What Are The Galapagos Islands?

About Galapagos Islands, Galapagos National Park

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most unique places on the planet. Here’s why:

What are the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago almost 1000 kilometers (more than 500 miles) off the Pacific coast of South America, and belong to Ecuador.

The Galapagos Islands are:

  • a Province of Ecuador
  • a National Park
  • a Marine Reserve
  • a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • one of the most popular tourist destinations on earth.

Map of the Galapagos Islands as described by Ambrose Cowley in 1684

What is an Archipelago?

An archipelago is a group or cluster of islands, often formed by volcanic activity. While the Galapagos Archipelago is not the largest (not even close) it is one of the most famous ones.

Why All The Buzz About The Islands?

Because of their isolated location, species have adapted over thousands of years to reflect unique physical characteristics. These variances led Charles Darwin to develop his theory of evolution.

Something interesting about the Galapagos, is that not only are species unique to the archipelago, but many species are unique to specific islands in the archipelago.

The islands are (generally) undeveloped, with the majority of the land area belonging to the National Park. In 1959 (the 100th anniversary of Darwin publishing Origin of the Species) the Ecuador Government declared 97.5% of the islands land area a national park. The exception was the already developed area, making up a small 2.5% of the total land area.

Learn more facts about the Galapagos.

In 1986 some 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 sq mi.) of the waters surrounding the Galapagos were declared a Marine Reserve. This Marine Reserve is one of the worlds largest, second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The archipelago has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is also a whale sanctuary.

Notable Animal Species in the Galapagos Islands

Here are some of the more famous animals of the Galapagos:

  • Blue Footed Booby (and his lesser known cousin: the red footed booby)
  • Galapagos Sea Lions: Smaller than their close relatives, the California Sea Lion
  • Giant Tortoises
  • Galapagos Marine Iguanas
  • Galapagos Land Iguanas
  • Galapagos Penguin
  • Darwins finches (all 13 species)

Meet the Author

Hi, I'm Bryan Haines! I'm a traveler, photographer and Canadian entrepreneur. I'm a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for travel brands. I blog at GringosAbroad (Ecuador travel) and Click Like This (How to Use a GoPro).

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