Exotic Ecuador is a land of volcanoes, rainforests, colonial architecture, Inca ruins and Indian markets. But its most precious jewels are the wild and rugged UNESCO-protected Galapagos Islands, their name synonymous with the celebration of the diversity of species on Earth.
Located 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos archipelago consists of some 19 islands and more than 40 islets, created six million years ago when they emerged from the Pacific in a flurry of volcanic activity.
Each island forms a unique ecosystem, a series of specialised relationships that have adapted to the volcanic nature of these isolated islands. As a result, the Galapagos Islands are home to a wide variety of endemic species. From albatrosses to sea lions, pelicans to iguanas, cormorants, flamingos, sharks, whales and the tortoises that gave the islands their name - there is jaw-dropping wildlife in action at every turn.