Revisit the Islands that Launched Darwin’s Theory of Evolution
There’ve been a lot of myths circling around the Galapagos Islands, the famous archipelago in the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Ecuador. The famous naturalist Charles Darwin once traveled to these unique islands where he began formulating his theory of natural selection, observing how different species seemed to spring up from one island to the next. Since then, the Galapagos have become global celebrities, luring travelers from all over the world to come and see evolution in action. Take a look at what these remarkable islands look like today.
Who Lives There Today?
The people of the Galapagos Islands are largely Ecuadorian Mestizos, descendants from Spain and Native Americans from Ecuador. There’s also a sizeable population from Europe, including white Europeans with Spanish descent. Only five of the 18 islands are inhabited with a total population of over 25,000.
An Ongoing Biological Experiment
In the 1950s, a full century after Darwin originally published his seminal book The Origin of Species, The Charles Darwin Foundation was formed. As a nongovernmental international undertaking, this pivotal organization is tasked with studying and preserving the islands’ wildlife. All of this information is used to help Ecuador and environmentalists from countries all over the world better understand the changes that are taking place in the Galapagos. Shortly before this group came together, the Ecuadorian government turned 97% of the islands into a national park, protecting these sacred lands from hunters and polluters.
These environmental regulations were expanded in the mid-1980s. The 27,000 square miles of ocean surrounding the islands were turned into a marine preserve, the second largest in the world. Activists and environmentalists continue to keep a close eye on the rapid increase of invasive species and the islands’ changing climate.
Tourism and Recreation
Until 1969, the only way to get to the Galapagos Islands was via a chartered vessel, usually from the coast of Ecuador. This limited tourism extensively. Things changed when the Forrest Nelson Hotel started offering wildlife tours to the public. The islanders soon realized the potential of their homeland as word of the islands’ wonders quickly spread throughout the western world. Cruise lines and local fishermen started focusing their resources on tourism and recreation. Soon after, two small airports were erected on the islands, greatly expanding the islands’ ability to attract tourists and environmentalists alike.
Today, the main islands are mostly hubs for local fishermen, wildlife tours, and recreational activities. However, officials have strict rules and regulations for what is allowed on the islands. Camping sites are usually limited to just three people at a time, so as not to disturb the natural ecosystem. Restrictions are placed on wildlife tours too. For example, guests are allowed to visit certain places for only two to four hours at a time.
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