Ahoy! Climb aboard the S.S. Wonderopolis as we set sail for the Galápagos Islands. We're excited for a fantastic voyage to a special place full of wildlife!
Exactly where are we headed, though? The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago, which means a group or cluster of islands. They're located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, a little over 600 miles west of Ecuador.
The Galápagos Islands are officially a province of the country of Ecuador. They're also a national park and a biological marine reserve. The group consists of 15 main islands, 3 small islands and over 100 rocks and tiny islands. Altogether, the islands add up to over 3,000 square miles of land spread over 17,000 square miles of ocean!
About 25,000 people call the Galápagos Islands home. The Galápagos Islands aren't famous for their people or their tropical beaches, though. Instead, these volcanic islands are known for the wide variety of wildlife that calls them home.
Compared to most of Earth, the Galápagos Islands are fairly young. In fact, active volcanoes are still adding to and helping to form the youngest islands in the group.
Because of a lack of natural predators and the small number of humans that live there, the Galápagos Islands feature a stunning number of unique species. For example, a wide variety of reptiles can be found there, including marine iguanas, land iguanas, lava lizards, geckos and snakes.
Many interesting types of birds can be found on the islands, too. The various species of finches found there are often called Darwin's finches after famous scientist Charles Darwin, who studied the wildlife there. Other birds found only on the islands include unique species of hawks, doves, flycatchers, rails and mockingbirds.
The Galápagos Islands also feature some interesting sea birds, such as the flightless cormorant, the waved albatross and the rare blue-footed booby. The islands are also home to the only penguin species that lives in tropical waters.
Sea lions, fur seals, dolphins and whales are also common in the islands. However, perhaps the most famous resident of the Galápagos Islands is the giant tortoise. The islands were actually named after these creatures — galápago means tortoise in Spanish.
Giant Galápagos tortoises are the largest tortoises in the world. The largest one ever measured was over five feet long and weighed over 500 pounds! These giants can live to be over 100 years old.
Unfortunately, they're also endangered. Scientists have been working hard to help the different species of tortoises make a comeback. Today, scientists estimate there are between 3,000 to 5,000 tortoises living on the Galápagos Islands.