Conservation in Action
One of the most remarkable things about the Galápagos is the absence of human inhabitants on all but four of the islands, which lets wild creatures flourish and roam, living much as they did prior to human history. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, the Ecuadorian government was given the responsibility of enacting permanent conservation efforts and caring for the islands. From the beginning, strict measures have been taken to preserve the Galápagos, in part by minimizing the impact of visitors. However, conservation efforts are still conducive to discovery for travelers, particularly when they visit with tour operators that have ample experience balancing immersive exploration with appropriate preservation measures.
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A Legacy of Exploration
Galápagos has been a destination for adventurers since the islands received their earliest visitors—at first by definition, as its location 600 miles off the Ecuadorian coastline make it one of the world's most isolated oceanic archipelagos. Even after it was mapped by modern civilizations, its reputation was only burnished by its time as a hideout for pirates seeking their fortune among the ships of the Spanish Empire, and caves on land still bear marks hinting at buried treasure. The archipelago’s most famous visitor, Charles Darwin, spent five weeks in the Galápagos in 1835 gathering samples and ideas aboard the HMS Beagle. He then had weeks of sailing away from the isles to codify his thoughts and change the direction of modern science.
Encounter Wildlife, Uninterrupted
Today, Galápagos remains wild in a way that few wild places are. The lack of contact with humans means that animals here are completely unafraid—you’re just another species to them. That means you’ll see animal behavior you’re not used to. Blue-footed boobies, lizards, iguanas, and sea turtles will nest on marked trails and cross your path frequently—and they won’t give way, so watch where you step! Similarly, animals that can be aggressive elsewhere, like sea lions, can be quite friendly here. It’s part of the responsibility of visitors to remain neutral and not interact, as keeping them untouched is what preserves the innocence many visitors find so enchanting.
Discover Fascinating Desert Islands
Wildlife isn’t the only aspect of the Galápagos that is completely unique. From volcanic mountains to cacti-covered spreads at sea level, each island in the Galápagos is a unique ecosystem with its own specific vegetation. There are about five hundred species of flora in the islands, and around one-third of them are endemic, meaning they’re native to the archipelago and not found anywhere else. You might spot Darwin’s aster Darwiniothamnus or native species of cacti, like the candelabra cactus and the lava cactus—a reminder of how harsh the growing conditions on these islands can be.
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Darwin’s Living Laboratory
The subtle differences island to island have fascinated thousands of travelers on their own Darwinian journeys to understand what “survival of the fittest” really means—not the strongest, but the best able to evolve to suit their unique circumstances. That’s an evolution that modern travelers have kept up with in recent years, as travel restrictions in the area have come and gone. At a time when scheduling travel can be difficult, Galápagos is a perfect destination because there are things to do here in every season. While the summer weather is especially beautiful, at any time of year you can see tortoises grazing, Galápagos penguins waddling, and iguanas swimming. The only question is, what will you do first? Here follows the top 10 things to do in the Galápagos Islands.
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