Few island getaways will offer the flush variety, learning opportunities, and spectacular sights of the Galapagos Islands. Although learning doesn’t necessarily top the list of most popular things to do while on vacation, you’ll soon discover that the Galapagos has a way of teaching valuable lessons in biology, history, and geology without compromising your relaxation or entertainment. Every nook and cranny in this isolated archipelago is rife with history; from its unique biological diversity, to its famed connection to Darwin, to its mysterious European inhabitants, the Galapagos are sure to wonder your senses and challenge you in ways you hadn’t expected.
Why embark on a journey that is both entertaining and educational? If you’re travelling as a family, the benefits of taking your children to a place as intriguing and full of history as the Galapagos are beyond measure. Besides getting to enjoy the many activities available, your family will explore the vast educational opportunities on offer, enhancing their knowledge of a wide range of subjects and developing new academic interests. We’ve condensed some of the most attractive educational experiences in the Galapagos into this short blog; take note and keep your ears, eyes and nose open during your trip!
Biology: Education and Animals
The biological diversity of the Galapagos Islands is recognized in textbooks worldwide. This is mainly due to the historical importance of the islands in the development of the theory of natural selection and evolution; it was in the Galapagos Islands that Charles Darwin was inspired to develop these theories. Darwin chiefly focused on the archipelago’s finches, and how their beaks differed from island to island. He proposed that the finches’ varied beak shapes and sizes responded to an evolutionary adaptation; depending on the food available in each island, the finch evolved over time to develop a beak more suited to its feeding preferences.
Learning about biology in the Galapagos, however, goes much farther than Darwin. Hundreds of endemic species inhabit the Galapagos, many of developed quirky adaptations to suit the islands’ rugged habitat. Take, for instance, the marine iguana: this peculiar reptile is the only iguana in the world that forages for food on the seafloor. Blue-Footed Boobies also provide an excellent example of environmental adaptation; their brightly-colored feet vary in brightness depending on the bird’s health, thus ensuring that other birds will choose the healthiest booby (with the brightest feet) as a mate (click here to learn more about the Galapagos’ Big15 most amazing animals).
Throughout your tour, you’ll be able to discover interesting traits about the local fauna. Whether you’re exploring the islands by land or discovering the colorful depths of the ocean while snorkeling, we’re sure you’ll enjoy and learn a lot throughout your journey. Our tour guides have all been instructed on the basics – and if you get the chance to visit the Charles Darwin Research Center, you’ll be provided with a much more in depth analysis of the characteristics that make the animals of the Galapagos so unique.
Geology: Learning About The Islands’ Volcanic Origins
The geological nature of the Galapagos Islands is as fascinating as it is intriguing. Geologists believe that islands were formed by a natural hot spot: a hole in the Earth’s crust that spews out a constant flow of lava, slowly building up volcanoes as years go by. Because this hotspot occurs deep in the Pacific Ocean, it slowly built up the entirety of the archipelagos.
So, ¿why are there so many islands around a single hotspot?
You’ve probably heard about the phenomenon of Plate Tectonics. Different plates are constantly moving, rubbing against, or being subdued under other plates. The Galapagos Islands are on the very top edge of the Nazca Plate, which is slowly being subdued under the South American Continent. As the plate moves, the hotspot stays in place, spurting out lava and creating more islands as the plate slides away. This is why the oldest islands in the Galapagos are the closest to South America (and the least volcanically active).
There’s a lot more to learn about the geological characteristics that created the Galapagos Islands and you’ll certainly have plenty of opportunities to discover more throughout your trip.
History: Learning About The Islands’ Human History
The history of the Galapagos is one that’s deeply tied to colonization, pirates, English whalers and the United States’ military. Although they were discovered by pre-Columbian tribes such as the Incas, the Galapagos weren’t populated until much later. Their strategic position off the coast of South America made it an ideal place for pirates to plunder Spanish ships loaded with gold, and so they became a haven for piracy. Later on, after the islands’ were discovered to harbor a large population of sperm whales, the Galapagos received a great influx of whaling ships.
The Galapagos were claimed by Ecuador in the 1800s, but didn’t experience a spurt in population until several decades after. In the 1930s, one of the islands’ European settlements were rocked by several disappearances (and possible murders). Later on, with the dawn of the Second World War, the islands played a key strategic role; they were used by the United States as an army base meant to protect the Panama Canal.
During your trip to the Galapagos, you’ll discover much more about their rich human history. Can you solve one of the Galapagos’ many mysteries?