Central / South America, Feature Destination

Emerging Destinations: Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands were the world’s very first World Heritage site

Given our natural curiosity, our ease with different cultures, and a willingness to trust, Canadians have been known to venture off-the-beaten-track in search of the most authentic travel experiences.

Such adventures, say vacation pundits, are readily found in “emerging destinations”, a reference to the undiscovered up-and-coming places now emerging into the global spotlight. It is, in places like these, where authenticity is found in simple happenstance:

The Galapagos Islands are renowned and celebrated the world over for the abundant number of species that have inhabited the islands for centuries.

In fact, studies conducted by Charles Darwin in the islands led to his theory of evolution.

For more years than we can count, nature has flourished here relatively undisturbed. Volcanic activity that formed the first Galapagos Islands continues to outline and contour the landscape, providing habitat for extraordinary fauna and flora, and wildlife found nowhere else on earth.

During a visit to the islands, three things are sure to occur; first, you will be awestruck; second you will often laugh and wonder about the magnificence of the wildlife; and third, you will have wondered into your own happenstance and have stories (and photos) to tell for years to come!

The Galapagos Archipelago is a cluster of some thirteen volcanic islands situated just south of the equator and approximately nine hundred and sixty-five kilometres west of Ecuador.

The oldest of the islands are about 4 million years old and the other of the “younger’ islands are still are still a work in progress.

The islands were discovered by chance in 1535 and were rarely visited and became the refuge for pirates and privateers preying on Spanish galleons and coastal towns. Subsequently they became the haunts of whalers and sealers.

Charles Darwin was the first to make a scientific study of the islands in 1835. He was a young student just out of university and was the naturalist on a round-the-world scientific and geographical voyage on board HMS Beagle. He had spent the previous several years exploring the geology and wildlife of South America. Later, Darwin maintained that the Galapagos were the source of all his ideas and to this day, the Galapagos are ‘associated’ with Darwin.

The Galapagos are owned by Ecuador and are maintained as part of Ecuador’s’ national park system. The Park Service provides rangers and guides, and is responsible for overseeing the multitude of visitors that visit each year. The Darwin Station conducts scientific research and conservation programs and is continually breeding and releasing tortoises and iguanas.

Did you know …

  • The Galapagos Islands were declared a Marine Reserve in 1986, a Whale and Shark Sanctuary in 1990 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.
  • The famous Galapagos penguin is the only type of penguin to live at the equator. An endangered species, there are less than 1500 of these penguins, according to scientific studies.

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