Just south of Galapagos’ Marchena Island is a dive location acknowledged by locals as the “fish arena,” wherever colourful fish, like these rainbow runners, swim in big universities. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Instances)

6 hundred miles west of Ecuador’s coastline, the Galapagos Islands are a chain of volcanic islands — some however energetic — home to some of the world’s richest biodiversity and endemism. Almost 80% of the species identified on the islands are not uncovered everywhere else on Earth.

Alongside the rocky outcrops, maritime iguanas bathe in the very hot sun just before plunging into the cool waters, the place they swim along with Galapagos penguins, and underneath the soaring, diving blue-footed boobies.

A confluence of oceanic currents meets at the Galapagos, supplying increase to the incredible richness of wildlife — wherever southern ocean, chilly-water creatures, this sort of as penguins and fur seals, are located together with equatorial and North Pacific critters, these as sea lions and hammerhead sharks.

On land, the ecosystems array from desert-like to lush and tropical — dependent on altitude, wind publicity and geological age of the island. On Santa Cruz Island, for occasion, the northern finish is rocky, sandy and dry. But ascending the island’s volcano, and to the south, the ecosystem gets to be lush and cool. Big tortoises amble by means of tall grasses, munching on banana leaves and — to a lot of nearby farmers’ annoyance — outside crops.

It is a crime to damage or eliminate a tortoise in the Galapagos — penalties selection from the small to high thousands. Vehicle and truck motorists quit to raise tortoises found crossing streets. Often, nonetheless, the tortoises are also significant to decide up. So everybody just has to hold out.

A nearby resident stops to take out a Galapagos tortoise from the road on the island of Santa Cruz. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Situations)A white-tipped reef shark in the waters off North Seymour Island in the Galapagos. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Occasions)A juvenile blue-footed booby tactics flapping his wings just before beginning to fly on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Moments)A blue-footed booby tends to her chicks on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Situations)With several travelers going to the Galapagos, a infant sea lion has his first experience with a human on North Seymour Island. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Instances)Frigate birds fly off the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are the breeding floor for a lot of species on land and in the sea. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Situations)A sea lion rests on a bus cease bench in Puerto Ayora, exactly where tourism is down drastically due to the pandemic. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Situations)Pinnacle Rock is a celebrated volcanic plug on Bartholomew Island, just one of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Occasions)A pink-footed booby sits earlier mentioned a group of iguanas on North Seymour Island, Galapagos. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Periods.

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