The Showcase of Evolution
Galapagos Islands or Archipiélago de Colón, are an archipelago of 13 volcanic islands and dozens of islets, straddling the equator in the Pacific Ocean. Galapagos is the Spanish name for tortoise and the islands were named after the saddle-backed tortoises found here. The oldest islands are about 5 to 10 million years old whilst the youngest are still being formed. It was here that Charles Darwin found the perfect conditions to formulate his Theory of Evolution.
The Galapagos Islands, which are made exclusively of volcanic rock, are distributed about 600 miles off the west coast of Ecuador. They are located on one of the most active volcanic regions of the world: the Nazca Plate. 95% of the islands are covered by the Galapagos National Park and the rest by about 14,000 inhabitants.
For those interested in natural history, there are few places which fascinate quite as much as the Galapagos Islands. They are home to many unique, endemic animals, most of which are fearless due to the lack of natural predators. The best known is the giant tortoise, which has evolved into 14 distinct forms on the different islands of the archipelago, and Darwin’s Finch, which inspired the Theory of Evolution.
Endemic land birds include a hawk, dove, flycatcher, rail and 4 species of mockingbird. Among the endemic sea birds are a flightless cormorant, 2 species of gull, and the only penguin species which lives in tropical waters.
The islands were inscribed in UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1978 and are described as 'a unique living museum and showcase of evolution'.