Galapagos Wildlife Safari

Lonely Planet Travel Editor Tom Hall is on a mission to discover 52 of the most awe-inspiring places to visit across the world. This week, Tom is on the trail of Charles Darwin in the Galapagos.


Ever since Charles Darwin’s 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. There’s 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 Pacific’s 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 it’s worth saving up.

Further information

The Galapagos Conservation Trust is a UK-based, non-profit organisation promoting conservation of the islands. For more official tourist information see Viva Ecuador.

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