Galapagos Islands: The Enchanted Isle
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Galapagos Islands: The Enchanted Isle

An archipelago of volcanic islands scattered around the equator in the Pacific Ocean are the islands of Galapagos. The second of the world’s largest marine and wildlife reserve; voted world’s number 1 scuba diving site from 2000 – 2002, and one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

An archipelago of volcanic islands scattered around the equator in the Pacific Ocean are the islands of Galapagos. The second of the world’s largest marine and wildlife reserve; voted world’s number 1 scuba diving site from 2000 – 2002, and one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

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In 1535, Fray Tomás de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama, discovered the islands when his ship was swept off course in the Pacific. A Flemish cartographer named Orteliu first named “Isolas de Galápagos” in 1570. The name “Galapagos” is a Spanish word for saddle, after the many saddleback tortoises found in the islands. It was known as “Las Encantadas” (the Enchanted Isles), for the perilous currents, and frequent disappearance of the islands in the mist.

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From the year 1600 – 1680, pirates and buccaneers used the islands of Galapagos as a base hiding place where they attacked the Spaniards. By the year 1790, Alessandro Malaspina of Spain led a scientific visit to the Islands and soon after, whalers from different countries in Europe arrived and that started the heyday of whaling. There are many reported sightings of different whales around the area, and whaling made a huge biological impact on the islands. In 1813, Captain David Porter was sent from the United States on board the warship Essex to destroy the British whaling fleet, and he was successful. When oil was discovered in the United States in 1859, the whaling industry declined.

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Galapagos Islands was soon annexed and colonized by Ecuador, and Spanish names were given to the different places of the Islands. A small settlement was established on Floreana which quickly became a penal colony, as did another on San Cristobal, and stories of subsequent tyranny, slavery and murder abound the islands. Charles Darwin arrived in the islands as a naturalist and the conditions there inspired his thoughts on evolution. With him was Captain Robert FitzRoy, they were on board HMS Beagle. FitzRoy mapped the coastline of the Galápagos with such accuracy that his charts were used by all ships until World War II.

Image via Google Images

During the 20th century, people from different parts of the globe went to live in the beautiful islands of Galapagos. The areas without a human population were declared by the government of Ecuador as a national park. In 1970, the islands experienced a boom in tourism, but this exploited the wildlife and damaged the ecology because there are those who hunted tortoises for food and oil, as well as other animals that reduced several species and even led to their extinction.

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In 1934, the Ecuadorian government passed the first laws protecting fauna in the archipelago; making it necessary to get permits to land and collect specimens. In 1957, a UNESCO fact-finding mission was invited to assess the status of the wildlife and to give some useful advice on the creation of reserves. In 1959, a special body, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) for the Galapagos Islands, was created. The authorities recognized that the islands possessed a unique flora and fauna of outstanding importance and that there was a great potential for tourism. That same year, the Ecuadorian government declared all areas of the archipelago to be a national park.

Images via Google Images

Galapagos is one of the world’s best marine and wildlife sanctuary. A visit to the place would allow you to see giant tortoises, pre-historic iguanas, flightless cormorants, small penguins, red-billed tropical birds, whales etc. If you’re tired of going to places with just the sea or beautiful houses to see, then try going to the islands of Galapagos for a new and exciting experience.

Images via Google Images

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