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The Galapagos Islands are famous as the islands that led to the Theory of Evolution. Today, visiting the islands and swimming in the surrounding waters, you can see the same wildlife that Charles Darwin saw on the Beagle in the 19th Century. As there are no natural predators on the islands, the wildlife is not afraid of humans, so you can walk right up to them. This way, you have the opportunity to observe different land and marine creatures, as well as birds, at incredibly close quarters.

The islands themselves are volcanic, and each is unique. As the islands were never connected to the mainland, the animals that made it to the Galapagos Islands were completely isolated. The Islands are located 1,000km west of the mainland, almost exactly on the equator. The main activities on the island are tourism and fishing, and there is sometimes friction between the two activities. There are approximately 16,000 inhabitants on the different islands, living in 8 main towns.

Although there have been visitors to the islands for many centuries (there are even signs of pre-Hispanic pottery on the islands), permanent inhabitation only started in the 20th century. Prior to this, visitors included sailors blown off course, pirates and whalers. The island’s most famous visitor, Charles Darwin, visited in 1835 as part of a 5 year voyage around the world, and other scientists has since followed. European colonists arrived in the early 20th Century, and the US set up a military based on Baltra in the Second World War to protect the Panama Canal. Organised tourism began in the 1960s with regular flights to the islands.

However, the Galapagos Islands are only part of the wonders of Ecuador. The equator runs through the centre of the country (hence its name) and the Andes run the full length of the mainland, with snow-capped volcanoes, traditional markets and beautiful colonial cities. The summit of Chimborazo, Ecuador’s tallest mountain, is actually the furthest point from the centre of the earth. You can also visit some of the best preserved jungle in the Amazon rainforest and the cloud forest near Quito contains an incredible variety of birdlife.

Visiting Ecuador gives you an outstanding opportunity to combine the beauty of the Andes with the amazing nature of the Galapagos and the Amazon.

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