Galápagos Islands, Ecuador < Back
This is where Charles Darwin came to study and observe, before going on to form his theory of evolution by natural selection. The landscape may be desolate - and the tourist cruises can be sea sicky - but the variety, abundance and friendliness of the marine life is unequalled. Tip: go in June/July to see the migration of giant tortoises from the highlands to their nesting place.
What to see
Found mainly around the westernmost islands, where particularly cool currents keep water temperatures low. They can be seen in several places (around Pinnacle Rock, on Bartolomé, is good) but breed only on Isabela and Fernandina.
Like the penguin, breeds only on Fernandina and Isabela; found nowhere else.
Found pretty much everywhere and a familiar sight from early in the trip.
Breeds only on Española and, apart from a few pairs on Isla de la Plata, near the Ecuadorean mainland, nowhere else in the world; present April to December.
Galápagos land iguanas are found on the central and western islands; not surprisingly, Santa Fé is the only place to see the endemic Santa Fé land iguana.
Probably the most famous birds in the archipelago. As a result of his five-week stay, Darwin speculated that the 13 species of these rather unassuming little birds had evolved from a single species on the mainland – and this set the stage for his major breakthrough. They are found throughout the archipelago, though some species are restricted to certain islands.
Galápagos giant tortoise
The best places to see them are in the Santa Cruz highlands and on Alcedo Volcano, Isabela, which host the largest populations; San Cristóbal, Santiago, Española and Pinzón also have tortoises.
The only seafaring lizard in the world is impossible to miss. There may be as many as 300,000 marine iguanas across the archipelago, loafing around in the sun on rocky shores to raise their body temperature between dives.
Galápagos sea lion
Easy to find throughout the archipelago. One of the best places to snorkel with them, in calm water, is Santa Fé, but there are many other locations.