The Galapagos Islands are one of the most ecologically and biologically significant places on the planet. Their wildlife is uniquely adapted to the diverse habitat and, since biologist Charles Darwin ventured here on his survey voyage in 1835, the world has been in the thrall of this remote and beautiful archipelago.
Galapagos holidays are among the most sought-after nature tourism experiences, and participants are afforded the ultimate privilege of a close encounter with the magnificent wildlife. Like many of our most spectacular natural environments, however, the inhabitants of the world's first UNESCO World Heritage Site are under threat.
Conserving Natural History
Along with the islands' official conservancy body, there are numerous dedicated conservation programmes working with the Ecuadorian government. The environment of the islands is extremely fragile, so measures are already in place to reduce the impact of human settlement, while still allowing regulated numbers of people to visit the area on Galapagos holidays. It's vital that this pristine ecosystem be protected and, by understanding just why it is so important, everyone can play a role in its preservation.
A UNESCO sanctuary: The islands are a microcosm of life and the value of their concentration of endemic flora and fauna has been recognised by UNESCO. While the Ecuadorian Government declared the entire archipelago a National Park in 1959, it was also deemed UNESCO's first World Heritage Site in 1978, and a Biosphere Reserve in 1985.
The most complete natural laboratory on Earth: The archipelago is often referred to as a "natural laboratory", because its geography lends itself to an environment where life flourishes in seemingly impossible conditions. Research into the unique adaptations of the plant and animal life has led to the world's most ground-breaking scientific and biological theorems, including the original one that changed everything: Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.
A close and personal encounter like no other: There is no place in the world where human visitors can get as up close and personal to a range of unique animal species in their natural habitat as here. The wildlife is fearless and curious and, while visitors are required by the riles of the National Park to keep a certain distance, the opportunity to encounter the animals at such close proximity is a dream come true for nature lovers.
Diverse scenery: The landscape is as diverse as it is beautiful. From otherworldly volcanic lava tunnels and rock formations to the lush, misty highlands and untouched white-sand beaches, the scenery is impressive, inspirational and entirely unforgettable.
A year-round destination: The Equatorial climate and the presence of the Humboldt Current mean that the islands have two distinct seasons: the hot, wetter months between December and May and the dry, cooler months from June to November. But whatever time of the year visitors arrive on Galapagos holidays, the archipelago is teeming with life.
Galapagos Holidays – A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience
For those who visit these isolated islands, even the smallest efforts can make a vital difference in their conservation. Travelling with an eco-conscious tour company and adhering to the rules of the National Park will ensure that this spectacular region remains pristine and protected for future generations of the wildlife.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Marissa chooses the expert-led Galapagos holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in one of the most spectacular regions on Earth.