Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galápagos Islands are located in the equatorial Pacific Ocean approximately 1,000 km from the west coast of Ecuador. After an extension in 2001, its core protection area now covers 140,665 km2, and it is the second largest protected natural area on the World Heritage List. Its 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserves have been called a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galápagos are a ‘melting pot’ of marine species. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual animal life, such as the land iguana, giant tortoise and many types of finches, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.