My Experience of the Galapagos Islands

In 2014 I was fortunate enough to go to the Galapagos Islands. At first I didn’t think I would like it much since I would be spending half of my summer on a boat looking at animals. We first headed to Ecuador since we can’t fly straight to the islands. After a couple of days exploring Ecuador, we took a plane to the main tourist island and got on the boat. We were on the boat for almost a week and every day we explored a new island taking tours with the guides. My favorite part of the trip was one day instead of exploring an island we took a smaller boat out and looked at all the stuff you can’t see on land. It was also really cool because we were allowed to get out of the boat and swim around. Another memorable moment was when we were allowed to swim and go near a coral reef. It was really cool to see the unique environment. The island tours were maybe an hour or two, walking around the different islands. It was really cool to see the many differences in environment and ecosystem the different islands had, even though they were so close together. Some islands had cacti everywhere and the next island didn’t have any cacti. The same goes with animals. The final day I got sick and missed out on some of the fun things everyone else could do. On the final day after we got off the boat, we headed back to the first island where we flew in from and we checked out a tortoise farm. There were maybe 3 or 4 giant tortoises in the farm.

Exotic Animals of the Galapagos Islands

Last entry I talked about some animals that make the Galapagos unique, like the Blue-Footed Boobies, Marine Iguanas, and Galapagos Tortoises. Now I am going to talk about some more that are unique to the islands. One of these animals is Galapagos Land Iguana. These reptiles are known for having bright orange and yellow underside and a brownish color on the top. It also shares a relationship with some of the island birds who find parasites on the iguana’s skin and eat it as food.  Frigate birds are another exotic bird. Although these birds are tiny, they have a very long wingspan and can fly for days without landing. Similar to the boobies they are also clumsy on land. One other special fact about these birds is they lay only one egg every mating season and take care of their young much longer than most other species of bird. Sally Light-foot Crabs are also unique to the islands. These brightly colored crabs are extremely agile which allow them to get away from predators. Flightless Cormorants are extremely unique. Since they are on an island and have a lack of predators trying to attack them these birds evolved to the point where they can’t fly. Instead of flying to find its food these birds have evolved to have webbed feet and a sleek body allowing it to dive in the water for its food. These aren’t the only animals on the islands however. The Galapagos is home to many other animals like seals and even flamingo on some islands!

Here is a slideshow of some pictures I took on my visit to the islands: http://www.whatsupnow.info/spring2017/richard/wordpress/galapagos-animals/

The Importance of the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are very important. One way, as I talked about last time was the impact the islands had with science. The islands helped Charles Darwin prove and give evidence to his theory of evolution and natural selection. The other reason is because there are many animals that can only be found in the Galapagos area. Some of these animals include the Blue-Footed Boobies, Darwin’s Finches, Marine Iguanas, and the galapagos giant tortoises. The blue-footed boobies are one of the most famous animals found on the islands. Known for their blue feet, these birds name derive from the spanish word “bobo” which means clown or fool. They got this name because the boobies are known to be very clumsy on land. Marine Iguanas are another type of animal only found in the Galapagos area. The special thing about these iguanas is that they can live on both land and sea, diving up to depths around 30 ft. The giant tortoises are also very rare and can only be found in the Galapagos. These tortoises can live up to 100 years old. Along with the finches used by Darwin these tortoises helped him with his theory of evolution. The tortoise depending on the islands had different shell shapes to better suit the environment of the island they were on. These leads into another reason on why the islands are so important. The Galapagos Islands are so close together but they have such different environments which is very rare.

The Uniqueness of the Galapagos Islands

One of the biggest reasons why The Galapagos Islands are so famous are the animals. I will be talking about exotic animals in a late blog entry, but one kind of animal I want to focus on for now is the Galapagos Finch. These finches are also known as Darwin’s Finches, named from the famous scientist Charles Darwin. These finches helped Darwin create his famous Theory of Evolution as well as the concept of natural selection. For those that don’t know, a simplified explanation of his theory of evolution is that species evolve and change in order to fit their environment and better survive. The way these finches were involved was that Darwin noticed that these birds, on different islands in the Galapagos, that are apart of the same species of bird but are different. The key thing Darwin noticed were the beaks. Darwin found that all these birds from the same species had different beak structures depending on the island they were on. Some birds had long thin beaks on one island while on the next island the birds could have short large beaks. The reason for these different beak structures were that the birds had to adapt to the island’s’ environment they were on. The short large beaks could be used to open objects like nuts while the thin long beaks could be used get into trees or cacti easier. This shows just how special the Galapagos Islands are. All of these islands are extremely close together but have such different environments the animals on these islands need to evolve and adapt to the circumstances that best help them survive.

A Brief History of the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands were first discovered in 1535 by a bishop from Panama. Originally his ship was headed to Peru, but thanks to currents he landed on the islands. Pirates were known to visit the islands frequently preying on the islanders who lived there. Also during the time of the pirates species of animals were becoming extinct. One species that got hit very hard was the Giant Tortoises. The species was almost extinct, but one giant tortoise lives today named “Lonesome George.”  Up until 1832, the islands were owned by Spain, but in 1832, Ecuador took control of the islands. Another significant piece of Galapagos history involves Charles Darwin. On his first expedition to the islands in 1835, 22 year old Charles Darwin, noticed the “differences between the inhabitants of the different islands.” In 1845 Darwin returned to the island to continue his study with the theory of evolution. During World War 2 Ecuador allowed the United States to build a naval base on one of the islands as well as many other radio stations.  In 1959, the Galapagos Islands became a national park, and tourism started in the 60’s. Today, the Galapagos Islands are under Ecuador’s’ territory, and there are 18 main islands and 3 minor islands. With organized tourism becoming more and more popular an estimated 80,000 foreign visitors go to the islands a year.