Often referred to as Darwin’s living laboratory, people are often surprised to hear of the development and holiday opportunities on the Galápagos Islands. The biodiversity and enthralling ecosystem of the archipelago will have you in awe of nature and yearning to follow in the footsteps of David Attenborough in your future career.
The Galápagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, a province of Ecuador lying isolated about 1,000km from the coast. In 1835, Charles Darwin spent time studying the species of the Galápagos and this later inspired his theory of evolution. Of course any nature lovers have dreamed of the Galápagos, and for others a viewing of any David Attenborough documentarywill have given you a taste of the thriving landscape. Many of the plant and animal species are found nowhere else in the world.
The Galápagos is a rare wilderness where animals have no instinctive fear of humans. The time of year you visit will greatly depend on what you’re looking to experience. Tourism tends to be busiest in June, July and August and again in December and January, meaning prices are also highest then. The hot, rainy season is December through May and this is when the ocean is calmest and there skies are sunniest. June to November brings the cooler dry season with chilly waters. The seas are rougher, not suitable for many visitors but the experienced divers thrive in the waters as the colder waters attracts wildlife such as hammerhead sharks and even whale sharks. Keep in mind that most islands don’t allow visitors without a licensed guide with the National Park. Try to join a smaller tour, in groups of around 15-20 as the larger groups can overwhelm the nature when you disembark the boat.
It’s hard to emphasise just how exciting a visit to the Galápagos is, and what’s more difficult is foregrounding any one sight as being more essential to see. The gigantic tortoises succeed in proudly holding the place as symbol of the islands. Reaching weights of nearly 900 pounds and living over 150 years these creatures are captivating and getting to see them untouched in their own territory is such an experience. Tortoises rule the ground, and the fascinating diversity of birds rule the skies. Remember to pack your binoculars and spot cormorants, frigatebirds, albatrosses and many others. Specialist bird boat cruises are best for spotting any of these stunning winged creatures and along the way you’ll certainly see some sealife.
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Sealions and fur seals roam the waters catching the adoring eyes of cruisers daily but still remaining unfazed by the visitors over the years. A visit to Las Loberias is the destination to watch sea lions with their pups. Keeping a respectful distance watch the babies and parents interact throughout the day and even go swimming by them in the sea. Another bay to see stunning scenery is Tortuga. Crystal-clear waters and shining white sand offer the tropical paradise but Tortuga also provides an abundance of wildlife for watching.
Diving and snorkelling are at their finest around the Galápagos as the marine life is heavenly, the water is largely untouched and is clear down to the depth of up to 80 feet. Top dive sites include El Arco, Darwin Island where you can encounter hammerheads, whale sharks and spotted eagle rays. Another on Darwin Island is El Arenal, sloping of Darwin’s stone arch and home to big-eye jacks, hammerheads and blacktip sharks. A dive site renowned for its unique topography is Roca Redonda on Isabela Island. Off the north coast of the island, the dive site is the tip of an underwater volcano that rises from the sea floor and emerges as an islands. Here you’ll spot Galápagos sharks, hammerheads and barracudas as well as the friendly sea lions. A famous drift dive is Cape Douglas, Fernandina Island and is an exciting spot to drift and see penguins fly past. You might also be lucky enough to spot the intriguing marine iguanas searching for food. Top snorkelling can be done at Chinese Hat Islet, Lobos Islet, Devils Crown, Pinnacle rock and many many others, all offering something a little unique.
The unique volcanic landscape of the Galápagos, not only provides an environment for a diversity of wildlife to thrive in, but also creates the Lava Tubes. Formed from lava, these structures are long cave-like channels that you can take a fascinating tour through. Of course, this volcanic landscape also attracted Charles Darwin all those years ago and his research and scientific theories hold place in scientific practise today. The Charles Darwin Research Station is a one of a kind museum. Working through his observations and studies on the island, the station is a great way to access nature and understand the environment. The station is on Santa Cruz island and not only delves into Darwin’s history but also shows how his work continues on the island today and how preservation is primary for everyone on the Galápagos. Galápagos nature is to be treasured.
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Wildlife like no other is found on the Galápagos. What are you dying to see? Let us know in the comments below.