Straddling the equator, some 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador lies perhaps the planet's most fabled archipelago. To many of us the Galapagos signify a paradise of sorts, but when Charles Darwin famously arrived there aboard the Beagle in 1835, he wrote: “Nothing could be less inviting – the country is comparable to what one might imagine ... the infernal regions to be.” Among sailors the islands were known as "Las Encantadas", or "the Enchanted Isles", as they were believed bewitched, often with a mysterious mist ("garua") hanging over them. Some even postulated that the land here was not anchored to the ground, but rather floated about at sea, confounding navigation. Indeed, everything present arrived via wind, water, or wings, and though the avenues are few, the proliferation of unique lifeforms is beyond remarkable.
Forever fascinating, this is one of Earth's most active volcanic areas, and the beautiful volcanic formations, together with the matchless wildlife and natural history, make for an utterly unique destination. Perennially popular among birders for the island endemics and stunning seabirds, nearly all the birds are tame, allowing for outstanding photography. In places one must be careful to avoid stepping on a Galapagos Sea Lion, a Marine Iguana, or a Blue-footed Booby. The latter is perhaps the islands most iconic bird, and seeing pairs of them, bow and sway, whistling and honking, as they wave around their cobalt blue feet, is not something one forgets. Equally the thrill of watching a pair of Critically Endangered Waved Albatross performing their intricate dance moves is another of the Galapagos highlights. The snorkelling is a wonder as well, with swimmers at times encircled by sea lions, sea turtles, and even Galapagos Penguins on occasion. The islands are named after their endemic Galapagos Giant Tortoises (‘galapagos’ means tortoise in Spanish) and seeing these magnificent beasts striding about, or sighing deeply as they wallow in the mud, one feels transported to another time, or even another world.
Anyone who has visited will tell you, the Galapagos are otherworldly. Our special island-hopping tour differs from standard Galapagos cruises, as we aim to see up to 28 endemic birds, while reducing our time at sea, with comfortable accommodations on terra firma. Strategic water crossings provide us good chances for the seabird specialties, while allowing access to areas for endemic landbirds too. And despite Darwin's initial misgivings, this remote archipelago more so than any other place, birthed his theory on the evolution of species, so a visit here is also a homecoming for any nature enthusiast. From revolutionary Darwin’s Finches, ugly-cute Marine Iguanas, shrieking Red-billed Tropicbirds, to curious and endearing sea lions, an experience here marks a personal evolution.
Galapagos Penguin; Flightless Cormorant; San Cristobal, Floreana, Espanola & Galapagos Mockingbirds; Waved Albatross; Galapagos Petrel; Galapagos Shearwater; Elliot’s & Wedge-rumped Storm-petrels; Magnificent & Great Frigatebirds; Swallow-tailed & Lave Gulls; Blue-footed, Nazca & Red-footed Boobies; Brown Noddy; Lava Heron; Red-billed Tropicbird; Galapagos Hawk; Galapagos Short-eared Owl; Galapagos & Paint-billed Crakes; American Flamingo; Galapagos Dove; Galapagos & Darwin's Flycatchers; Galapagos Martin; Small, Medium & Large Ground Finches; Large, Medium & Small Tree Finches; Grey & Green Warbler-Finches; Espanola & Common Cactus Finches; Mangrove Warbler; Woodpecker & Vegetarian Finches.
Galapagos Sea Lion; Galapagos Fur Seal; Humpback & Bryde's Whales; Common Bottlenose Dolphin.
volcanic craters, pelagic, arid scrub, caldera, Scalesia forest
warm and sunny, with a cooling sea breeze
10 with 1 Rockjumper leader & local leader
easy to moderate pace, some moderate hikes
comfortable land-based hotels
mostly very easy
Dušan and his teammates Andres and Javier worked together to make this truly an exceptional adventure. It was one adrenaline rush after another. From snorkelling with Sea Lions (while laughing into my mask with delight) to snorkelling with Galapagos Penguins and Flightless Cormorants, to being in a huge megapod of Common Dolphins leaping out of the water in all directions, to the day we saw Orcas, can't leave out the Bryde's Whale, or the Bottle-nosed Doplins...it was amazing! It was a childhood dream come true to see the magnificent Galapagos Giant Tortoise, Marine Iguanas, and the beautiful Sally Lightfoot Crabs. Let's not forget the land Iguanas! Now to the birds; from Blue-footed and Red-footed and Nazca Bobbies, to Lava and Swallow-tailed Gulls, Parkinson's Petrals Now to the land birds, from the Short-eared Owl conversing with a horse to what seems to be a tremendous recovery of the lovely Darwin's Flycatcher and watching Dušan recording its call, to the Galapagos Yellow Warbler, to both Paint-billed Crakes and cracking views of the Galapagos Crake(Rail), Galapagos Dove to the confounding Darwin's Finches it was truly a once-in-a lifetime adventure! "
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