Ecuador · Galapagos Islands
The Enchanted Islands, one of the most renowned destinations in the world offer a one of a kind nature experience. Picture yourself walking amongst giant turtles, sea lions and exotic birds or swimming alongside whale sharks and giant manta rays who have no fear of man and are just as curious about you as you are about them. This unique opportunity is only possible in the Galapagos Islands. Declared a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979, the Galapagos have also been recognized as the first destination to visit before you die by the readers of USA TODAY.
The Galapagos Islands are a small archipelago of islands belonging to Ecuador in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The islands are quite remote and isolated, lying some 1000km west of the South American continent. The Galapagos archipelago consists of 13 main islands and 6 smaller isles, which together embrace some 50000 sq km of ocean. Each island boasts its own unique landscape, ranging from barren black, volcanic rocks to swaths of white sand beaches melting into gemstone-blue waters. These 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’.
The Galápagos archipelago is world-renowned for its unique and fearless wildlife. The islands are therefore very popular amongst natural historians, both professional and amateur. Giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas and different bird species can all be seen and approached. The landscape of the islands is relatively barren and volcanic, but beautiful nonetheless.
Strict controls on tourist access are maintained in an effort to protect the natural habitats and all visitors must be accompanied by a national park-certified naturalist tour guide. On each island, the number of visitors are limited and there are only a small number of official landing and visitor sites. You must follow the instructions of your guide to protect the wildlife and you are not allowed off the marked paths. This is not a problem as the animals are so tame they will sit right on the path or cross it without caring about mere tourists.