790 sq. miles). The port, Puerto Villamil, is home to the Tortoise Breeding Center, where Giant Tortoises are bred and raised in captivity until they are strong enough to survive in the wild on their own. The Island has many popular visitor sites, including Sierra Negra (a large volcanic crater with a spectacular view), Urbina Bay, Elizabeth Bay, Tagus Cove, and more attractions. The famous Wall of Tears is also here, and just off the island at Tintoreras Islet visitors can observe the Galapagos Penguin, Blue-footed Boobies, iguanas, sharks, and sea turtles. The landscape is covered with dense vegetation typical of the area.
Fernandina Island is the westernmost island of the Galapagos archipelago. On this island, visitors will have the chance to see “La Cumbre,” an active volcano dominating the Fernandina Island landscape, as well as lava fields and many birds. The Flightless Cormorant and the Galapagos Hawk can be spotted on this island.