Galapagos Islands

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If Charles Darwin were alive today and you asked him where to go on your next vacation, he'd tell you to go to the islands that were the inspiration for his Theory of Natural Selection, a theory that hopefully will help you as you weed out the common, mundane vacation destinations and instead plan your next trip to the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands consist of 13 islands off the coast of Equator, although only five of them are actually inhabited. Strict tourist access means you have to do a bit of planning to get there, but this control has allowed the islands to maintain their "untouched" look and feel. Let's be honest, when we-as humans-discover a new, cool place, we kind of tend to destroy it for everyone who comes after us. Thankfully, that hasn't been the case here. Giant tortoises, marine iguanas, tropical birds, sea lions, and penguins roam freely and aren't even afraid to be approached. Cruises are the best-and often the only-way to truly explore the majority of the islands. Snorkeling and diving is absolutely breathtaking in the water that is equally as untouched and alive as the land and it's not uncommon to swim with small sea lions.
Photo Credit: Holly E Reid
Photo Credit: Eva Schuster
Photo Credit: Eva Schuster
Photo Credit: Eva Schuster
Photo Credit: Eva Schuster
Photo Credit: Eva Schuster
Photo Credit: Holly E Reid
Photo Credit: Eva Schuster
Photo Credit: Eva Schuster
Photo Credit: Eva Schuster

Like no where else.

Traveling the islands of the Galapagos is truly a once in a lifetime experience. As we sailed from one island to the next I came face to face with animals that had been a huge part of Darwin's studies so many years ago, animals I had only seen in zoos or heard about in school. I felt like I was walking around in a history lesson with picturesque landscapes of the volcanic islands, watching for whales and enjoying the gorgeous sunsets as the wind hit our sails and propelled us on our journey. We swam each day, frolicking with sea lions, many of which were game to play with us in the crystal clear waters of the Pacific Ocean and even saw some penguins during our underwater adventures. We explored the Darwin station on Santa Cruz, photographing the turtles and learned about Lonesome George, the oldest and last giant tortoise of the islands. Each day we hiked through the islands, coming across Sea Iguanas who were piled high on top of each other on land, using their combined body heat to stay warm - cute cuddling pictures abounded. We came across a sword fight, well more like a beak fight, between a couple of albatross along our path, watched a blue footed boobie hover over its young and captured the mating ritual on film of the frigate bird flying high above trying to attract his mate with his huge red throat pouch.

Each Island was uniquely different. Some were lush green landscapes, forests stretching from coast to coast; while others were black rock, more newly formed from volcanic eruptions. While above the surface was beautiful, our small glimpses of the world beneath the surface were wholly original. We swam with sea turtles, a variety of fish, sting ray and even caught a few glimpses of sharks.

I recommend an adventure to these islands, but anyone willing to check it out should be sure to bring a camera equipped for both above and below the surface because you don't want to miss anything.

One of the most amazing trips I have ever taken

If it isn't on your to do list, it should be. The wildlife is incredible and surprisingly tame. The locals are friendly. The water is SO blue.

While the populated islands of the Galapagos do tend to attract a bit of a touristic vibe (mostly Puerto Ayora), they are still incredibly scenic and still maintain a feeling of authenticity. There are some very Americanized restaurants for those looking for some comfort food, but the best meals I had were where the locals eat or the restaurants that serve typical Ecuadorian cuisine.

The snorkeling is some of the best I've ever experienced. There are so many beautiful fish, sea turtles and even sea lions! I made friends with a baby sea lion in San Cristobal and we played in the water. I even swam with a blue footed boobie that was fishing.

For those who want to be outdoors but would rather stay on dry land, there is plenty of hiking, - Sierra Negra on Isabella is pretty incredible. Or walking through the highlands on Santa Cruz where you can see a ton of giant tortoises - beautiful beaches, and even a five-star resort or two if that's more your speed.

If you're going on a budget, I would recommend a land-based tour for a few days and leaving open some unscheduled days at the tail end of your trip. You will likely hear about things you'd like to do/see while you're there that aren't included in a tour. You can get pretty great deals on these last minute trips as well. Keep in mind if you plan to island hop, it can take up to three hours each way to get to these islands. It's better to spend a night or two on each one if you can.

If you want to go all out and make sure you get to see some uninhabited islands as well, a cruise or water-based trip is definitely the way to go.

Amazing place. If you ever get the chance, you must go.

Galapagos Diving Tours

Come see Large Whale Sharks, Huge Schools of Hammerheads, World's 2nd largest Marine Reserve, Swim with lizards and penguins and "One of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World" CEDAM.
Cost: Varies
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Adventure Travel on the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands adventure travel allows you to kayak, mountain bike, ride a horse, or snorkel up-close and personal with the world's most fearless wildlife. The combination of land-based accommodations and travel between islands by small private planes or speedboats give you more time to enjoy amazing wildlife encounters while participating in your favorite adventure sports.
Cost: Varies
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Galapagos Cruise

View the beautiful Galapagos Islands on a cruise.
Cost: Varies
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Interior Island Exploration

Opuntia is offers a new, well-constructed tours of the Galapagos’ rugged interiors. They offer multisport adventure tours based out of boutique hotels on three different islands in the Galapagos. Think hiking active volcanoes, mountain biking coastal wetlands, kayaking with sea turtles and sharks, and snorkeling with sea lions.
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Baltra Airport [GPS]