The Galapagos Islands
The thirteen major islands and the dozens of smaller islets and rocks surrounding them - all the result of volcanic activity - are almost otherworldly in their conception. The islands are an unpredictable wilderness, hosting an extraordinary population of animal species found nowhere else in the world. These species developed for thousands of years, in complete isolation from outside influences. Today, scientists, researchers and visitors alike are able to observe blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, land and marine iguanas and Galápagos tortoises roaming freely, much as they did centuries ago.
Today, the Galápagos Islands remain a living laboratory of evolution where birds and other animals have no fear of man, and where volcanoes and haunting landscapes complement an unforgettable experience.
World Reknown National Park and World Heritage
The archipelago was declared a national park in 1959, when the last of the islands' penal colonies was abandoned. Ecuador's National Park Administration and the Charles Darwin Research Station, founded in 1964, manage the islands and insure their protection and preservation. Their charge is to guarantee the safety of native mammals, reptiles, birds and underwater ecosystems.
The Galápagos, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has also been identified as one of the 'Seven Wonders of the Underwater World' by the Ocean Explorers Organization, CEDAM International. The Galápagos, from the underwater side, is every bit as fascinating as the Galápagos above. The wealth of diverse ocean fish, birds, mammals and reptiles sets the Galápagos apart from other marine environments. Divers share the water with penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas, sea turtles, giant mantas, sperm whales, humpbacks and schools of hammerheads.
Santa Cruz Island (Indefatigable)
Altough the major port, Puerto Ayora is not the capital but it is the economic center of the archipelago, hosting the Galapagos National Park Headquarters and the Charles Darwin Research Station. Furthermore, it is the operations base for most of the tour operators and yachts.
Santa Cruz is Situated in the Center of the archipelago. With an area of 986 sq km. , it is the seccond-largest island in overall-size, having the largest population and the greatest number of tourist facilities. Santa Cruz is the focal point of human activity in the islands.
Furthermore, it is also the island with the greatest diversity of endemic flora in the archipelago. This is probably due to the fact, that there has not been any eruption registered on Santa Cruz for many years so the vegetation has had the opportunity to adapt to the different environments that exist within the island.
Galápagos giant tortoises can be found in the bredding center in the grounds of the Charles Darwin Research Station as wel as in their natural environment in the highlands, within the National Park. A variety of fauna lives around the cost of Santa Cruz. This includes flocks of Blue Fotted Boobies, Pelicans Frigate Birds, and Dark-rumped Petrels. In the turquoise waters you can see easily the Sea Lions, White tipped sharks, Manta Rays and hundreds of different specias of fish wich swimm in the waters of the archipelago.