Geography of the Galapagos Islands
A province of Ecuador and officially known as the Archipelago de Colon, in honor of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas, the Galapagos Islands are located in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, close to the equator. Situated around 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador, this tiny chain of volcanic islands are among the most dynamic in the world. Constantly changing with the formation of new lava fields, the Galapagos Islands are expanding and eroding with the many volcanic eruptions that have taken place here over the centuries.
Formed roughly 5 million years ago from a natural phenomenon known as a ‘hotspot’, the Galapagos Islands were initially uninhabitable and barren. However, over the course of the time, many animals came to live on these islands, and have since then naturally adapted themselves to this unique landscape.
Covering a total land area of about 7882 sq km, the Galapagos Islands comprise of 19 small and large islands along with over 42 islets and rock formations. Named Galapagos after the giant tortoises that were discovered by Bishop Berlanga here in 1535, these islands are volcanic in origin, with each having a volcano of its own except Isla Isabela, which has 6 volcanoes. The 13 main islands of the Galapagos include:
- Santa Cruz, which is the most inhabited island,
- San Cristobal, which is home to the provincial capital Puerto Baquerizo Moreno,
- Santa Fe, home to the unique Santa Fe land iguana,
- Isabela, home to the Volcan Wolf, the highest point of the Archipelago,
- Espanola, one of the best islands to bird watch on,
- Fernandina, the third largest and youngest island in the Galapagos,
- Isla Santa María (Floreana), home to the islands first post office since the 18th century,
- Genovesa>, a nesting ground for many species of birds.
- Pinta, the former home of Lonesome George, the last remaining Pinta tortoise,
- Santiago or San Salvador, the first island discovered by Christopher Columbus after his exploration of the Caribbean Sea,
- Baltra, home to the main Galapagos Airport,
- Pinzon, named after the Pinzon brothers who sailed with Christopher Columbus, &
- Marchena, home to an active volcano that last erupted in 1991.