Having recently returned from the Galapagos I was reminded of the pure beauty and unique nature of these islands, home to animals and plants found nowhere else on earth. Standing as one of the most significant wildlife destinations in the world, here are my top 5 reasons why the Galapagos Islands remains one of the most in demand destinations that should be on your travel wishlist.
1) Curious creatures
I have been fortunate to have many close wildlife encounters throughout the world but the striking feature of the Galapagos Islands is undoubtedly the fearless nature of the animals. Wildlife that holds no fear of humans is a rare beauty and it does not take long to witness this truly unique aspect.
On my first arrival to the Galapagos, I was greeted by the surreal scene of tangled iguanas and sea lions basking in the sunshine whilst families and beachgoers frolicked nearby. Moving occasionally to allow the sea lions to pass in and out of the waters I watched as the locals, clearly at ease, were just meters from these grand creatures. Lying on a quiet section of beach it was not long until I had my first up-close encounter as a warm breath tickled my knee – a curious sea lion checking on the latest arrival. Although unnerving at first you soon realise that this is the Galapagos way. Landing on the Islands, you find yourself meandering through wildlife, within just meters of some of the most precious species in the world from the albatross to the giant tortoise and colourful blue-footed boobies. This is undoubtedly a completely remarkable experience for any nature lover.
2) Life beneath the waves
My personal highlight of the Galapagos is the marine world. Teeming with wildlife a trip for me is not complete without exploring the hidden treasures beneath the water. Within the clear waters you find yourself surrounded by spectacular marine species from turtles to manta rays set against a vibrant backdrop of multicoloured coral feeders. Dipping into this natural aquarium I could swim within schools of fish, that were equally comfortable in my presence with turtles feeing on the coral. Swimming is completely tranquil with only the occasional distraction of a curious sea lion coming to play.
For those less confident in the water, do not be put off. Opting for a cruise with a glass-bottom boat is a great way to explore this tropical underworld and even snorkelling in the shallows off one of the beaches there is more than plenty to see.
3) Landscape variety
The diversity of the Galapagos is nearly as striking as the wildlife with each island having its own personality and history. One day you will be walking on a sweeping white beach and the next exploring the black lava fields. With the young dramatic islands to the west boasting impressive volcanic craters through to the lush forest highlands and the shallow rocky eastern islands there is plenty to explore. Here you can see the full geological evolution of the islands and this wonderful diversity makes the longer cruise itineraries extremely rewarding.
4) Family fun
Exploring nature can be one of the most rewarding experiences for families and the Galapagos offers one of the best locations for your children’s first wildlife encounters. The variety of species will keep the young ones captivated and the close encounters are the experiences that your children will hold sacred for years to come. The variety of the tours makes sure that children are kept busy all day long and with the option to combine a boat based and land based programme, there is the flexibility to keep the young ones interested.
5) Galapagos by land
For those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground, there are a selection of wonderful land based options that offer a chance to explore the Galapagos Islands at your own pace. With a handful of inspired properties that are perfectly placed to fully maximise the spectacular surroundings, spend each day touring the nearby islands with the added flexibility offered from top diving locations to secret coves. With African inspired safari tents to modernist feature properties the level of service and accommodation is extremely high and the programmes are innovative to fit with the individual whether your passion is art, bird watching or you simply need to keep the children busy!