The Galapagos Islands are one of the most unique places in the world, which is why they’re such a popular tourist destination. Your small vessel Galapagos vacation with Vaya Adventures will be the experience of a lifetime – but instead of using flowery adjectives and surplus superlatives, this blog will focus on cold, hard facts to show you just how incredible the archipelago is.
At between 3 and 5 million years old, the islands are relatively young. They were all formed by volcanic activity, and eruptions still occur regularly.
Although Darwin’s famous voyage took place in 1835, the islands were discovered exactly 300 years earlier in 1535 when a Spanish ship carrying a Dominican friar was blown off course.
The islands are 575 miles west of continental Ecuador, and – in modern times – are best accessed by airplane from either Quito or Guayaquil.
There are 19 main islands (of which only 5 are inhabited) and countless smaller islands. Each island is unique in its own right, and many species are endemic to only one island.
With 837 miles of coastline, the islands have a longer shoreline than mainland Ecuador.
The islands have a total land area of 4897 square miles, of which 97 %forms part of the Galapagos National Park. The remaining 3 %is inhabited by humans, and the archipelago has a population of about 32,000.
In 2012 180,381 tourists visited the islands, of which 125,059 were foreign tourists and the remainder Ecuadorian residents.
This figure is up from 11,765 in 1979 and 41,192 in 1990. The rise in tourist numbers is threatening the biodiversity of the islands and is a matter of grave concern to Vaya Adventures. This is why we focus on boat-based tourism to the islands, and our founder Jim Lutz advocates a cap on tourism arrivals to the islands.
Covering an area of 51,000 square miles, the Galapagos Marine Reserve is the second largest such reserve in the world – behind the Great Barrier Reef.
There are 182 native and endemic marine and terrestrial vertebrate species in the archipelago. There are also 180 endemic plant species. When you consider that whole of the USA (including Hawaii and Alaska) has 109 endemic mammal species, the statistics are all the more staggering.
No fewer than 3 major ocean currents converge on the Galapagos Islands, part of the reason there is such diverse marine life in their waters.
The Galapagos tortoise is reaches weights of over 880 lb and lengths of over 5.9 ft, making it the largest tortoise species in the world. A captive individual lived at least 170 years – it is also one of the longest-lived vertebrates in the world.
I hope that you had as much fun reading this list as I did compiling it. Now all that remains is for you to book your small vessel Galapagos vacation and experience the islands for yourself.