Almost 200 years ago, these islands changed the world. Now this awe-inspiring destination belongs on your travel bucket list.
The Galápagos Islands, a largely untouched archipelago of islands straddling the equator close to Ecuador, are arguably best known for being the place where Charles Darwin first conceived of the idea that was to become his theory of evolution.
The archipelago’s isolated nature and unique wildlife scattered over its many islands made for the perfect conditions to give rise to the theory that would forever change our view of science, the world, and ourselves.
Today, you too can make the voyage to the Galápagos Islands for a vacation that history buffs, nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike will love.
From flat sandy expanses to rocky basalt cliffs and smouldering volcanic craters, every single one of the Galápagos’ 20 islands is a world unto its own, each with its own unique landscape and weather conditions that have shaped the life on it. An island-hopping tour is one of the best ways to see the Galápagos Islands in all its beauty, though not all islands are open to visitors.
Isolated from the rest of the world, The Galápagos Islands have evolved some of the most fascinating animals you’ll never see anywhere else. Keep an eye out for marine iguanas – the only iguanas that swim – basking on rocks and their cactus-munching land counterparts, the sadly endangered ancient giant tortoises that roam the land, and a huge variety of birds, including the iconic blue-footed boobie and Darwin’s famous finches.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Galápagos Islands get their name from its giant tortoises. Because of the tortoises’ strangely-shaped upturned shells, early explorers referred to them as ‘galapago’, an old Spanish word for ‘saddle’.
When To Go
To see the islands at their liveliest, plan your visit for December to May when the climate warms up comfortably (with temperatures of 22-30°C) and the seas calm down after the colder season. In the heat, flowers bloom in a rainbow of colours, birds fill the air with mating calls and dances, and sea turtles come ashore to nest, which makes this the perfect time to see the islands come to life.
Experienced divers, however, may enjoy the cooler season of June to November, as the colder and more nutrient-rich water attracts a myriad of delightful marine life. Just be prepared to put up with stronger winds, rain and rougher seas.
Of course, you can always indulge in other activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, surfing, or just hanging out on the beach.
Where To Stay
The beachside and eco-friendly Finch Bay Hotel on the larger populated island of Santa Cruz is right in the middle of the archipelago and is a tourist favourite as a comfortable base of exploration. Conveniently, the hotel also arranges all-inclusive island tours on their yacht so you can leave the planning up to them!
To make the most of your time in the Galápagos, book a stay on a houseboat! Don’t worry, these aren’t the ships of Darwin’s time– the houseboats range in luxury from Economy to First Class and travel between islands during the night so you have the day to explore. If you’re the sort for camping, you can even camp in a few designated camping sites within the Galápagos National Park on the inhabited island.
How To Get There
Now here’s the kicker: with its unique environment and ecological significance, planning a trip to the Galapagos isn’t easy. The Islands are governed by laws that aim to guard and preserve its protected areas. Because of this, the movement and activity of visitors on the Islands are carefully and strictly monitored.
Prepare to produce all the paperwork required (a full breakdown is available at www.galapagos.org), be respectful of the laws and nature when you’re there, and you can be sure it’ll be an experience you’ll remember forever.
From the print edition.