Life In The Galapagos

Most travelers go to the Galapagos Islands in order to experience the wildlife. There is stunning geology and natural features here although the strange and extremely timid animals truly captures people’s attention. Most of the animals here are considered megafauna. Megafuana is an animal being in a small environment devoid of major predators becoming larger, filling a different niche and becoming extremely specialized. The problem that megafauna face is that being extremely specialized they do not adjust to change well. In the past megafuana became extinct because of natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions, cooler periods or warming periods in the planets cycle. Sadly most megafuana in the last hundred years became extinct because of humans or domesticated animals gone feral.

The Galapagos is one of the last places on earth with extensive megafauna. Places like Australia, New Zealand, Crete, North America, Hawaii and countless other little islands used to have extensive megafauna populations. In the Galapagos Islands a traveller can get a glimpse of what the world used to look like before humans came along.

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Introduction

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands around the equator, located about 1,000 kilometres west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean and were made famous by Charles Darwin. It is a heaven for people who wish to be witness of some of the most unusual animals in the world, all to be viewed from up close. It doesn’t come cheap and a tour of 5 days including the return flight from mainland Ecuador will set you back at least a US$ 1,000, but probably more when you want to explore more islands and spend some decent amount of time at this magnificent place.

The environment is fragile on the other hand and recently, the government of Ecuador has announced that less visitors are allowed on the islands at one time and a maximum number is allowed in one year. Also prices for the entry to the National Park are tripled which only adds extra costs. Still, if visited in the right way, it makes for an unforgettable trip!

Hopefully this stops some of the more rampant destructions and corruption that has plagued the Galapagos in the past. As recently as the 1990s the local mafia were trying smuggle animals out of the Galapagos Islands for a profit. Also many Ecuadorians view the islands as their frontier. Therefore many people move to the islands in order to find their fortunes in many different industries some very destructive to the fragile environment of the Galapagos Islands. Over fishing in recent years has been blamed for the reduction in the number of large whale sightings while on cruises.[/two-column]

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Geography

The islands are located on the equator, in the Pacific Ocean and apart from Ecuador the closest islands are 500 kilometres north (Cocos Islands) or almost 2,000 kilometres south (Easter Island). As the Galapagos islands are on the equator, they are located in both the northern and southern hemisphere and with the equator line located exactly on the island of Isla Isabela. From north to south the islands are spread out about 220 kilometres. A nice affect of being located on the equator and at sea level is that a traveller can see every constellation year round while visiting the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands include 7,880 square kilometres of land and 45,000 square kilometres of water. The largest of the islands is Isabela Island with about 4588 square kilometers, thus making up half of the total land area. The highest point is located on Isabela as well and Volcan Wolf has an altitude of 1,707 meters above sea level.

The Galapagos Archipelago consists of 16 main islands, 6 smaller islands, and 10 rocks and islets. The islands are located in a volcanic sensitive area and the oldest island is thought to have been formed between 5 and 10 million years ago. The most recent eruption was just back in 2007 and, as a consequence, younger islands like Isabela and Fernandina are still being formed and thus changed as we speak.[/two-column]

 

Wildlife

Galapagos Hawk
  • Islands: Extinct on the islands of Baltra, Daphne, Floreana ,San Cristobal and Seymour
  • Habitat: The interior and coastline of islands
  • Diet: Insects, small rodents, snakes, baby Iguanas, baby turtles and baby birds
  • Danger: Is the only large raptor on the island making it the terror of all small animals

The Caribbean caters well for scuba divers. There are dive-shops on most of the islands and it is perfectly possible to try the sport out for the first time while you are there. You do not need to be trained in advance or to go on a specific scuba diving holiday. With the PADI ‘resort course’ that is available in most islands, it is quite possible to get underwater within a day–it consists of safety instruction and a tester in a pool followed by a guided open-water dive on the reef.

The Future of the Hawk

The Galapagos Hawk is a recent arrival to the islands only coming 300,000 years ago. These birds are known for their fearless nature towards humans and other animals. Like most raptors the females are larger being 55 cm from beak to tail and 120 cm from wing tip to wing tip. These birds hunt in groups at about 50 to 200 feet in the air, with the dominate bird being allowed to eat its fill before the others are allowed to start. Due to the proximity to the equator there is no distinct breeding season and nests are built in low trees or lava wedges and occasionally on the ground itself.

These birds hunt in groups at about 50 to 200 feet in the air, with the dominate bird being allowed to eat its fill before the others are allowed to start.

Sadly the number of these birds has dwindled to only about 150 mating pairs, although there has been a come back in recent years. The closest relative to the Galapagos Hawk is Swainson’s Hawk.