Welcome to Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands came to the world’s attention following Charles Darwin’s visit in 1835. Here he discovered a living laboratory of exotic animal and plant life, much of it unique to the islands because of their isolation from other landmasses. This wildlife paradise offers unique and unforgettable encounters with many strange and exotic species that show no fear of humans. Walk alongside the giant Galápagos tortoises and swim with sea lions or snorkel with whale sharks. The islands are open year-round and there are two main seasons: warm and wet from Jan to Jun, dry and cool from Jul to Dec. The animals are more active between June, July and August.
The volcanic Galapagos Archipelago is made up of 13 major islands and six smaller ones lying about 600 miles (970km) from the mainland and located on the equator. It is the second largest marine reserve in the world, spread over 19,500 square miles (50,000 sq km), and was made a National Park in 1959. Positioned between three ocean currents, the climate is unique, and as a result, roughly 50 percent of the species are unique to the islands. Famous for its exceptional and fearless wildlife, it has become a paradise for nature enthusiasts and photographers.
The Galapagos Islands are a popular vacation destination, and the Ecuadorian government maintains strict control over tourist access in an effort to preserve the local ecosystem. All visitors must be accompanied by a certified tour guide, and there are additional restrictions regarding the size of tour groups and level of activity in a given area, so it's best to make bookings ahead of time.
Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, is the most developed town on the archipelago, and is the centre of the Galapagos tourism industry. Most visitors stay in this friendly little town while arranging a boat tour to the rest of the islands or anchor in the harbour during their cruise.
Information & Facts
The Galapagos Islands are located on the equator, but the Humboldt Current brings cold water to the islands and frequent drizzles occur throughout most of the year. The season between June and November is known as the 'Garua' when average temperatures reach 71.6°F (22°C) and a steady cold wind blows from South and Southeast bringing drizzles and dense fog that last most of the day. The warm season runs from December to May with average temperatures reaching 77°F (25°C), very little wind and occasional sporadic showers.
Spanish is the official language, but Quechua is the main language spoken among the indigenous people.
The US Dollar (USD) is the official currency in Ecuador. In 2000 the sucre was replaced by the dollar as the legal currency, but despite dollarization, the sucre will likely persist in rural areas for a while longer. It is recommended that travellers bring both US dollar notes and travellers cheques as other foreign currencies are difficult to exchange outside of Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. Small denominations in good condition are the easiest to exchange outside of the main cities. In the main centres most currencies can be exchanged at banks and exchange houses ( casas de cambio) at variable commission rates. ATMs are available in the cities, and major credit cards are accepted in tourist areas and large hotels although a commission of 6-8% is often charged.