The Galapagos Islands is an archipelago of 12 islands and hundreds of smaller islets, lying on the Equator about 650 miles of the coast of Ecuador. The name of the islands comes from the Spanish word for tortoise. Indeed, great numbers of these creatures once lived on the islands.
Many of the animals that live on the Galapagos Islands can be found nowhere else on earth. Their nearest relatives are in Central America. Scientists believe that long ago all the Galapagos Islands were connected and joined by land to Central America.
The most well-known creature native to the islands is the Galapagos tortoise. This giant reptile can grow to a length of four feet and may weigh more than 500 pounds. Galapagos tortoises have been known to live close to 200 years, making them the longest-lived creatures on earth!
Ecuador’s name comes from the Spanish word for the Equator, which passes right through this South American country. The eastern part of Ecuador is a land of jungles, with the kind of hot climate you would expect on the Equator. But much of western Ecuador is mountainous, with a surprisingly cool climate.
Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, is located almost right on the Equator. Yet because it is about 9,340 feet above sea level, it has cooler weather than many cities in the United States, and the temperature there can fall below the freezing point!
Ecuador was part of the Inca Empire before European explorers reached the New World. Today, most of Ecuador’s 8 million people are descendants of Andean or Amazonian Indians, and Indian languages are still spoken in parts of the country.
Ecuador is also the world’s number-one exporter of bananas.