Location: Galápagos Islands – Ecuador
The Galápagos are an isolated cluster of islands located 926 km (575 miles) from the coast of Ecuador, South America, and form a national park and a biological marine reserve. The Galápagos Islands host some of the most impressive wildlife in the world, and are famed for their abundance of unique flora and fauna found only on the islands themselves, the most famous of which is the Gálapagos giant tortoise, reaching a weight over 400kg (880lb) that can be found roaming freely over the lush green hills. The Gálapagos evolved without larger predators or human impact which allowed many species to prosper in these islands and remain virtually fearless to humans.
Endemic and unique species include Gálapagos sea lions, local penguins, Galápagos tortoises, Galápagos green turtles, dolphins, Galápagos marine iguanas, lava lizards and many species of whales. There are also a great variety of sea birds like blue-footed boobies, the vampire finch, frigate birds, flamingos and albatrosses, and the plants of Galápagos are also unique. The underwater life in Galápagos is also very beautiful with significant snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities. The islands host many endemic fish species and aquatic plants, and are considered one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the world.
The islands are also well known for their link to evolutionary theory as this is where Charles Darwin’s observations formed his theory of evolution by natural selection. The Charles Darwin research station, active on the islands since 1959, is located on the shores of Academy Bay, within walking distance of our school and accommodation. The station is open to the public and consists of education pavilions, a walkway through the areas of captive endemic animals (bred/rescued to be returned to the wild), as well as tourist facilities and a small public beach. Ecuadorian and foreign scientists work from the station on research and conservation projects for the Galápagos terrestrial and marine ecosystems, publishing their findings in international science journals and books.
Our CELTA centre is located in the town of Puerto Ayora, the biggest town of the Galápagos islands on the most populated island of Santa Cruz. With over 12 000 inhabitants, Puerto Ayora has the most developed infrastructure, with schools, restaurants of international varieties, hotels, shops, a grocery store, small night clubs, dive centres, banks and a large public hospital (with diver hyperbaric chamber) as well as a smaller private hospital. The satellite campus for the University Central de Ecuador is located in the town and is supported by the municipal government. Most shops, hotels and restaurants have Wi-Fi internet access, and some have satellite TV for global news and sports.
The most popular area in town is probably the pier where locals gather to play foot volley-ball and watch the spectacular sunsets. This area offers some delicious pizza joints, reasonably priced Italian restaurants, local eateries and fashionable bars. The newly constructed pier is also an excellent place to spot wildlife such as a variety of birds and sea lions (often seen sleeping on the public benches and sidewalks), and the water is clear enough to view magnificent eagle rays and sea turtles passing underneath the boardwalk. From the pier you can catch a water taxi to take you to the other side of the bay (around 60 cents one-way) where other restaurants and beaches await, including the resorts and restaurants of the famous Angermeyer family.
In town, we encourage you to walk or rent a bicycle for transportation, but there are also many taxis that all charge $1 to take you anywhere in town. Note that the Galápagos Islands are known as one of the safest locations in South America. The small town vibe is welcoming and since you will be staying for 4 weeks (or longer!) you will have time to really get to know members of the community and experience what Galápagos island life is all about.