It’s a rare person who hasn’t dreamed of visiting the Galapagos Islands at one point or another. They’ve one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet with a wide range of flora and fauna completely unique to themselves.
Every year the islands attract thousands of tourists interested in nature, animal spotting or scuba diving.
The Galapagos have their dark side though. A secret history that only the switched on tourist would ever notice.
Read on to discover the Galapagos dark secrets…
Not all the birds are friendly
Whilst Darwin was famously inspired to write the Origin of the Species after seeing the different finches that inhabit the Galapagos he may have written a very different book if he’d spotted one of these…
The Vampire Finch!
The sharp billed ground finch goes by the lovely nickname of vampire finch due to its habit of pecking at the tail of the blue footed booby to drink its blood.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…
We’ve already said the Galapagos is home to many unique forms of wildlife. What we didn’t say is just how unique some of it is!
They’re home to the world’s only lizard capable of swimming in the ocean – The Galapagos Marine Iguana. It’s thought they evolved this incredible trait when land based iguanas of the past started to feed on underwater algae (and tourists).
Don’t worry, we’re just joking about that last bit (or are we?)
Ahoy me hearty!
Something most people don’t realise about the Galapagos is that they’ve a long and chequered history as a pirate base!
As early as the 1500’s pirates were using the islands as stopping point, source of food and base.
The pirates reached the height of their power in the 17th century, amassing large amounts of gold, living in caves and building giant statues to scare off ships.
In fact the last of them were only evicted at the turn of the 19th century by the Ecuadorian government!
Top Tip: As tempting as it may be the locals tend to frown on people that go digging for buried treasure.
Murder, mystery and mayhem; 1930’s style
A little known Hollywood movie starring Cate Blanchett tells the story of two eccentric settlers on Floreana (one of the Galapagos’ uninhabited islands) that got a little fed up when they received international fame as a modern day Adam and Eve. Soon other settlers started arriving including a Swiss family Robinson wannabe and a shotgun toting Viennese Baroness and several of her husbands!
Tensions rose and rose until several of the settlers ‘disappeared’… never to be seen again!
We’d rather have been sent to Australia…
Many convicts were sentenced to exile on the Galapagos Islands due to their remote location and supposedly inhospitable landscapes.
In fact one popular tourist attraction is the Wall of Tears, a giant wall in a penal colony that prisoners were forced to build as punishment duty.
They’re about to disappear under the ocean
Well we say about…
The Galapagos Islands sit above what’s known as a Galapagos Hotspot, a place on the Earth’s crust that is slowly being melted by a mantle plume.
Some of the oldest islands are now slowly disappearing back below sea level.
Don’t panic just yet though… The process is going to take a few more million years before its complete and in fact the same plume that is responsible for destroying some of the older islands is in fact also creating new ones (so that’s OK then!)
We can barely look!
If you thought the vampire finch was bad wait till you see a thirty centimetre scolopendra centipede, one of the rarest animals on earth and capable of hunting down and eating rats and lizards!
Have you ever been to the Galapagos Islands?
Would you consider a cruise there?
Let us know in the comments below…
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