Celebrating 50 years of Adventure Travel

12 Reasons to Visit the Galapagos Islands

July 4, 2019 by Heather Howard

For eons, the Galapagos Islands were untouched by humanity, allowing wildlife to evolve in splendid isolation 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Charles Darwin’s discovery of this rich and abundant ecosystem in the 19th century was the basis for his opus, On the Origin of Species, opening the doors for others to discover “this little world within itself.” Today, the 20 volcanic islands and the biological marine reserve that surrounds them are a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and a living museum for all who visit.

On our classic adventure cruise you will be wowed by an array of incredible wildlife, from the giant Galapagos tortoise to the blue-footed booby, the marine iguana to the Sally Lightfoot crab. There are opportunities to swim with sea lion pups, small sharks and tropical fish, and birders will often find an inquisitive finch or flycatcher perched on their camera lens. Throughout your island exploration you’ll be led by professional naturalist guides, who show you how to tread lightly.

It never ceases to amaze us. Here are our top 12 reasons to go:

1. Fearless Endemic Wildlife

Galapagos wildlife has evolved in isolation and, with such little fear of humans, many of the animals act as if you’re not even there. By treading lightly and observing national park rules, you can snap incredible up-close photos.

2. Courtship Rituals

The blue-footed booby is well loved throughout the islands. It uses its intense turquoise foot color to look attractive and find a mate, and is commonly found around the Galapagos coastline. The courtship of the waved albatross, the largest bird in the Galapagos, is another highlight. Pairs will clack their bills together like they are sword-fighting. Both boobies and waved albatrosses mate for life.

3. Family Adventure

Share an adventure that you’ll never forget with the ones you love! A Galapagos adventure is a journey of discovery for all ages and is perfect for families looking to enjoy immersive exploration together. You can even charter a private deluxe yacht for your own group.

4. Expert Naturalist Guides

Certified naturalist guides, such as MT Sobek’s Luis Die (shown), share their knowledge on intimate journeys of discovery. Their ability to stir your passion for the natural world is truly amazing.

5. Galapagos Tortoises

The largest land tortoises on earth have evolved in isolation for millions of years and, in the absence of predators, they’ve grown to enormous sizes (up to 660 pounds). They are the main herbivores of the Galapagos ecosystem, and it is estimated that there are around 20,000 wild tortoises on the islands. They are a top draw to the islands.

6. Active Adventure

Be as active as you want to be with a remarkable range of experiences, including nature walks, swimming, and sea kayaking. The Galapagos also offers some of the best snorkeling opportunities in the world as half of the wildlife you see is below the water line. Plus swimming with playful young sea lions is a top Galapagos experience!

7. Conservation

A part of visiting the park is contributing to its future, even through the money spent on park fees. You come to see its beauty, but you leave with an understanding of how fragile the Galapagos Islands are and a seriously strong desire to help protect them. MT Sobek’s Galapagos guides are all active in conservation and we proudly support the Galapagos Conservancy.

8. Marine Iguanas

Despite its name, the marine iguana spends most of its time basking on rocks, and goes to the sea only to feed on marine algae. The iguana might look like a dinosaur, but it’s among the gentlest creatures in the Galapagos.

9. Island Cruising

Small deluxe yachts (16 guests max.) are our key to getting you up close to the islands, meaning less time in transit and more time to explore. Here guests cruise past Kicker Rock, or “Leon Dormido”—the sleeping lion—a huge volcanic monolith located close to Isla Lobos and San Cristobal.

10. Entire Ecosystems

You learn about more than just birds and marine life in the Galapagos. You learn about botany, ocean currents, geology and ecosystems as a whole. Not many places in the world offer an opportunity to see firsthand how everything in an ecosystem is codependent. Its isolation makes for a fascinating example that really can’t be replicated elsewhere.

11. Tranquil Beaches

As you explore the islands’ tranquil beaches, you’ll experience an abundance of shore life. Marvel at a basking sea lion colony or see an inquisitive pup.

10. Green Sea Turtles

The green sea turtle is prolific in Galapagos waters. In fact, these islands are considered the only place in the eastern Pacific where its large population is not decreasing. You’ll see them while snorkeling and find their tracks in the beaches, where females nest and lay their eggs.

12. Birds & More Birds!

The Galapagos Islands are perfect for birders. While only 22 species are endemic to the Galapagos, thousands of the species pass through on their way to other destinations. Up-close encounters like this are common. You will also see chicks and fledglings (in nests at eye level or on the ground) at all different stages of development.

People often ask, “Penguins at the equator? How is that possible?” The Galapagos is very unique in many aspects, and the presence of penguins in equatorial latitudes is good proof of it. The Galapagos penguin is small and fearless, and it’s possible to spot one chasing anchovies while you snorkel.

Fourteen species of closely related, similar-looking finches inspired Charles Darwin to develop his theory of evolution, making these and other Galapagos birds famous. Darwin’s finches continue to provide valuable information about how evolution works in nature. The beak is most commonly used to help differentiate between them.

The Galapagos short-eared owl is endemic to the islands. The owls generally nest under trees and shrubs, and lay one clutch of eggs per year. Guides can help you spot these owls in open grassland and lava rock.

The frigatebird is an amazing acrobat that steals food from other seabirds in an impressive display. The males also inflate their balloon-like, red throat pouch to impress females during courtship. With a wingspan of up to 7 feet, the frigatebird has the largest wing-area-to-body-weight ratio of any bird.

Guided hiking on the islands allows for impressive up-close encounters. Here are hikers at the edge of a frigatebird colony.

Love what you see? Experience the Enchanted Isles for yourself on one of these Galapagos adventures.

About the Author Heather Howard

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