Galapagos sapiens – Why are the Galapagos Islands special?

The Galapagos is an archipelago of volcanic islands and islets that rise up from the Pacific Ocean 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) west of Ecuador. On a desktop globe, they look like a set of freckles on the ocean’s cheek, incongruous and entirely unexpected. They emerged from the ocean just yesterday in geological time, created by a crack in the Earth’s crust between two tectonic plates, known to science as a volcanic hotspot. A very hot spot.

The Galapagos are special because they have never been connected to the mainland.

Marine Iguanas At Tortuga Bay
Marine Iguanas At Tortuga Bay.


The flora and fauna that reached the islands’ shores – before the intervention of Man at any rate – had to survive the hundreds of miles of the ocean first. Mammals failed almost entirely to complete the journey. Over millions of years, only a small rat made it. The kings of Galapagos fauna are reptiles. How did they get there They were washed away from the banks of rivers on the continent by flash floods, floated on rafts of vegetation skippered by whimsical ocean currents for weeks, and finally disembarked, fortuitously impregnated.

Over millions of years, these reptiles, and many of the marine birds that also alighted on these volcanic isles adapted to their environment. In the words of Charles Darwin – in fact, the sub-title to the first edition of On The Origin of Species their survival followed the principle of – the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Thus a land tortoise that began a little bigger than your foot grew to the length of the six-year-old child; a cormorant became flightless as it gained an advantage by fishing underwater rather than flying; one species of finch arrived and adapted to its environment to such an extent that there are today 13 species; and a mutation of a land iguana whose offspring were good swimmers thrived and reproduced, creating the marine iguana, unique to the Islands. Flora too, mutated and adapted. The scalesia tree, for example, which reaches heights of a good 10 meters (30 feet) in the highlands of some islands, is from the same family as the diminutive daisy.

The Galapagos are special because we, in our wisdom, have decided to protect them as such. Long may we continue to be so sapiens.

Start your Galapagos vacation today!

Updated:May 8, 2023

Published:June 3, 2015


Machu Picchu & Galapagos Islands Tour 2024 Package: 12 days / Quito, Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu / From USD 9,598 per person



Condé Nast Traveler ONLINE

This small, secret rooftop of the restored Casa Gangotena mansion peers over Plaza San Francisco in the center of Quito’s colonial Old Town, the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Order a Cedrón Spritz, a refreshing mix of rum, lemon, sparkling wine, and fresh lemon verbena (cedrón) syrup and leaf, then revel in the mesmerizing, real-time montage of daily life in Ecuador’s capital as it parades past.

National Geographic Traveller

A Font of information, Klaus has spent decades in the field, leading tours in the Amazon, Andes and Galapagos Islands. He hung up his guiding boots a few years back and now creates itineraries for the tour operator, Metropolitan Touring. Adrift in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from mainland South America, Galapagos is one of the most biodiverse locales on Earth.

Cruise Critic

Santa Cruz II is a replacement for the much-loved Santa Cruz, which plied the waters of the Galapagos for 36 years. It is not a new ship; it was built in 2002 and sailed as Mare Australis under the Australis cruise brand, operating expedition cruises around Cape Horn and to Antarctica. Metropolitan Touring bought the ship in 2015 and completely refurbished it, launching it as Santa Cruz II in October 2015.

Telegraph Ultra Travel: 50 Greatest Hotels in the World

When this modern, minimalist, glass-walled jungle lodge opened in 2012, it changed the accommodation game in South America. Arquitect Alfredo Ribadeneira’s “protective cocoon” would impress in a modern city; in the depths of an Andean cloudforest, it is wild, audacious and beautiful. Though only 70 miles from Quito, Maspi Lodge sits in splendid isolation, perched on a cliff at the end of an unsealed road.

Terms and Conditions

Itinerario de 5 días / 4 noches: Basado en la tarifa regular (4214 USD + impuestos por persona)
Itinerario de 7 días / 6 noches: Basado en la tarifa regular (5672 USD + impuestos por persona)
No reembolsable. Aplica únicamente para residentes ecuatorianos en nuevas reservas directas realizadas, hasta el 30 de junio del 2022, con un ejecutivo de ventas del hotel. Válido para estadías hasta el 31 de agosto de 2022. No puede ser combinada con otros descuentos, promociones u ofertas. El descuento no aplica para otros servicios. El precio no incluye recargo de combustible de $20 por noche de crucero.

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