The Galapagos Islands, about 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador is recognized as one of the first UNESCO sites. With its truly unique array of biodiverse marine and terrestrial life, it is no wonder that tourism to the 10 designated touring sites continues to grow every year. Since the 1980s, tourist populations in the Galapagos have risen by nearly 10 times from the 25,000 visitor-limit more than 30 years ago.
Adventure travel and ecotourism are flourishing, and as travellers, we must remember to be conscious of the islands’ delicate ecosystems.
Since Darwin’s expedition to the archipelago aboard the SS Beagle in 1835, we have been captivated by its awe-inspiring natural beauty and booming biodiversity.
The 19 islands that make up this volcanic archipelago and cover an area of about 45,000km2, are considered the most unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galapagos are a melting pot of marine and wildlife species. The life that can be viewed on these islands is as abundant as it is diverse and ranges from corals and sharks to penguins and marine mammals. The list of things to do is also long and exciting and includes wildlife watching, diving, snorkelling, boat tours, stargazing, hiking, kayaking and surfing.
What to see in Galapagos
Santa Cruz Island: the second largest of the archipelago, Santa Cruze is home to the main residents of the Galapagos and has a city vibe. But, here you’ll also find the Charles Darwin Research Centre, which is a definite do to get a sense of the history and diversity of the islands. Nearby, you’ll find the white sandy beaches of one of the Galapagos’ most famous areas, Tortuga Bay. Snorkelling, swimming and surfing are prominent here among the marine iguanas, white tip reef sharks and iconic giant tortoise. Make sure to check out the stunning Canal del Amor, a turquoise channel between mountainous rocks.
Isabela Island: known for its peculiar seahorse shape, this is the largest of the islands and is said to be about 1 million years old. Made up of six volcanoes, sandy beaches and quiet lagoons, here you’ll find tortoises, penguins, iguanas and crabs. But, this island is also one of the best places to spot humpback, minke and sperm whales and dolphins.
San Cristobal Island: here you’ll find Kicker Rock, which boasts the world’s best snorkelling. But this is also the island with two pristine beaches, Punta Carola and Playa Cabo de Horno, famous for the resident sea lion population.
Isla Bartolome: this beautiful island, off the shore of Sullivan Bay, is famous for the iconic Pinnacle rock. But, it’s also the spot from some awesome snorkelling where you can catch sight of white-tipped sharks, spotted eagle rays, stingrays, and the green sea turtles.
North Seymour Island: this small island is an important fishing site for marine birds, and as such one of the best places to see the unique blue-footed boobies.