Ever since Charles Darwins visit to the Galapagos in 1835 and the publication of his theory of evolution, would-be visitors have dreamt of up-close-and-personal encounters with sea lions, giant tortoise and blue-footed boobies. These are to be found on a remote Pacific archipelago, thousands of miles west of the South American mainland.
What can I see in the Galapagos?
Though the Galapagos are rocky and somewhat desolate they are home to a huge variety of treasures. Isla Santa Cruz hosts the largest human settlement and a huge tortoise population, while frigate birds can be seen around the freshwater pools on Isla San Cristobal.
Penguins live on Bartolome Island, 5000 miles from Antarctica and thousands of iguanas hang out on Isla Fernandina. Theres something going on year-round, but in March the islands will be carpeted with bright flowers, seal pups are emerging and the sea is warm enough to swim in.
Such is the wild appeal of the Galapagos that these remote, rocky and wind-lashed islands are the Pacifics hottest eco-tourist draw. Cruise and expedition ships ply the surrounding waters and the spectacular marine life also draws divers by the boatload.
Booking your trip to Ecuador
For natural wonders to remain in harmony with a booming, some-would-say unsustainable tourist industry is a tall order. When you visit, book with a company whose environmental credentials you can verify and trust. This may mean paying more than you bargained for but then the Galapagos is a once-in-a-lifetime place and its worth saving up.
©2009 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd