Just south of Galapagos’ Marchena Island is a dive location regarded by locals as the “fish arena,” where colorful fish, like these rainbow runners, swim in massive colleges. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Instances)

Six hundred miles west of Ecuador’s coastline, the Galapagos Islands are a chain of volcanic islands — some however energetic — house to some of the world’s richest biodiversity and endemism. Just about 80% of the species located on the islands aren’t located wherever else on Earth.

Along the rocky outcrops, marine iguanas bathe in the very hot sunlight in advance of plunging into the great waters, where they swim alongside Galapagos penguins, and down below the soaring, diving blue-footed boobies.

A confluence of oceanic currents meets at the Galapagos, giving increase to the remarkable richness of wildlife — where southern ocean, cold-water creatures, this kind of as penguins and fur seals, are discovered alongside equatorial and North Pacific critters, these types of as sea lions and hammerhead sharks.

On land, the ecosystems variety from desert-like to lush and tropical — relying on altitude, wind exposure and geological age of the island. On Santa Cruz Island, for instance, the northern end is rocky, sandy and dry. But ascending the island’s volcano, and to the south, the ecosystem results in being lush and great. Giant tortoises amble via tall grasses, munching on banana leaves and — to quite a few local farmers’ annoyance — outdoor crops.

It is a crime to damage or get rid of a tortoise in the Galapagos — penalties array from the small to large hundreds. Auto and truck drivers end to elevate tortoises found crossing streets. In some cases, having said that, the tortoises are too big to decide up. So absolutely everyone just has to wait.

A neighborhood resident stops to remove a Galapagos tortoise from the highway on the island of Santa Cruz. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Instances)A white-tipped reef shark in the waters off North Seymour Island in the Galapagos. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Situations)A juvenile blue-footed booby tactics flapping his wings prior to commencing to fly on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Periods)A blue-footed booby tends to her chicks on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Occasions)With couple of visitors going to the Galapagos, a infant sea lion has his to start with come across 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 ground for quite a few species on land and in the sea. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Occasions)A sea lion rests on a bus quit bench in Puerto Ayora, where by tourism is down drastically owing to the pandemic. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Occasions)Pinnacle Rock is a celebrated volcanic plug on Bartholomew Island, 1 of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Occasions)A purple-footed booby sits previously mentioned a team of iguanas on North Seymour Island, Galapagos. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Moments)

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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