THE GALÁ­PA­GOS IS­LANDS

Best for: Wildlife, land­scapes, snorkelling, his­tory

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - ECUADOR & THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS -

DU­RA­TION: 5–10 days ROUTE: Fly from Quito or Guayaquil to the Santa Cruz or San Cristóbal is­lands, then take a cruise or is­land hop. WHY GO? On ev­ery­body’s bucket list, the wildlife of the Galá­pa­gos is sec­ond to none. WHEN TO GO? All year; hot Dec to May; cool Jun to Nov. High sea­son Jun to Aug, Dec to Jan.

There are two op­tions for vis­it­ing the Galá­pa­gos: take a cruise or base your­self on an is­land and visit other stops from there. Each is­land has its unique wildlife – birds, rep­tiles, ma­rine mam­mals and fish – and any­one in­tend­ing to visit will be fa­mil­iar with the fun­da­men­tal role these crea­tures played in help­ing Charles Dar­win de­velop his the­ory of evo­lu­tion. The fragility of this en­vi­ron­ment in the face of hu­man ac­tiv­ity is un­de­ni­able and all vis­its are strictly con­trolled by the Na­tional Park author­i­ties.

A cruise will take you to more re­mote is­lands, sail­ing at night and giv­ing ac­cess to the wildlife at its most ac­tive, with op­por­tu­ni­ties to snorkel with the likes of ham­mer­head sharks and sea lions. There are also cruises specif­i­cally for div­ing. Four is­lands have ac­com­mo­da­tion: Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Is­abela and Flore­ana. You can stay in one of the towns (such as Puerto Ay­ora or Santa Cruz), on the beach-front or in­land in lux­ury sa­fari-style tents. From there, you can then take day trips to nearby is­lands with more scope for ac­tiv­i­ties such as wa­ter sports and hik­ing. There are in­ter-is­land flights, but much cheaper (and rougher) are the sched­uled boats con­nect­ing the four in­hab­ited is­lands.

Lion around Sea lions re­lax­ing on the beach at Es­pañola Is­land;(right) a ma­rine iguana frol­ics un­der­wa­ter off the coast of Fer­nan­d­ina

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