The Great Galápagos22 April 2017 Go back
The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are known for their vast number of endemic species and were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle in 1835, as his observation and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.
In 1986, the 70,000 square kilometres of ocean surrounding the islands was declared a marine reserve and four years later the archipelago became a whale sanctuary. UNESCO recognised the islands in 1978 as a World Heritage Site and in 1985 as a biosphere reserve which was later extended to include the marine reserve. Noteworthy species include: the Galápagos land and marine iguana, Galápagos tortoise and green turtle, sea cucumber, flightless cormorant, frigatebird, blue-footed booby, Galápagos penguin, waved albatross, Galápagos hawk, four endemic species of Galápagos mockingbirds, thirteen endemic species of tanagers or Darwin’s finches, Galápagos sea lions and two endemic genera of cacti.
With formalities requirements changing daily and the bureaucracy and inconsistent application of rules, the situation confronting visiting yachts is very difficult to understand. Working closely together with the local agent, Servigalapagos, the Oyster World Rally fleet cleared-in from the end of March at Puerto Barquerizo Moreno, San Cristóbal and most of the yachts moved to Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz as well as visiting Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela spending 23 days in the Galápagos Islands.
Ninety-five percent of the land area of Galápagos is designated as protected by the Galápagos National Park Directorate and tourists are permitted to explore specific visitor sites only with Park-certified naturalist guides, so most participants opted for a visit on a local excursion boat on a chosen itinerary.
Some yachts have taken a Naturalist guide aboard providing them with custom made cruises through part of the protected areas.
Oyster 575 Miss Tiggy being one of them described the experience and some of the close encounters with the animals as: “Eerily, nothing seemed afraid of us. We walked or swam right up to them and they would just calmly purvey us with one eye open or a querying look as if to ask ‘who and why have you ended up in my space’? Imagine walking into a zoo with no fences or swimming in an aquarium made up of lava rocks, the difference here is they are free and we are guests in their habitat.”