Our Galapagos tour leaders, Annie and Woody Inglis, take us through what you can expect as you explore this living evolutionary laboratory:
It's clear why the Galápagos Islands are also known as the Enchanted Isles. The varied and dramatic landscapes provide habitat for diverse and abundant wildlife. No pictures, books or documentary films can prepare you for what will be seen and experienced.
The views of wildlife will exceed every expectation – animals are abundant, unafraid and unaffected by our careful presence. From the slow saunter of the giant tortoises, snorkelling with playful sea lions and the sparkling Sally Lightfoot crabs dancing elegantly across the black volcanic rocks, there is always something to catch your eye and grab your imagination.
Marine iguanas stand sentinel at many of the islands of the Galápagos. Like ancient dragons guarding the land that time forgot, they adorn the rock faces and pools along the coast. However, unlike the mythological fiery dragons, there is nothing to fear from these fierce looking creatures. Their crusty faces are flecked with salt and periodically, without warning, they emit a snort, shooting out water from their scaly snout.
Española Island provides a stunning nesting site for the waved albatross and a diverse range of other spectacular winged inhabitants. Magnificent cliffs and the prevailing winds provide the perfect landing strip for the waved albatross. The albatross have a unique grandeur (and a special significance for those who have travelled to Antarctica).
We watch other albatross soar majestically along the cliff-side, harnessing the wind with power, finesse and an incredible two and half metre wingspan.
Galápagos sea lion
The sea lions are a feature of most places that we visit during our Galápagos voyage and are often seen cavorting around at a pier or lazily lolling on a beach. Perhaps the most memorable encounter with sea lions is during snorkelling where we witness some wonderful behaviour close up and in their world, the water. The seas lions show superb agility and flexibility, firing past and sometimes towards you, stopping or diverting only at the last moment. Their power and athleticism in the water is astonishing and we watch them flying like arrows through the crystal clear water, disappearing straight down and then, within moments, returning effortlessly with such power and grace that it takes your breath away.
Pacific Green Turtle
During our voyage we see the turtle from different vantage points. Sometimes, looking over the side of the San Jose, we will spot one as it surfaces, breaths and dives again. When out cruising in the pangas (our small boats) we spot the turtles gliding through clear water, breaking the surface with their nostrils then submerging and gracefully stroking away.
Giant Tortoise (Lonesome George)
How the giant tortoises arrived in the Galápagos remains a mystery of nature. Our trip provided an opportunity to see some of these endemic gargantuan reptiles, for many the icon of the Galápagos. Of the original 14 Galápagos tortoise subspecies, only 11 remain. One of these, the Pinta subspecies, now has only one remaining individual, Lonesome George, as he is affectionately known. At the Charles Darwin Research Centre there is a very successful breeding and reintroduction program working to save the remaining subspecies. These herbivores are enormous (males can weigh up to 250kg), move at the speed of geological time and can live up to 150 years. The research centre enables visitors to be ‘up close and personal’ to these gentle giants and learn more about the Islands and their unique wildlife.
What would you like to see most on your trip to the Galapagos Islands? Take a look through all our trips to find the one that suits you.