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 Waved Albatross performing their intricate dance moves is another of the Galápagos highlights. The snorkelling is a wonder as well, with swimmers at times encircled by sea lions, sea turtles, and even Galápagos Penguins on occasion. The islands are named after their endemic Galápagos 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 Galápagos cruises, as we aim to see all the possible 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 the ugly-cute Marine Iguanas, to the shrieking Red-billed Tropicbirds, to the curious and endearing sea lions, an experience here marks a personal evolution.
Galápagos Penguin, Flightless Cormorant, San Cristóbal, Floreana, Española & Galápagos Mockingbird, Waved Albatross, Galápagos Petrel, Galápagos Shearwater, Elliot’s & Wedge-rumped Storm-petrel, Magnificent & Great Frigatebird, Swallow-tailed Gull, Lava Gull, Blue-footed, Nazca & Red-footed Boobies, Brown Noddy, Lava Heron, Red-billed Tropicbird, Galápagos Hawk, Galápagos Short-eared Owl, Galápagos Rail, Paint-billed Crake, American Flamingo, Galápagos Dove, Galápagos Flycatcher, Galápagos Martin, Small, Medium & Large Ground Finches, Large, Medium & Small Tree Finches, Grey & Green Warbler Finches, Large & Common Cactus Finches, Mangrove Warbler, Woodpecker Finch, Vegetarian Finch.
Volcanic craters, pelagic, arid scrub, caldera, Scalesia forest
Warm and sunny, with a cooling sea breeze
Easy to moderate pace