The Galapagos, a chain of mountainous volcanic islands, straddle the equator 650 miles west of the mainland Ecuador. Thirteen major islands, six smaller ones and countless rocks rise from the Pacific Ocean to sprawl over 30,000 square miles. Only five islands are inhabited. The UNESCO lists the Galapagos as a World Heritage Site. More than 25% of the animals in the Galapagos live nowhere else on earth. In 1835 Charles Darwin visited this island and describes Galapagos as a " living laboratory of evolution" . Fur seals, sea lines, penquins, bottle-nosed dolphins, colonies of huge moray eels, Sally Lightfoot crabs, Moorish idols and angelfish, giant sea turtles, whales, sharks are abundant. Thousands of seabird nests crowd the islands' rocky cliffs and shores. Many of the animals had no instinctive fear of man. Many are extraordinarily fearless. Overall, the islands have two seasons. A hot and rainy season from January through May that brings the calmest seas. June through December brings cooling winds and a light drizzle. Visitors arrive by plane on Baltra Island, where they are met by their guide and ship or yacht. Divers should be in excellent physical condition and have recent experience in open-ocean diving. Flights to the Galapagos are relatively easy to arrange and depart from Quito and Guayaquil on a daily basis for the Isla Baltra airport, about two hours by public transport from Puerto Ayora, the main settlement of the Galapagos, on the central island of Santa Cruz. Seeing the sites and wildlife of the Galapagos is best done by boat. Now, some special advice for those who arriving in Quito without having booked a tour to the Galapagos. Make reservations at one of the finer hotels for 2 nights. Akros Hotel is the first class hotel in this area.

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