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10 Fascinating Facts about the Galapagos Islands

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The Galapagos Islands make a wonderful place to visit, and many people each year take a Galapagos Islands cruise or land-based Galapagos tour to get to see the wildlife and enjoy the unusual volcanic scenery. Yet there are many fascinating facts about the Galapagos Islands that some people may be unaware of either before, or perhaps even after their visit. Here are some Galapagos Islands fun facts


1. Theories of evolution are based on the Galapagos – number one in our facts about the Galapagos Islands is the fact that in the 19th century, Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands and developed his seminal work, The Origin of the Species, which he published in the 1850s. Darwin observed that small differences between the species on the different islands could only have come about as a result of evolution in these different sites. These differences included finch beaks, and the shape of giant tortoise shells. This theory still holds today. 

2. Lonesome George, the last of his species recently died – Lonesome George was a male Pinta Island tortoise and is thought to have been born around 1910, recently dying in 2012. While many efforts were made to find Lonesome George a mate, ultimately these attempts were futile, and on his death, an entire species died out. He had been paired with two females from a slightly different species, but no new Pinta Island tortoises came of this. George lived out his final years on Santa Cruz Island in the Charles Darwin Research Station.



3. Pirates operated here – according to ship logs, centuries old, the Galapagos Islands were a favorite spot for pirates! They made a great place to hide out and lie low, and there was plenty of food in the vicinity, including the large numbers of giant tortoises roaming the islands. Fresh water was harder to come by for the pirates, but this did not stop them from using the islands as a good place to stash their treasure. Unfortunately, while this makes for a great Galapagos Islands fun facts list, you’ll be unlikely to come across any loot.

4. People live in the Galapagos Islands – a fact that is not known to some, people reside in the Galapagos Islands. Not the pirates of the past, fortunately. However, there are small communities on some of the islands. In total, approximately 25,000 people call the Galapagos Islands their home. The islands that have settlements are Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. The largest population is found in Puerto Ayora, which is on Santa Cruz Island, and has 12,000 people calling it home. However, if you’re on a Galapagos cruise to the Islands you probably won’t see that many local people, apart from at the start and end of your trip.

5. Galapagos animals and birds are unafraid of people – yes – you read that right! Galapagos wildlife is not afraid of people, and this means that on your Galapagos cruise you will find yourself up very close with the animals and birds at various points. The really great part about this is that you will have an opportunity to take some superb photographs of the wildlife as animals won’t scuttle off for cover, and birds won’t fly away afraid. However, you will be expected to stay on marked trails and not go off them to get closer, as this helps preserve and protect the islands for future visitors.



6. The only northern hemisphere penguin – another fascinating fact about the Galapagos Islands is that the Galapagos penguin that lives there is the only bird in the penguin family that lives above the equator – apart from birds that can be found in zoos and wildlife parks of course. A special highlight of visiting the Galapagos Islands on a cruise is the opportunity sometimes to observe the Galapagos penguin diving for fish, while you are snorkeling. The Galapagos penguin is actually also the smallest species of penguin to be found in South America.

7. Famous movies were filmed here – if on your Galapagos Island cruise you visit Bartolome Island, it may seem strangely familiar. This is because you may well have seen it before, if you watched the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, starring Russel Crowe. The geological features here form a spectacular landscape that is quite breathtaking. Once you’ve enjoyed the landscape you may also get a chance to observe the wildlife here too, such as Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas, and sea lions, to name but a few.

8. A peculiar postal system exists – visitors to Floreana Island during a Galapagos Islands cruise may stop off at Post Office Bay. The system supposedly came into being in the 18th century when whalers and other seamen started leaving their mail in a barrel on the island for other passing sailors to pick up and deliver. You can still pop a postcard in the wooden post box here today without a stamp, and if you’re lucky, someone will pick it up and deliver it to its destination for you… though you might not want to count on it!



9. Marine iguanas are the only swimming lizard – marine iguanas that are noteworthy for their black coloring, and which are distributed across several of the islands, are the only lizards that are known about that have the ability to swim and forage for food in the sea. If you are lucky, while you are snorkeling you will get to watch marine iguanas under the water diving for food. Either way, it is unlikely you’ll take a visit to the Galapagos islands without spotting marine iguanas at some point.

10. The bluer your feet the more attractive you are – but don’t go freezing your feet just yet to go for this look. Blue feet are important to blue footed boobies. Blue feet are essential for males of the species in finding a mate. They strut their funky stuff with their blue feet in an unusual and bizarre dance to attract the females.



For more facts about the Galapagos Islands why not take a Galapagos Islands cruise or land-based tour. You’ll be delighted with even more Galapagos Islands fun facts. Be sure to contact Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders to find out how to book your trip today.

By Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders
By Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders
Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders is a leading travel company based in Ecuador and run by local tour guides and travel specialists, we are happy to provide expert and free trip planning advice, no commitment fee involved.
Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders