Sea lion, Galapagos (Metropolitan Touring)

The Gal�pagos Islands


Overview

Gal�pagos Islands travel guide, including map of Gal�pagos Islands, top Gal�pagos Islands experiences, tips for the Gal�pagos Islands, when to visit the Gal�pag

The remote Galápagos archipelago is top of the list for many wildlife fanatics – and with good reason.

Hiding in the Pacific Ocean, far-flung 1,000km off the coast of mainland Ecuador, the wildlife of the Galápagos has evolved with little fear of humans (to its detriment in some cases, as hungry passing mariners developed quite a taste for east-to-catch giant tortoise…).

This fearlessness means you can get unbelievably close to the creatures. In fact, even if you try to maintain a polite distance (you are not permitted to leave the marked trails), the wildlife often comes to you. Even the most macho traveller will be reduced to mush when a sea lion pup comes and lays its head on their sandal. Or when a mockingbird makes a pecking lunge for their waterbottle.

You can really only explore by boat. There are a range of cruises on offer, varying in length and degree of luxury. You need to do some research before booking, as all the boats follow set itineraries (which will not be altered), visiting different islands and landing sites – is the wildlife you want to see present at those sites? And does your preferred boat have an expert naturalist? Kayaks on board? Or snorkel equipment? (The latter is a must – the snorkeling here is incredible.)

So what might you see? Well, sea lions everywhere: lazing on white-sand beaches, welcoming you on jetties, playing around you as you snorkel. There are land iguanas and marine iguanas (which cluster in big, black, snorting piles), giant tortoises and gloriously bright Sally Lightfoot crabs.

As for birds, not trip is complete without witnessing the comical courtship of the blue-footed booby or the mating joust of the massive waved albatross. Also look out for penguins, deep-diving flightless cormorants and majestic frigatebirds, unmistakable with their red inflated throat pouches.

The Galápagos is like nowhere else on earth. It inspired a whole evolutionary theory, and will not fail to inspire you. 

Further Reading

Galápagos Islands Top 5

  1. Kayak around the mangrove lagoon of Elizabeth Bay, on the west side of Isabela Island. Some of the cruise boats do carry kayaks (ask before you book), which are a great way to get even closer to the turtles, sea lions and penguins of this quiet landing site.
  2. Dive with hammerheads off Darwin and Wolf islands. These remote spots in the north of the archipelago are rarely visited, but experienced divers can join a specialist liveaboard vessel for the chance to float here with thousands of the sharks.
  3. Climb the peak on Bartolomé islet for the ultimate, picture-postcard view of the archipelago; it’s a short and easy ascent. The beach here is a great place to snorkel with penguins and white-tipped reef sharks, plus look out for circling hawks.
  4. Spend time on Santa Cruz Island. Puerto Ayora is the main tourist town, and a great place to see pelicans and marine iguanas chilling by the harbour. Also, stop in at the Charles Darwin Research Centre to visit the captive breeding programme for tortoises, and then delve inland to see them in the wild, at El Chato Tortoise Reserve.
  5. Land at Punta Suárez, on Española Island, for avian heaven. There are many nesting birds including the waved albatross and Nazca and blue-footed boobies, plus rugged rocky scenery (complete with many basking marine iguanas) and dramatic seawater blowholes.