According to the World Heritage Convention, the Galapagos Islands area is located about 621 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. The archipelago is made up of 19 islands situated in the confluence of three different ocean currents, which creates one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. The unique plant and animal life of the Galapagos area influenced Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
The Galapagos are well-known for their diverse geography and ecology. The World Heritage Convention reports that ongoing seismic activity has given birth to a unique geographical landscape, including volcanoes, collapsed craters, steep cliffs, beaches, crater lakes and lava tubes. Constant geographical advances and the island's isolated location have allowed for an unprecedented development of unique flora and fauna. Endemic species of the Galapagos include invertebrates, reptiles and birds. Some noteworthy species include the 11 subspecies of Galapagos giant tortoise, various iguana species, 13 finch species studied by Darwin, the Galapagos flightless cormorant, the Galapagos penguin and the Galapagos sea lion.
The World Heritage Convention reports that 97 percent of the Galapagos' total emerged surface area was declared a National Park in 1959. In 1986, the area around the islands was declared the Galapagos Marine Reserve, and an expansion in 1998 placed the reserve among one of the largest in the world.