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The Enchanting Galapagos Islands

Galapagos TurtleThe Galapagos Islands were named after the giant Galapagos tortoises. This enchanted place on earth is composed of 19 islands and more than 40 islets with white sand beaches, dark and solid rocks, unique landscapes and deep crystal clear waters. You can enjoy swimming with playful sea lions around you or watching friendly sharks cruise six feet under you. All this wonderful nature makes you feel as if you are part of it all.

It has a world record of special titles and management categories: the islands are Ecuador's first National Park; UNESCO World natural heritage Site, both the terrestrial Park and the Reserve, (the second largest and possibly the most unique in the world); Biosphere Reserve and a Whale Sanctuary.

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS LOCATION This alluring complex ecosystem is located 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, northwest of South America in the Pacific Ocean.

WILDLIFE OBSERVATION Some of the most unusual and fascinating species in the world, both terrestrial and marine, are found in the Galapagos islands. Here most of the surface (96%) is a National Park, surrounded by a protected Marine Reserve, both UNESCO World Heritages Sites.

On Santa Cruz island, the Giant tortoises can be seen at the Charles Darwin Research Station (including famous Lonesome George, the only remaining tortoise from "Pinta" island) and also in the wild, in the highlands of this Galapagos island. There are 15 sub-species of giant tortoises. Some prefer the upland zones of the large islands because of humidity, grassy pastures and small ponds to drink and stagger about. Others prefer islands with low elevations, dry terrain, and with lots of prickly vegetation like cactus. The largest populations are found in Alcedo Volcano on Isabela Island, and in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island.

Tortoises keep growing for 30 or 40 years to almost 5 feet (1.5 m.) and weigh about 500 pounds (230 kg.). It is worth mentioning that no one knows exactly how long giant tortoises live, but it seems they can easily reach 150 years!

BIRD WATCHING A total of 140 species of birds have been registered in Galapagos. About half of the resident birds cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. You can observe shore and lagoon birds such as ducks, stilts, herons, warblers, pelicans and frigates all easily approachable, just like all the Galapagos animals.

Eight species of Darwin's Finches are found on Santa Cruz island; most of which can be observed all around the island. Charles Darwin's concepts were founded by modern evolutionists by studying the different beaks of these finches.

Galapagos DivingSNORKELING AND DIVING The Galapagos islands are considered a world premier destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. The protected waters of its Marine Reserve have been well preserved, nearly untouched by external sources. Here the crossroads of marine currents has resulted in a unique marine ecosystem.

GALAPAGOS WEATHER Although the islands are tropical, there are two markedly different seasons : the warm, humid and sunny season from December to May and the dry, windy and not-so-sunny season from June to November. Transitional months are January, April and May. The Warm Season offers hardly any wind (so the sea is usually very calm) and the visibility tends to be better. In the Dry Season there is more wind, sometimes the sea tends to be choppy and the visibility lower.

WATER TEMPERATURE Surprisingly, its water temperatures range from 16°C (61°F - 80°F); divers use full wet (6mm) suits all year around and hoods in the cold season. Regardless season, a thermocline is commonly found below 12-15 meters (37-45 feet)

THE MEANING OF GALAPAGOS Amongst the first groups that came to Galapagos, many were of Spanish origin. In traditional Castilian language, the word "Galapago" was used to describe the frontal piece of the riding saddle. Upon seeing the many tortoises the islands had in earlier years, but more important, the shape of their carapace (shell), they named this archipelago "Islands of the Galapagos". And this is the official story of the name of these islands.

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