About the Galapagos Islands

PelikanThe Galapagos Islands include over 50 islands and islets within the recently created 138,000 square kilometer Galapagos Marine Reserve, with a total land area of about 7,880 square kilometers. Within the island chain are 13 islands; the largest of which are Isabella, Fernandina, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Floreana, Santiago and Fernandina. Several smaller islets, along with countless rock formations complete the island chain. Most islands have a dry and inhospitable environment, limiting the diversity of land species, but several species unique to the islands have evolved to survive in the harsh environment. However, the location of the islands at the confluence of the cold Humboldt current from the south and warmer currents from the west and north has helped create an amazingly diverse and beautiful marine ecosystem. A number of marine bird species thrive on the islands as well. Without a long history of human contact, most wildlife on the Galapagos can be easily approached.

Each island in the Galapagos offers something a bit different. Still among the most volcanically active areas on earth, the islands originally formed about 6 million years ago from underwater volcanic activity. The oldest of the islands are extinct volcanoes, last erupting millions of years ago, while some of the islands are still changing form with continuing volcanic activity. Thus the landscapes of each island are a bit different, and support different kinds of life. Marine life forms are equally varied from island to island, including a variety of birds, sea lions, iguanas, sharks, rays, penguins, and a surprising variety of other fishes and marine life.

Kept relatively cool by the ocean currents, the Galapagos Islands have a pleasant climate year round, but temperatures can still reach 30 degrees C or more. The warmest months are from December to June, months where afternoon rainfall is also common. July through November are generally cooler and drier months, but light drizzle can fall during this period. The water temperature varies as well, from about 18 °C (66 °F) in August to 24 °C (76 °F) in February, March and April.

Land Iguana


While the land environment of Galapagos appears harsh, characterised by parched, rocky desert-like terrain, the islands support several species of land animals and birds. About a quarter of all plant species and nearly all of the reptiles found here are endemic, species that are found nowhere else and have adapted to the harsh environment of the Galapagos Islands.



Fray Tomás de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama, accidentally discovered the Galapagos Islands in 1535 when his ship drifted off course. He was on his way to Peru, and at the time considered the islands to be all but worthless. But in his writings he described the harsh conditions of the islands, the tortoises, iguanas, sea lions and birds of the islands, and the tameness of the animals. The first crude maps including the islands appeared in 1570. They were drawn by the Belgian cartographer Abraham Ortelius and the Flemish mathematician and cartographer Gerardus Mercator, and showed the islands as “Insulae de los Galopegos”, or Islands of the Tortoises.



The Galapagos islands are of volcanic origin, with the younger islands of Isabela and Fernandina remaining volcanically active. The islands are young in geological terms; the oldest of the islands was formed about 5 to 10 million years ago during the Pliocene era. The climate of the Galapagos Islands is mild year round, contrary to what one might expect given the islands location at the equator, and the water temperatures are typically between about 17 and 23 degrees.

Respecting the Galapagos


Since the European discovery of the Galapagos Islands, humans have had a negative impact on the delicate life of the Galapagos. Over the years, the human population on the islands has risen dramatically, bringing problems of garbage, water pollution, habitat destruction, and introduced species from the smallest seeds to livestock. Today, annual visitors to the islands vastly outnumber residents. Thus, for the preservation of the islands, it is essential that every visitor treat the islands with care, ensuring that the impact of their visit is as close to zero as possible.

Copyright © 2013 EcuadorQuest Cia. Ltda., All Rights Reserved - City of Quito Operating License Number 92544