One of Darwin's Finches the Cactus Finch, Galapagos islands

4 Galapagos Species Named for Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin’s presence in the Galapagos Islands isn’t just reserved for geographic features and places. Almost 80 species of flora and fauna he had collected are also named for him.

Here are four of the Darwinian species to keep an eye out for while you are in the Galapagos Islands.

Darwin’s Finches

The most famous Galapagos animal named for Charles Darwin are the Darwin’s Finches. Thirteen species of this finch exist in the Galapagos Islands (and another species in the Cocos Islands off the coast of Costa Rica). These small birds are distinguished by beak shape and diet. Darwin’s Finches appear all over the archipelago. The most endangered is the Mangrove Finch of Isabela Island, now being bred in captivity in a program supported by the Charles Darwin Research Station, Galapagos National Park and Galapagos Conservancy.

Darwin’s Cotton

Darwin’s cotton (Gossypium darwinii) is a common plant on many of the islands in the Galapagos archipelago. The plant has hand-shaped leaves and red stems, with crepe paper-textured flowers that are yellow with a crimson spot in the center. The fluffy seed pod looks like common cotton.

Santiago Galapagos Tortoise

The once-endangered Santiago Galapagos Tortoise (Chelonoidis darwini) is now a common sight on Santiago Island. This is due to a successful breeding program the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos National Park have had to revive this species of giant tortoise. Over a thousand of this tortoise species have been released on their home island.

Marine species

Honors to Charles Darwin aren’t just limited to the land. While exploring the Galapagos Islands’ underwater world, you may have a chance to encounter even more species named for Mr. Darwin. Keep an eye out for red-lipped batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini), Pacific red sheepshead (Paraliparis darwini), sea pens (Cavernulina darwini) and Gorgonian soft coral (Pacifigorgia darwinii).

And elsewhere on Planet Earth

Species named for Charles Darwin aren’t just limited to the Galapagos Islands. Wherever he roamed during HMS Beagle’s five year mission, he also left a trail of fauna and flora that bear his name.

About 250 species worldwide are named for this English naturalist, including Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) and Darwin’s rhea (Rhea pennata), both native to the Patagonia of Chile and Argentina.

Do you have a favourite species named for Darwin? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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Photo credit: David Brossard

Darwin's Arch Galapagos

7 Galapagos Places Named for Charles Darwin

Every place you go in the Galapagos Islands, you’ll bump into Charles Darwin. His name adorns businesses and avenues, and his likeness gazes at tourists strolling along the streets and paths.

But it isn’t just man-made Darwin structures you’ll see in these islands. Some geographic features he had visited are also named for him.

Here are 7 Darwinian places to go in search of while you are in the Galapagos Islands.

1. Monuments to Mr. Darwin

You’ll be able to pose for a photo with Charles Darwin in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal Island) and especially in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island), where you’ll have several opportunities: on Avenida Charles Darwin, in front of the Red Mangrove Inn, is not only a bust of Darwin, but just a few steps away, an impressive blue arch studded with sculptures of land iguana, giant tortoise and other endemic Galapagos species. Crowning the top of the span is Mr. Darwin’s visage as an old man. Other opportunities will arise, so keep your eyes open!

2. Avenida Charles Darwin – Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island

Avenida Charles Darwin is Puerto Ayora’s main seafront avenue that hugs Academy Bay. It begins in downtown at the docks (where you can catch a water taxi across the bay or the local ferry service to neighbouring islands). Just a few steps away is a city park with courts, a popular place to join a volleyball game in the evening. The avenue passes a multitude of restaurants, nightclubs, hotels and souvenir stands (and a few Darwin monuments) before becoming a narrow, tree-lined lane. After the Galapagos National Park office, the road ends at the Charles Darwin Research Station.

3. Charles Darwin Research Station – Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island

Since 1964, the Charles Darwin Research Station – run by the international Charles Darwin Foundation, has hosted scientists from around the country and the world in researching about and preserving the Galapagos Islands’ unique environment. The station has a new museum where you can learn more about the Galapagos. Here, you can snap your photo with the life-size statue of a young Charles Darwin created by Ecuadorian sculptor Patricio Ruales.

4. Darwin Bay – Genovesa Island

On Genovesa Island (a.k.a. Tower Island) is Darwin Bay. The landing spot is a sandy beach with trails through the mangroves. This is an excellent place to see all three types of boobies (Blue-footed and Red-footed and Nazca), Swallow-tailed Gulls and Frigatebirds. It is also possible to spot the beautiful Red-billed Tropicbird here.

5. Darwin’s Toilet – Santiago Island

Darwin’s Toilet is a national rock formation at Puerto Egas. This rocky pool is fed by underground channels that with the wash of the waves, fills and empties. Puerto Egas is one of the few places where you may see the Galapagos Fur Sea Lion. It is also known for marine iguanas, Galapagos sea lions, Darwin’s Finches and a multitude of sea and shore birds.

6. Volcán Darwin – Isabela Island

Overshadowing Tagus Cove, a popular stop on some Galapagos Island cruises, is Volcán Darwin. This is a good place to observe Galápagos Penguins and Flightless Cormorants. At Tagus Cove is another point named for the famous naturalist: Darwin Lake. This volcano is home to one of the giant tortoise species named for Darwin: the Volcán Darwin Galapagos Tortoise (Chelonoidis microphyes). Also at the foot of Volcán Darwin is Tortuga Negra Point, home to the severely endangered Mangrove Finch.

7. Darwin Island

Darwin Island is one of the furthest islands of the Galapagos archipelago. It and neighboring Wolf Island are famed for their excellent scuba diving featuring a plentitude of sharks. In March 2016, the Ecuadorian government declared a 38,000 square-kilometer (15,000-square mile) reserve to protect the seas around these two islands. On Darwin Island is the natural rock formation, Darwin’s Arch, a superb dive site.

And elsewhere on Planet Earth

Places named for Charles Darwin aren’t just limited to the Galapagos Islands. Wherever he roamed during HMS Beagle’s five year mission, he left a trail of towns, bays and plains that bear his name.

Elsewhere in South America are the Miradores de Darwin (a strange, barren landscape near Puerto Deseada, Argentina), Darwin village (Falkland Islands), Cordillera Darwin and Mount Darwin (Tierra del Fuego, Chile), Darwin Sound (Tierra del Fuego) and Darwin Island (between Antarctica and South America).

In Australia are Charles Darwin National Park, Charles Darwin University, the town of Darwin in the Northern Territory and Mount Darwin in Tasmania. Places in Canada, the United States and England also bear his name.
 
Have you visited any of these places? Do you know any others we haven’t included? Please let us know in the comments below.

 

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Photo credit: Dag Peak

Mockingbird, Galapagos islands

Following in Darwin’s Footsteps in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands’ most famous visitor was Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary science. He was aboard the HMS Beagle as geologist and natural historian on its around-the-world expedition that lasted from 1831 to 1836. The ship arrived in Galapagos in September-October 1835.

The Beagle’s chief mission was to chart the waters around South America, the Galapagos, Australia and other points of interest to the British. While the ship visited five main islands –

Chatham (San Cristobal), Hood (Española), Charles (Floreana), Albemarle (Isabela) and James (Santiago) – Captain Robert FitzRoy sent smaller boats headed out with surveying officers to map the seas around the other isles.

Charles Darwin had a privileged spot upon the Beagle. He could examine the maps and specimens that were coming in from those smaller expeditions. But he also set out to explore four of the sparsely populated islands himself. During the five weeks the Beagle was in Galapagos, Darwin spent 19 days ashore. His field notebooks allow us to recreate his landings, as does his fascinating book, The Beagle Diary. Here are some of the places where you may follow in Charles Darwin’s footsteps:

San Cristobal (September 17-22, 1835)

Darwin landed five times on San Cristobal Island, including at St. Stephens Bay (Bahía Stephens), and climbed Cerro Tijeretas. His main interest was to explore the “craterised district” he had noted from the ship. He extensively collected plants (noting that a third were in bloom) and made his first jotting about the thenca, or mockingbird. This proved to be instrumental in the development of his evolution theory. He also observed the similarities – and differences – of the island’s flora and fauna to continental species.

Floreana (September 24-27, 1835)

The Beagle arrived at Post-Office Bay and then anchored off Black Beach. In his journal, Darwin noted he spent his three days here collecting “all the animals, plants, insects and reptiles from this Island,” and climbed the highest hill (Cerro Pajas). He also made another important note about the mockingbird species found here: that it differed from that on San Cristobal. Upon landing, the Beagle crew met English Vice-Governor, Nicholas Lawson, who was also visiting Galapagos. Lawson’s comment about the marked differences between each island’s giant tortoises would prove another important piece to the evolutionary puzzle.

Isabela (September 29-October 2, 1835)

The Beagle anchored at Blonde Cove (Tagus Cove), located west of Darwin Volcano. As on the previous islands, Darwin collected flora and fauna specimens, and studied the island’s geography. The ship then sailed to the north tip of Isabela and eastward to chart the coasts of Pinta, Genovesa and Marchena islands.

Santiago (October 8-17, 1835)

Darwin spent nine days on Santiago while the Beagle restocked water and supplies at San Cristobal and Floreana islands. His party camped at Buccaneer Cove (Caleta Bucanero). On Santiago, he more closely studied the habits of giant tortoises, which were quite plentiful. He also continued taking notes on mockingbirds, land iguanas (now extinct on Santiago) and other fauna, as well as collecting flora specimens. An unusual lava formation, which Darwin did observe but did not use to relieve himself, is called Darwin’s Toilet.

On October 17, the Beagle set sail for Tahiti. On the way, the crew surveyed the coasts of two small islands 100 miles (160 kilometers) north: Wenman (Wolf) and Culpepper (Darwin). They did not make landfall on these. These islands are now within a special shark sanctuary established by Ecuador in 2016.

 

Have you followed in the footsteps of Darwin? Share you experiences with other travellers in the comments below.

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Photo credit: Les Williams

Blue-footed Booby mating dance

5 Reasons to Visit Galapagos Now!

After the 7.8 earthquake that devastated Ecuador’s Pacific Coast on April 16, you may be wondering if it’s a good time to come to this Andean country and its treasured Galapagos Islands.

The reality is that although the mainland coastal provinces of Manabí and southern Esmeraldas were severely affected by the earthquake the Galapagos Islands were unaffected. And as the clean-up continues and the rebuilding of lives and infrastructure begins there are even more reasons to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands now.

Here are five reasons to not postpone your trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands:

  1. Especially at this time of crisis, Ecuador needs visitors more than ever. The national government and local and regional tourism authorities are united in making a call for visitors to come to Ecuador. The tourism dollars will help boost the economy, thus providing the money necessary to rebuild the affected coastal communities. Revenues to government agencies will increase and Galapagos residents will have extra money to assist their family and others who live in the destroyed coastal villages.

  1. In the gateway cities to the Galapagos – Quito and Guayaquil – airports, hotels, restaurants and other services are operating normally. You will be able to arrive to the Enchanted Isles as usual.

  1. The earthquake caused no damage nor disruption to services in the Galapagos Islands. The islands’ airports, hotels, restaurants and cruises continue to operate normally.

  1. The month of May marks the beginning of the garua season in the Galapagos. The weather is becoming cooler, and a light mist bathes the landscapes in the early morning and evening. Still, the skies are clear for much of the day.

  1. May is also a bumper month of breeding and nesting in the Galapagos. Blue-footed Boobies are continuing their mating dance on North Seymour Island. On Genovesa, Great Frigate birds are mating and nesting. The Waved Albatross are beginning to lay their eggs on Española Island. Storm petrels, Flightless Cormorants, Penguins and Greater Flamingoes, and Red-footed Boobies and Masked Boobies are also doing their mating rituals and preparing for their offspring to come.

    The Galapagos Islands’ reptiles are also in on the act. Both marine and land iguanas are nesting, and on Santa Cruz Island, the hatchlings are already emerging. At Punta Cormorant, Puerto Egas and Gardner Bay, green sea turtles are hatching. And in the wild, giant tortoises are laying their eggs.

Considering the additional benefits your travel will make to helping Ecuador recover from the recent earthquake, there is no reason to postpone your dream Galapagos trip. So go ahead and pack your bags, and be ready to be warmly greeted by Ecuador and her people.

 

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Photo credit: Paul Krawczuk