The Galapagos archipelago consists of 13 main islands and 6 smaller islands, as well as many rocks and islets. They cover an area of around 19,000 square miles in the ocean. The Galapagos was formed by volcanic activity, and several volcanoes are still active today.
Galapagos Giant Tortoise
The Giant Tortoise is one of the most famous residents of the Galapagos. Scientists have identified 14 distinct forms of Giant Tortoise throughout the Galapagos. The Giant Tortoise grows up to 5 feet and can live for around 150 years.
Animal & Plant Life
Due to a lack of natural predators, the Galapagos have a wide variety of animal species. Some interesting exotic animals include Galapagos penguins, the waved albatross, red-footed, blue-footed (pictured below) and masked boobies, and countless species of exotic fish and reptiles. As well as being home to the Giant Tortoise, the Galapagos Islands are also inhabited by marine iguanas, sea lions and several species of birds.
A wealth of similar plant species throughout the Galapagos are native to a specific location. This provides great models for the study of adaptive radiation (the development of new species from migrating populations). Aside from the many exotic plants such as giant prickly pear and orchids, the islands contain endemic species of cotton, tomato, guava, pepper and passion flower.
Traveling to the Galapagos Islands can be quite expensive, as the only way to get there from the mainland is by plane or boat. Once there, however, you can island hop by boat.
Located in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the closest mainland to the Galapagos Islands is Ecuador, about 450 miles away. The islands are located above the Galapagos Hotspot, a place where the Earth's crust is melting, which creates the volcanic landscape.