Description & main attractions
The Galapagos Archipelago, whose correct name is Archipiélago de Colón, named after Cristobal Colón (Christopher Columbus), forms a group of volcanic islands straddling the equator about 600 miles west of Ecuador. There are 13 main islands and they have both English and official Spanish names, but the latter are now in common use.
The islands are famous for their unique wildlife which includes many endemic species of both land animals and birds living amid barren volcanic scenery.The way different species had evolved in isolation from the rest of the world was one of the major observations made by Charles Darwin on his visit, which led to his theory of evolution.
The abundance of wildlife as well as its variety is truly staggering. Every island has its own resident species – giant tortoises on Isabela, sea iguanas on Santa Fé, land iguanas on Fernandina, sea lions on San Cristobal, frigate birds on Seymour, penguins on San Salvador, white-tipped sharks at Bartolomé, while Española has a large colony of blue-footed boobies whose gentle dance performed by courting couples is one of the most touching acts in the animal world.
The islands were found by accident early in the sixteenth century when a ship carrying the Bishop of Panama to Peru drifted off course. However, it is possible that Amerindians had earlier visited the islands from the mainland. Named by the Spaniards Las Islas Encantadas, the Enchanted Islands were not settled and in the next three centuries they were used as a base by pirates, sealers and whalers. Famous sailors such as Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, James Cook and John Hawkins stopped there for refuge, rest and provisions. The giant tortoises, which could be kept alive in ships’ holds for months on end, provided a source of fresh meat, and thousands were captured or killed.
In 1835 the islands received their most famous visit, from HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin. The expedition stayed for five weeks and Darwin’s observations of how the native wildlife had developed into unique species in response to their surroundings were central to his theory of evolution.
Eventually the islands were settled by Ecuador and used for some time as a penal colony. In 1959 the Galapagos were declared a national park, and organized tourism since the 1960s brings thousands to the islands every year.
Host marina / Port information
The administrative centre is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, while Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island is the main settlement and centre of activity.
The anchorage at Baquerizo Moreno offers reasonable protection and is not as crowded as the one at Puerto Ayora. The latter is the base of a large fleet of local excursion boats and the anchorage is therefore very crowded.
Supplies at both Puerto Ayora and Baquerizo Moreno have improved and the choice is good. Vegetables are now produced locally, so provisioning a boat for the onward passage is no longer a problem. Diesel fuel and water are occasionally difficult to obtain, so it is advisable to arrive with full tanks. There are no haulout facilities except for a drying grid in the inner harbour in Puerto Ayora.
Location on the map
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