The name Galapagos is synonymous with the world-famous giant tortoises that populate this archipelago of 21 islands, but this delicate ecosystem has a lot more to offer. The Galapagos islands are part of an Ecuadorian national park, and all visitors are required to have an official guide to ensure they don’t accidentally disturb or damage the unique wildlife.
Giant tortoises are native to seven of the islands, and the Ecuadorian government runs a careful breeding program to make sure the population continues to recover after centuries of hunting. There were originally 15 species of giant tortoise on the islands, of which 10 species still survive – though researchers recently discovered a female tortoise of a species that had been missing for over 100 years on Fernandina Island.
Each island differs slightly in terrain and climate, meaning the local tortoises and other wildlife have adapted to their unique local setting. Local animals include seals, sea lions, bats, iguanas and colourful birds that are not found anywhere else in the world. With a snorkel and mask you can see manta rays, sea turtles and white-tipped reef sharks.
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