The Galápagos Islands, made famous by the studies of Charles Darwin, is an archipelago of volcanic islands dotted on either side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean. They are a province of continental Ecuador, lying 926 km (575.3 mi) to the west, and also comprise a national park, created in 1959, and a biological marine reserve.
The group consists of 13 main islands, 3 smaller islands and 107 rocks and islets. The archipelago covers 7,880 km2 (3,042.5 sq mi) of land spread over 45,000 km2 (17,375 sq mi) of ocean and sits on a shifting tectonic plate called the Nazca Plate. The highest point in the archipelago is the volcano, Volcan Wolf, reaching an altitude of 1,707 m (5,600.4 ft).
The Islands have a variable climate, with only two seasons, the hot and rainy season running from December to June with an average temperature of 26-30°C (79-86°F), and a cooler season with occasional rain running from June to November, with an average temperature of 20-24°C (68-75°F).
Flora and Fauna
The islands are renowned for the high numbers of endemic species found there. Important species found here include the Galapagos tortoise, the Blue-footed booby, the Galapagos penguin (the only living tropical penguin) and the Waved albatross (the only living tropical albatross).
Because of the diversity and unique nature of the wildlife, the area is highly popular with natural historians, both amateur and professional. Wildlife is more active during the mid-summer months, so this is the period when most tourists visit. Cruises are the best, and often the only, way to see the majority of the remote islands. Other popular activities include snorkelling and scuba diving with sea lions and Pacific sea turtles, fishing from properly licenced boats, kayaking and surfing. Land areas can be best explored by horse-back, hiking and biking between sites.