The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of sub tropic, volcanic islands that straddle the Equator 600 miles west of Ecuador. They are made up of primarily 13 main islands and 13 smaller islands, with volcanic activity still present to this day. The Galapagos are accessed by the vast majority of travelers from the mainland via flights from Quito or Guayaquil (most flights to/from Quito also make a quick stop in Guayaquil). These flights arrive in the Galapagos at either Baltra Island (just north of Santa Cruz), or San Cristobal Island to the east. These 2 islands, in addition to Isabela Island are the 3 major population centers in the Galapagos (with Floreana having a handful of inhabitants). Not only was the Galapagos archipelago set aside as a National Park in 1957, it is has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and whale sanctuary. Much of the attraction of the Galapagos National Park comes from the uniqueness of its flora and fauna with species of plants and animals only found in the archipelago or on specific islands. Couple that, with the animals on the islands having no known predators so that when you approach, say a Bluefooted Booby, it does not fly away from you. That kind of interaction with the animals in the Galapagos can be found on all the visited islands. If you are lucky, you may even find animals that seek you out, like juvenile sea lions. One of my favorite experiences in the Galapagos is snorkeling. While snorkeling around the beaches and reefs, you will see an amazing variety of underwater life like corals, fish, turtles and often times playful juvenile sea lions that swim up to you with their puppy dog eyes and then at the last minute dart away. I have played this dart and swim game with them until I was exhausted (they never are), but the recognition by each of us that we are playing and pose no threat to each other, to me is a special opportunity to connect with another species.
Note – The Galapagos Islands are a special place that requires special treatment to preserve this fragile ecosystem and living scientific laboratory. Visitors will go through a number of checks and inspections to make sure they do not bring by accident or design any invasive species (plants or animals) that can threaten the balance of life here. So when you go, be patient, listen to the instructions of your guide while touring islands and be respectful of this special place found nowhere else on earth.