Ecuador & Galapagos
A trip to the Galapagos Islands will be the journey of your lifetime. Located 1,000 km from the Ecuadorian mainland, the archipelago consists of 13 major islands, of which 5 are inhabited. The Island's interesting volcanic geology, as well as its rich flora and fauna have been admired and studied by numerous travelers, scientist, and nature-lovers. Scientists are still faced with a mystery how such a large diversity of species could develop in a remote location like the Galapagos Islands. On the Islands, a multitude of animals, by most people only known from the Discovery Channel, are romping about: the main reason for tourists and nature lovers to pay the Galapagos Islands a visit.
Quito, Surroundings & Otavalo Market: Most travelers arrive first in the capital of Quito, often described as a city with a small town atmosphere (although it is rapidly growing into a sprawling metropolis). Once the capital of the northern Incan empire, Quito is home to "Old Town", one of the most extensive colonial districts in Latin America. Named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations, Quito's Old Town will transport you back and forth between centuries.
The Amazon Region: The Amazon jungle is without a doubt Creation's greatest achievement, moreover, Eastern Ecuador, known as El Oriente, is blessed with some of the Amazon's most biologically diverse, pristine areas. Experience nature's most impressive orchestration of life; canoe along meandering rivers; climb into the canopy; hike along primary forest trails, learn about medicinal rainforest plants, or just "be" amidst the teeming forest. Within and around the huge protected areas of the Amazon Rain Forest several indigenous ethnic groups live side by side, still living traditionally, each group maintaining its distinct customs and traditions.
The Galapagos Islands: A modern Garden of Eden and a living laboratory of evolution, the Galapagos are nothing less than spectacular. The Islands are peaks of enormous underwater volcanoes; having never been connected with the South American continent, Galapagos' flora and fauna developed in complete isolation, a fact that in many ways allowed Charles Darwin's to form his theory of evolution. The Galapagos are truly a wonder that should not be missed. Where else can you swim with hammerhead sharks, penguins, sea lions, and hundreds of tropical reef fish, and sleep on a volcanic peak?
Located in the Pacific Ocean 1000 kilometers (600 miles) from the occidental coast of south America, the Galapagos islands are formed by more than sixty islands and islets. The Galapagos islands have fascinated explorers and scientists throughout time.
The Galapagos Marine reserve, which was created in March 1998, is one of the world's most extensive protected areas. It has an area of 138.000 km2 and contains a strange variety of biological communities, with exceptional biodiversity.
"Considering the small size of the islands we are surprised by the endless number of native species and their confined range"
The islands are fortuitously positioned at the confluence of three distinct oceanic currents, creating a sea of contradictions, as well as one of the highest levels of marine endemism anywhere in the world: nearly one in four species is unique to the islands. We will never know exactly how colonization occurred, such events do not leave any records, but we may speculate about what probably happened.
The ancestors of every plant and animal species on the islands must have arrived from some other part of the world. A thousand kilometers of ocean separate the Galapagos from the mainland. Despite this barrier, a large number of species arrived to the islands. Oceanic volcanic islands such as the Galapagos differ from continental islands in that they never had contact with continental landmasses so any plant or animal now native to the Galapagos must have arrived to the islands from the mainland. These organisms not only survived a hazardous journey and thrived in an unfamiliar environment, but were also able to reproduce successfully, and colonize the islands.
The question that once perplexed biologists was how so many venturesome vagabond species could survive the long journey to the Islands, when many others would surely have perished on their way. Exceptional hardships must have been overcome.
Nonetheless, close scrutiny of the original flora and fauna of remote islands suggests that they were indeed derived by chance from mainland colonies; this is also known as "random dispersal".
Flotation rafts made of mats of vegetation or other debris, even winds and jet streams could have been some of the means for transporting living organisms or seeds to the newly formed islands.Birds displaced from their traditional migratory routes, or seeds and invertebrates traveling on the feathers and feet of aquatic and semi-aquatic birds, are also considered to be means of transportation.
Of course, species are present in proportion not only to their capacity to disperse, whether actively or passively, but also to their ability to establish themselves after arrival. The need for an appropriate mate in sexually reproducing animals, or a compatible pollinator in out - crossing plants, posed a great challenge for long-term establishment.