ABOUT Ecuador

Ecuador

Ecuador

The Galápagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean some 1000km west of the South American mainland, were first discovered by Spaniards in 1535 & made famous by Charles Darwin in 1835. They are tips of a chain of under-sea volcanoes, designated a World Natural Heritage site by UNESCO, administered by Ecuador.

There are 13 main islands, five of which are inhabited. Santa Cruz has the largest town - Puerto Ayora - most restaurants, hotels & moorings. North of Santa Cruz the major airport is located on tiny Isla Baltra. The remaining inhabited islands - Isla Isabela, Isla Santa MarÌa (also called Florentina) & Isla San Cristobal - have few residents or amenities.

There are five volcanic cones on Isla Isabella & one on Isla Fernandina. The highest peak (905m) located on Isla San Salvador is Cerro Cowan. The islands are equatorial - climate remains fairly constant year round - but weather patterns are dictated by wind & ocean currents. This relationship is complicated by the archipelagoís location at the confluence of a cool Humboldt Current from Peru & the warm Panama Flow from the northeast. The wet season is in February peaking March.

High season is December to January & again, northern hemisphere summer vacation from June to August which brings an influx of visitors, so flights & hotel inventory is under pressure, with demand often greater than the capacity available.

Accessing the Galapagos there are daily flights from the Ecuadorean capital city of Quito & from Guayaquil to Isla Baltra (airline code GPS) & to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. A ferry & bus service will connect visitors to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. Itís possible to land on one island, explore there, then return to the mainland from the other airport.

Be aware that the entire archipelago is a National Park & access is allowed to only 50 sites. The rest of the islands are off limits to protect wildlife in its natural environment. Various local costs are levied, as in addition to park entrance fee (currently levied at USD $100 per person), there is accepted tipping to local guides & boat crews & entrance fees to the various facilities.

Wildlife is the prime attraction of the islands. Due to the isolation, many species here are unique & many are if not friendly, at least human-tolerant.

On Santa Cruz: main attractions include: ï Guided walking excursions from Puerto Ayora, to see land animals, birds & giant tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Center ï Hiking to view marine iguana & pelicans ï Visit the lava tubes north of Puerto Ayora at Bellavista. ï Bird-watching on the Highlands ï Wild tortoises at the Tortoise Reserve near Santa Rosa.

On Baltra: Cerro de las Tijeretas for the bird watching ï Fresh-water El Junco Lagoon to see tortoises in the wild ï Tiny & rocky Isla Lobos is home to a sea lion & blue-footed booby colony & lava lizards.

Itineraries in Ecuador
Ecuador's Galapagos Islands Escape

Ecuador's Galapagos Islands Escape

Finch Bay

Finch Bay

DESTINATIONS MAP