The Galápagos Islands are probably the most famous wildlife-watching destination in the world. And no wonder – it’s almost impossible to exaggerate the sheer spectacle of the place that provided inspiration for Charles Darwin’s ground-breaking theory of natural selection.
This remote archipelago is a land of stark lava formations, cactus forests, lush green highlands, turquoise bays and quintessential tropical beaches. But, best of all, it is overflowing with wildlife at every turn. Within minutes – sometimes seconds – of landing on this dot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you can be face-to-face with more strangely fearless and curious animals than anywhere else on Earth.
Roughly 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador, and slap-bang on the equator, Darwin’s “Enchanted Isles” consist of a cluster of 13 “proper” volcanic islands (larger than four square miles) plus six smaller islands and more than 100 islets. Every one has its own unique atmosphere, distinctive landscape and inimitable wildlife.
You can see everything from penguins living in the tropics and boobies with bright blue feet to tool-using woodpecker finches and male frigatebirds turning their wrinkled throat sacs into extraordinary, fully inflated red balloons. One day you could be watching time-worn giant tortoises in the misty highlands, and the next you could be snorkelling with playful sea lions in crystal-clear water. You could be sunbathing on black lava rocks next to prehistoric-looking marine iguanas, or sitting with waved albatrosses as they perform their bill-circling, swaggering courtship display.