The Galapagos Islands are truly amazing, and that is why thousands of people visit the archipelago each year, to experience everything that they have to offer. A part of the South American nation of Ecuador and about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off the mainland, a visit to the Galapagos Islands might just be one of the greatest adventures of your life. But have you ever wondered what it is that is so unique about a trip to the Galapagos Islands? Here we will explain five things that you can only do in the Galapagos Islands, and which will make your vacation the most memorable you’ll have ever been on.
One of the most amazing and fairly unique features of the Galapagos National Park is that the wildlife there is unafraid of humans, and therefore relatively tame. This means that you can get up close and personal with all variety of different bird life and land and marine creatures. These might include the blue footed booby or red footed booby, the waved albatross, sea lions, marine and land iguanas and giant tortoises, among many others. Darwin’s theory about how this came about is because the wildlife has existed primarily predator-free on remote islands. A fairly recent study of iguanas in the Galapagos Islands also supports this theory. Whatever the truth of why this happens, the great part of it from a tourism perspective is that you can see the wildlife really close up and take superb pictures. A couple of words of caution, however, are that you should stick to trails and paths that your guide specifies at all times, and don’t get too close to the animals. Large male sea lions in particular do not take kindly to this, and you can put yourself and your group at risk by getting too close.
One of the really amazing things that you can do in the Galapagos Islands, either on a cruise or on a Galapagos land-based trip, is see creatures that are endemic to the archipelago. They simply cannot be seen in other places in the world. Even some of those species that can be seen in other parts may be rare in other places. Endemic animals in the Galapagos took a variety of different routes to arrive there, all of which are fascinating. For example, some animals may have arrived as a result of being on land that got swept away in a flood on the mainland, eventually arriving in the islands. Some others may have drifted in storms. Few mammals got to the Galapagos, likely due to their need for a significant amount of food and water, while a tortoise or a reptile can go a long time without.
Endemic species that you can see in the Galapagos Islands include Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Penguin, Giant Tortoise, Flightless cormorant and Galapagos Sea Lions, among others. You simply cannot get this experience in any other part of the world.
The Galapagos penguin is the only equatorial bird in its species, and the Galapagos Islands are the only place where you can get to see this creature. They are also the only penguin species to be found in the northern hemisphere. There are numerous places within the islands where you can snorkel and might get to see Galapagos penguins diving for food at the same time. Most Galapagos penguins (approximately 90%) are found off Fernandina Island and Isabela Island. However, don’t worry if your tour does not visit the western isles of the archipelago. There is also a chance to see penguins at Bartolome, Floreana, Santiago and Santa Cruz, sometimes.
Aside from snorkeling with penguins you can of course also snorkel with a vast array of other weird and wonderful creatures. A special highlight is snorkeling with young sealions which are very playful. While snorkeling you may also see a variety of sharks including hammerheads, if you are lucky. Rays can be seen in some snorkeling spots, and there are pretty and colorful tropical fish everywhere.
The Galapagos Islands are completely unique, with a great many endemic species, which is why Charles Darwin was able to devise his natural selection theory here. Through observing the different types of finches in the islands, Darwin was able to see how these creatures had adapted for a better chance of survival on the various islands, and this led him to his ground-breaking theory. Nowhere else in the world can you visit such a unique ecosystem and learn about this theory first-hand, in an environment that is still pristine and unspoiled, despite high levels of tourism.
Well, okay, you can probably do this in other places too, but this is a special experience that it is difficult to do in most other parts of the world – and can you also swim with unusual endemic species in the same day at the Equator anywhere else? We think possibly not, and that’s why this one makes our list. The volcano in question in this case is Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island. The landscape is unusual and unforgettable, and you’ll travers muddy sections and rocky terrain, passing Darwin finches, Galapagos hawks and mockingbirds on the way. Afterwards take a dip or snorkel off your boat, to make the most of this unique experience.
At Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders, we can organize Galapagos cruises and land- based trips for you that meet your specific needs. Ecuador experts, we have a wealth of experience in planning and organizing trips to the Galapagos Islands. Why not get in touch today to start planning your trip to experience these wonders of the Galapagos Islands?