The Galapagos Islands continue to be a distinct, exclusive and unique natural attraction for wildlife & nature enthusiasts. Only about 200,000 visitors/year get a chance to explore this volcanic land. Now, that is a mere 7% of what Yellowstone National Park takes in just the summer!
Only 7% of Yellowstone National Park visitors ever gets to explore the Galapagos Islands in a year.
Great Reasons to Make the Galapagos Islands a Dream Destination
Hawaii, Europe and the Caribbean are often listed on travelers’ bucket lists because of their widespread appeal to many ages. However, there’s an entire world to discover when you visit the Galapagos Islands, because of its broad experiences. This unique archipelago is located in the Pacific Ocean along the equator. Although its isolation keeps it very pristine, the Galapagos attracts travelers from around the world because it is considered one of nature’s top wildlife experiences. Planning a holiday here requires some basic understanding for rewarding experiences are about to unfold.
See Evolution in Action
Image source: Darwin-Online
One of the top reasons travelers seek out the Galapagos is the region’s scientific value. Charles Darwin was famous for staying on the islands and observing many species; mockingbirds and giant tortoises, particularly. Later, though, Dr. Robert Gould noted that a particular group of sparrow-like birds showed some bizarre differences and similarities at the same time. Darwin did collect plenty of samples of finches, but had no idea how much impact this would have in modern scientific thinking. Beaks of finches were adapted as different tools for exploiting different foods and niches. While exploring the islands you can observe this with your own eyes these features. Your power of observation has never been challenged so much. Big beak? Small beak? Wrench-like beak? Parrot-like beak? It’s all out there for you to observe.
Animals Only Seen Among the Islands
If finches got your attention, then you won’t believe what a show lies ahead. Because of island isolation, you’ll find the Galapagos penguins-the only equatorial penguin of all. But, other species are waiting too: giant tortoises, flightless cormorants, and marine iguanas are often the highlight for some, and for many to see them is a dream come true. Since these animals survived without massive predation from land carnivores, they developed fearless behaviour. Can you can imagine to see all of this right up close? While we know species had to arrive from mainland ancestors, we witness today what adaptations they had to go through, and that keeps our minds always excited about the uniqueness of these islands.
Expedition Cruises Use Top Naturalist Guides
Because the islands are a protected area, all visits need to be regulated. One reason why you should list the Galapagos on your bucket list is because of natural history interpretation by naturalist guides. It is really exciting to listen amazing stories that interpret what the natural resource holds in store for all visitors. Yes, we can see it’s a bird…but, do you know its role in the islands? Naturalist guides will spark your interest, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Part of this nature holiday is about really understanding what surrounds us and what our role is.
Snorkel with Sea Turtles
In the movie “Finding Nemo”, there’s a character called Crush. This surfer dude is represented by a sea turtle, and from all species in the world Galapagos is nesting home to just one of them: the green sea turtle. Here, all water adventures are different but is guaranteed you’ll see more than just the average fish species. Turtles, penguins, tropical fishes, sea lions, corals, and sharks are common sightings in the islands. While there’s no need to be an expert snorkeler, some experience is desirable. The good news is that a glass-bottom boat ride or kayaking can bring you up close to the marine environment too. Because the waters are protected too, the same level of awareness and care will be shared by naturalists. Nothing beats a sea lion swimming torpedo-like, and changing direction in nano-seconds right in front of you.
Wildlife! – Up Close & Personal
If you’ve ever been on hikes or safaris, most of the animals that you encountered were probably many yards away. High-powered binoculars and cameras were your only tools to actually see those animals. The exact opposite is true of the Galapagos. Animals among this island chain don’t have any reason to fear humans, so sea lions, boobies, and tortoises will often come within several feet of you and practically pose for a picture. This animal experience alone is often the reason for visitors to frequent these islands on a yearly basis. If this year’s visit matched the courtship of great frigatebirds, how about seeing the mating ritual of Galapagos albatrosses next year?
Sunglasses on! – Real White Beaches
If you’ve been out in snow on sunny days, you know sunglasses are a must. Well, keep them on in Galapagos and just kick off your shoes. Although there are various types of beaches in the islands, nothing tops being on a glorious white coralline beach. Sand is formed due to erosion, but few know fish-eating coral are responsible for making sand. Parrot fishes, for instance, grind coral and the milled result is what we call sand. They do this for their entire lives! As a result, you’ll discover powdery white-sandy beaches. Not only explorers enjoy beaches…watch the sea lions roll and become “breaded sea lions”. So fun!
Lights Out! – Walk Through Lava Tunnels
Evidence of massive volcanic activity are not just lava flows and craters. Flowing rivers of lava form tube-like hollow structures called lava tubes. Few places in the world give you full access to walking inside a lava tunnel. Up in the highlands of some locations it is quite fun to explore these caves with flashlights in order to see its internal make-up. These tunnels form when active lava cools along its top section while letting a liquid flow to continue below. As the molten lava exits the area, it literally leaves an empty tunnel. Naturalists will explain their anatomy in great detail, and focus on identifying stalactites and stalagmites – now, which one goes up?
Ultimately, an expedition cruise in the Galapagos is the best way to see these places. Select from several itineraries, and pack everything that you’ll need to enjoy your time on the water and on land. You’ll leave with a greater respect for nature and its awe-inspiring changes over many years. You will be part of a selected group of explorers in this remote land.