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MEGADIVERSITY OUR GREATEST ASSET

Ecuador`s National Protected Areas occupy approximately 17% of the country´s territory (46.190 km2 / 17.834 square miles).

Both the Galapagos(map>) and the Sangay National Parks(map>) were declared as Natural Patrimony of Mankind by the UNESCO.

GALAPAGOS - enchanted islands

Visit the most unique living museum of evolutionary changes, and get to know a variety of exotic species exclusive to this Archipelago! The Galapagos Islands(map>) are the perfect setting to understand the evolutionary changes that have led to a new perspective of life on Earth. Animals unafraid of man and so different from any others found elsewhere, make visitors wonder about their very existence on our planet.



Among the animals found are the different species of giant 'Galapagos' tortoises that gave the islands their name due to the similarity of their carapaces to a British riding saddle called 'galapago' in Spanish. A variety of birds are found:
from blue footed, red footed and masked boobies, flamingos, frigate birds, and albatrosses, to unique small penguins and non-flying cormorants.

Also 14 different species of finches which served Darwin as proof for his theory of evolution from natural selection; among others. Marine mammals such as sea lions, dolphins and whales are also found; as well as multitudinous colorful fishes. The most distinctive plants are mangroves and endemic cacti. The Galapagos house an incredibly high rate of endemic species.

In 1835, Charles Darwin sailed on the British ship H.M.S. Beagle and visited the islands. His writings on the theory of the origin of species, which shook up to the scientific world, were inspired by the living proof that he found in this unique volcanic Archipelago. His observations and studies can be confirmed by all those who choose to make this unforgettable trip to the fascinating and mysterious Galapagos.

The islands are located 600 miles from the Ecuadorian coast(map>). In 1936 they were declared a National Park to preserve the flora and fauna of the 13 large islands, 6 minor ones and more than 40 islets.

The origin of the Galapagos Islands is volcanic. The islands appeared from lava eruptions that came from the bottom of the ocean and that rise as much as 2600 feet above sea level. Lava from more than 2000 craters has continuously altered the terrain of the region. The last significant eruption was in 1825 and since then Isabella Island has shown some volcanic activity. Variables such as climate, altitude and texture of the land on the islands, have made their distinct vegetation and animal life appear.

In 1959 the Government, along with the Charles Darwin Foundation, UNESCO and other scientific internationally recognized organizations, established a biological research station on the islands. This facility is also headquarters for visiting scientists engaged in special research programs. All tours take you to visit the Station. Scientists greet visitors while they instruct on the marvels of the islands.

Note:
the biggest problem affecting the biodiversity of the Archipelago are the introduced species of animals and plants, that are a big threat to the native and endemic species of the islands. Thus, a 'quarantine' is required at the entrance to the Park.




For more information about the Galapagos, you can visit the following web sites:
National Park: www.parquegalapagos.org.ec
Charles Darwin Foundation: www.darwinfoundation.org

Galapagos - marine reserve

The interior waters of the Galapagos islands, plus those within 40 nautical miles measured from the baseline of the Archipelago, were declared the Galapagos Marine Reserve on 1994. This is the only protected coastal marine area in the Southeast Pacific, and the second largest Marine Reserve in the World. It holds approximately 51.351 square miles, including 19.355 square miles of the interior waters of the Archipelago.

There are many areas with small submarine volcanoes, which are important feeding zones for marine birds and mammals. The submarine area of Galapagos (from 0 to 590 feet deep) is of 2.587 square miles.

Don´t miss the opportunity to snorkel with sea lions, penguins, a variety of colorful fish and even inoffensive sharks! Diving courses and tours are also offered for those who are willing to take a deeper adventure!




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