Sea lion mother and pup, Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands Trips

Darwin found inspiration for his groundbreaking book ‘The Origin of Species’ in the Galapagos Islands. On this isolated tropical archipelago, almost 1000km off mainland Ecuador, he discovered wildlife present nowhere else on Earth; today, Galapagos Islands tours will still astonish nature and wildlife lovers. The volcanic islands are considered to be a living laboratory by scientists and represent one of the most pristine yet fragile areas in the world. This enchanting environment is characterised by stark lava fields, cactus forests, volcanic craters, mangrove lagoons and turquoise waters.  

Without a doubt, the highlight of Galapagos Islands holidays is the incredible wildlife. With very few external predators and limited human interference, the species that inhabit the Galapagos have always shown a near-fearless attitude to man. Close encounters are assured and we may find ourselves stepping over snoozing Sea lions and iguanas or watching up close the courting rituals of Blue-footed boobies, albatross or frigatebirds. A mask and snorkel will reveal an exciting underworld – turtles, sharks, rays and colourful reef fish are abundant and Sea lions love to come and play!

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Galapagos Islands Adventure Holidays

Highlights: Galapagos Islands

Bartolomé: One of the most photographed of all the islands! Bartolomé is an extinct volcano with many interesting geological features and a semi-lunar landscape. The famous Pinnacle Rock, seen in countless photos, is actually a tuff cone – a column of hardened volcanic ash formed when molten rock fused together after coming into contact with seawater. It's possible to swim with Galápagos penguins here, and the island is home to Sea lions, nesting marine turtles and White-tipped reef sharks.

Española: The southernmost island of the chain, Española is also the oldest. As it is relatively isolated from the other islands, it has developed its own endemic fauna, including the only Marine iguanas that change colour in order to attract mates during the breeding season. The island is the favoured breeding ground for almost the entire world population of Waved albatross due to its easy access to prime fishing grounds and the steep cliffs that provide an ideal place for the large birds to take off. There are also large colonies of mockingbirds, boobies, Darwin finches and doves, as well as Sea lions, which surf the breaking waves.

Fernandina: The third-largest island, Fernandina is an active shield volcano that is noted for its fine examples of Aa and Pahoehoe lava flows. The ecosystem on Fernandina is remarkably untouched, and the island has never been invaded by foreign species and predators. As a result, the cormorants here had no real need to fly in order to find ample fish stocks, and gradually evolved into flightless birds with small wings and feet that are extremely well-adapted to swimming. Land iguanas have also flourished due to the lack of predators, and the island is home to the largest colony in the Galapagos.

Floreana: One of the first islands to be inhabited, the human history of Floreana is as interesting as its natural history. At Post Office Bay, 18th-century sailors (and now tourists) left mail in a wooden barrel so it could be picked up by other ships and delivered to its final destination. It's still common practice for visitors to see if there are postcards or letters from their hometown and deliver them on their return from the Galapagos. Notable wildlife on the island includes large flamingo colonies, the Galapagos petrel and, between December and May, nesting Green turtles. 

Isabela: One of the youngest and most volcanically active islands, Isabela is larger in size than all of the other islands put together! The lunar-esque landscape of its interior is perfect for an unusual trekking experience, and the island's cloud forest is home to five distinct subspecies of the giant Galapagos tortoise. Marine life here is rich and varied, and it's possible to see stingrays, White-tipped reef sharks and turtles in the mangroves and submerged lava tunnels, as well as playful dolphins and the odd glimpse of breaching Humpback whales. 

San Cristóbal: The easternmost island of the archipelago and the first landing point for Charles Darwin in 1835. The Galapagos Islands' provincial capital, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, is on San Cristóbal, and the town is home to the excellent Galapagos Interpretation Centre. Kicker Rock, a towering split rock that rises over 100m from the ocean, is a popular site for visitors to the island. The highland cloud forests provide a natural habitat for giant tortoises. Huge numbers of Sea lions are also present on San Cristóbal and nearby Isla Lobos, reachable by boat, is a big nesting site for Blue-footed boobies.

Santa Cruz: The second-largest island in the archipelago, Santa Cruz is home to Puerto Ayora – where most Galapagos ships are docked for embarkation – and the Charles Darwin Research Station, which conducts tortoise research programmes and is heavily involved in the management and conservation of the islands along with the national park authorities. The Santa Cruz highlands are much greener than the dry lowlands of the other islands and are home to freely-roaming groups of tortoises. 

Santiago: Home of the Galapagos Fur seal, which likes the rocky shoreline and shady spots of Santiago. Around 30,000 to 40,000 Fur seals live on the islands, and the majority can be found close to Puerto Egas, either on the rocks or on its black beaches. The island is a good place to see Galapagos hawks and Darwin finches, and there’s a popular snorkelling site called Chinese Hat where penguins, rays, turtles and playful Sea lion pups reside.

 

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