The Galapagos Islands are both relatively new and extremely remote. Located 600 miles west of Mainland South America, the islands were formed just a few million years ago by eruptions of volcanoes below the ocean’s surface and became a destination for plants and animals that floated and flew ashore. Plants arrived as seeds in the stomachs of migrating birds, while other animal species rode upon debris cast off from continental South America and Central America.
Many centuries ago, during the Age of Discovery, history’s most ambitious men set out to prove that new worlds existed beyond the known. Legends such as Christopher Columbus and Sir Walter Raleigh would chart the dimensions of our planet, encounter new peoples and lay claim to vast regions. But, as time progresses, these seekers of wealth and fame were replaced by men on a quest for knowledge – scientists and naturalists. It was the English naturalist Charles Darwin who discovered the Galapagos during his epic 1831-1836 voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.
The Galapagos Islands were revealing something to Darwin, especially in the finches he observed. On each of the four islands he visited, he observed their variations, including distinctions in the finches’ beaks, which bore the attributes necessary to take full advantage of food sources on the particular island they inhabited. Darwin’s curiosity piqued in the Galapagos and his controversial theory of evolution was born.
Nature seekers and wildlife adventurists come from all around the world to visit these four islands. Imagine walking within feet of sea lions, giant tortoises and iguanas. The air is filled with a wide array of birds including the beautiful waved albatross which is boasts a wingspan of almost eight feet. Travelers are prohibited from visiting 97% of the islands without the guidance of a licensed naturalist and most tourists arrive by ship. Smaller expedition ships are the ideal size for this once-in-a-lifetime experience as they are small enough to mobilize quickly for spontaneous wildlife encounters, such as whale-watching, but with generous public spaces and cabins. Many clients will extend their bucket-list trip with a visit to Machu Picchu & Cusco.
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