Travel in Latin America
Formed roughly four to five million years ago, the Galapagos Islands today, is one of the most special places on earth. What makes these volcanic islands so extraordinary is that when they were created by the eruption of underwater volcanoes, they were totally devoid of any plant or animal life. Yet somehow over the millennia, these islands have now become home to several endemic species of wildlife including the Galapagos Tortoise, the Flightless Cormorant and the Red-billed Tropicbird.
Accidentally discovered by Bishop Tomas de Berlanga in 1535 while sailing from Panama to Peru; these islands got their name from the giant Galapagos or tortoises, which were spotted roaming around here. Used mostly as a base for pirates, buccaneers, whalers and sealers during the next three centuries, it was not until 1836 that these islands were given any scientific importance. Visited by Charles Darwin in 1835 aboard the HMS Beagle that was under the command of Captain Robert Fitzroy; little did anyone realize how important a role these islands were to play in understanding the evolution of the world.
When Darwin visited the Galapagos in the fall of 1835 as a young naturalist, he began to observe and collect information on the unique and distinct animal and plant life found here. He also slowly started to realize that on each of the small islands many of the wildlife species differed slightly from one another, a prime example being the Finches found here. Today known as Darwin’s Finches, these birds played a very important and vital role in helping Darwin understand and formulate his theory of evolution.
Darwin spent five weeks in the Galapagos studying and noting down the various differences in the wildlife species found on each island. However, it was not until November 1859 that he released his book ‘On the Origin of Species’ in which he put forward his theory of natural selection. This theory was based on the notion that only the strongest survive and propagate. This concept of evolution shook the world at that time as it claimed God was not responsible for the creation of human begins. The book challenged the fact that all plants and animals had not changed since creation, as Darwin was now able to prove through his research how certain species of birds and tortoises on the Galapagos had evolved. The book raised a number of key scientific issues and went on to change the way people perceived how the world came into being.
Regarded by many as the Galapagos’ most famous visitor, Charles Darwin gave this small volcanic island chain its due importance in the world today. Currently home to a number of indigenous iguanas, sea birds, land birds, tortoises, lizards, seals, fish and other reptiles, these tiny Pacific islands are now a fantastic place to see nature evolve. Declared a national park and a World Heritage Site, the Galapagos Islands is a fantastic place to tour and visit not just for scientists, but for anyone who is interested in understanding the world as we know it.