It isn’t only the abundant wildlife that makes Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands totally unique.
Arriving at opposite sides of the same island (there are roughly 20 in total) can be like landing on different planets. You can even start climbing directly from some beaches to elevations of several thousand feet.
That’s because the Galapagos Islands are all relatively recent volcanic creations, between 2-5 million years old. The most geologically active are Isabela (the largest) and Fernandina, pictured left. They are also the most westerly (and thus youngest) islands.
The Galapagos boast the highest concentration of active volcanoes on earth. The most recent eruption of Wolf volcano (see top of picture) in 2015 was preceded by eruptions of Fernandina in 2009, Cerro Azul in 2008, Sierra Negra in 2005 and Alcedo in 1993.
The 2015 eruption threatened pink iguanas in the north of Isabela Island, while in 2008 giant tortoises in the south were airlifted from rivers of molten lava by Ecuadorean army helicopters (each tortoise weighs 500 pounds!)
Two types of volcanoes exist in the Galapagos. In the west, large volcanoes are shaped like inverted soup-bowls with large central calderas. In the east, volcanoes are smaller with gentler slopes. There are also many submarine volcanoes which have been active in the recent geological past.
The Happy Gringo Highlights of Isabela tour includes a hike to the Sierra Negra volcano (with a horseback option), snorkelling around Los Tuneles, the iguanas of Tintoreras, and more!