South America is already recognized worldwide for the exuberance of its nature, its tropical forests and mountains where indigenous populations live. There are well-known destinations such as the Amazon or Machu Pichu, as different as possible from each other, that they seem to be from separate worlds.
For instance, the islands of the continent are full of endemic fauna and species, meaning they are only located at small geographical spaces. Because of the distance that separates them from the mainland, it often seems that the evolution and culture in this place have taken another path, so to get to know the islands is to witness another possible world.
Here at LatinAmerican Post, we present you three South American islands with these characteristics that you must visit.
This island in the middle of the Pacific is part of Chile, although its culture cannot be more different than that of the common Chilean and even of indigenous communities like the Mapuches in the south of the country. This is a consequence of the fact that this island was populated by Polynesians between 400 AD to 800 AD and then fell into isolation for many years until it was rediscovered by explorers in the 19th century.
On this island, you can see the famous Moai, giant face statues that measure an average of 4.5 meters, although there are a couple that measures up to 10 meters, of which there are about 900 around the island. As the Imagina Isla de Pascua portal remembers, in the native language they are called Moai Aringa Ora, whose meaning is ‘living face of the ancestors’, which protect the living population.
Besides the cultural and historical attraction, Easter Island is made for long walks and contemplating its landscape, so you can do trekking, cycling and tours in archaeological excavations. Also, you can do activities under the sea such as diving, surfing or kayaking. You can also spend the afternoon at beaches surrounded by moai such as Anakena.
Located on the Colombian Pacific coast, this island has a name of colonial origin, as it was Francisco Pizarro who baptized it, in 1527. After spending seven months on the island and several of his men died from bites of snakes, the Spaniard called it La Gorgona in honor of a Greek mythological figure who has hair made of snakes.
More than 400 centuries later, in 1960, President Alberto Lleras Camargo decided that the place would be ideal for a maximum security prison, the Colombian version of Alcatraz. With the sea and the jungle as prison guards, the most dangerous criminals of the country were sent there. The Gorgona Penitentiary operated until 1984 when President Belisario Betancur closed it and named it a National Park where academics could study endemic species.
Currently, the island is also open for tourists who want to visit the ruins of the prison, as well as contemplate the nature and animals that inhabit the island. According to the website, Let’s Talk about Islands, there are about 155 species of birds, 17 warm-blooded animal species and 41 reptiles. Finally, the island is recognized for marine animals’ sightings, where you can see dolphins, porpoises, sharks and turtles, but especially the humpback whale. The whales’ sightings usually occur between July and November.
In the nineteenth century, the island took great relevance because it was the center of Charles Darwin’s observations, which eventually led to The origin of species, the book from which the theory of evolution that today rules the biological sciences emerged. From observing the endemic species of the place and its small variations in distances not so far apart, Darwin tied ropes to determine species of the same origin that have undergone changes due to the adaptation to the conditions of each one of the islands of the region.
All this makes it clear that the animals you can see on the island are unique, so much so that in 1978 it was declared a Natural World Heritage Site. In the 13 main islands and other 6 small ones that make up the Galapagos, you will see giant tortoises, sea lions and marine iguanas, all endemic species. Also, you can go hiking and biking, diving or kayaking, or you can rest on beaches with particular characteristics such as those of the island Rabida, which has red sand.