Galapagos - Mysterious Pearl of South America

The Galapagos, the very name sounds exotic and mysterious. This collection of islands lying in the Pacific Ocean some 650 miles from the coast of Ecuador may have been discovered as long ago as 1535 but Galapagos holidays are a quite recent development.

For centuries the Galapagos were generally known only to whalers and sailors, particularly buccaneers and pirates. The islands weren’t colonised for the first time until 1832. The most famous visitor to the islands of course was Charles Darwin in 1835 when the incredible diversity of the flora and fauna inspired the thinking that led to his theories of evolution and his great work on the origins of species.

It’s that same diversity of life to be found on the islands and in the surrounding waters that plays a large part in drawing visitors to the Galapagos today. That and the very remoteness and strangeness of the island group which only add to the fascination. Galapagos travel is usually a matter of cruising between the islands by small ship or yacht once you arrive in the islands.

Cruising the Galapagos is not like taking an ocean cruise in a luxury cruise liner, though the vessels are certainly well appointed. Here you don’t spend long periods at sea you’re constantly landing and exploring the different islands. Naturalist guides travel along with you to make sure you don’t miss anything. On land the first thing that strikes you about the wildlife is the lack of fear of humans. Animals and birds don’t run or fly away from you like they would anywhere else.

Straddling the Equator where three ocean currents meet these islands have been described as a melting pot of marine species. The islands are volcanic in origin and volcanic activity continues in the region. Due in part to these factors and in part to the remoteness of their location the Galapagos are home to several species that you don’t find anywhere else on Earth.

It’s easy to see why Galapagos travel has become so much more popular since the advent of easy long distance air travel brought such remote locations within reach of the ordinary traveller. Galapagos holidays give you the opportunity to meet creatures you’ve only ever read about or seen on the telly. The obvious example is the giant tortoises we’ve all heard of but that’s only one of the wonders of this special place.

Where else in the world would you find penguins and fur seals in the same area as flamingos and tropical fish? The Galapagos provide some of the last habitats left on the planet for sea turtles and waved albatrosses. There are some evolutionary wonders to be found here such as the thirteen species of Darwin’s finches as well as land and marine iguanas and countless seals and no end of other species.

Galapagos holidays are so full of wonder that you’ll get used to being constantly surprised by nature’s oddities like the inflatable frigate birds, flightless cormorants and the comical boobies. You’ll see all of these creatures and not just in ones or twos either. They’re all there in large numbers and they accept your presence among them with such complete indifference and lack of fear. You’ll spend your whole holiday in a state of wonderment!

It’s the same in the sea. If diving or snorkelling is your thing there’s nowhere else in the world where you can indulge in such activities among such amazing company. Dolphins and whales, rays and sea lions join you as you swim over coral reefs and underwater craters teeming with the most incredible variety of marine life.

Along with all this unbelievable wildlife there’s the islands themselves. Galapagos travel takes you to the summits of volcanoes over tortured lava flows, to remote mangroves and pirate hideouts from long ago. You’ll visit dramatic cliffs and coasts and, inland lagoons and highlands with even more rare birds in incredible numbers.

For anyone with a love of the natural world Galapagos holidays will provide a truly amazing experience that will stay with you for the rest of your days. If you have children or grandchildren with whom you want to share your enthusiasm and encourage it in them do take them to this land of magic if you can.

Galapagos travel caters well for children and the wonders of modern travel make the islands accessible from anywhere in the world despite their remoteness. It’s even possible from many parts of the world to go and spend just a week there. Having said that, most of us would want to spend longer than that in such a fascinating corner of the world. It’s probably fair to say that no-one who ever managed to get to the Galapagos has ever regretted going!

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