We could just say if such luminaries as Richard Gere, Prince Charles (noted environmentalist) and Camilla, Leonardo DiCaprio (another noted environmentalist), Daryl Hannah, Bo Derek, the pirate William Dampier and Herbert Melville (author of Moby Dick) all visited the Galapagos Islands then they must be a pretty hip place to visit. And we’d be right of course but you’d be none the wiser as to why the Galapagos Islands are so famous and such an international draw.

As for us Ecuadorians, we are so proud of being the custodians of the Galapagos Islands it seems too obvious to ask “Why visit the Galapagos Islands”. In fact, if you bump into an Ecuadorian who speaks your language while on the mainland then as soon as they realize you are visiting they’ll be sure to ask when you will visit the Galapagos. It is just straight-up assumed that you are going.

But if you are still wondering why the Galapagos is one of the most desired trip destinations to be visited and why everyone and their dog has them on their bucket list of places to visit then perhaps you can do worse than consult the UN’s World Heritage (UNESCO) website. To be considered and nominated as a world heritage site a location must “be of outstanding value and meet at least one of 10 criteria”. The Galapagos does better than that! It meets all 4 of the natural criteria. And what does UNESCO think about the Galapagos? They declare that “these 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserve … are a unique living museum and showcase of evolution”

sports in galapagos kayak

Millions if not billions of words have been written in praise and awe of the Galapagos and it’s common to read such phrases as “offer wildlife and landscapes found nowhere else on earth” or “…the Galapagos wildlife experience rivals even the likes of Africa”, or how about this from the Huffington Post: “As the birthplace of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, scientific history was made on the Galapagos Islands”.

A quick search of Google tools shows that the phrase ‘Galapagos Islands’ is searched just as often as ‘Charles Darwin’ and ‘evolution’. Sure, evolution is happening everywhere, but it was Charles Darwin who shone a penetrative beam on it with the observations that he made during his trip to the Galapagos Islands leading to his seminal work.

But why did Darwin visit the Galapagos? There was no United Nations back then much less a UNESCO. Unlike most visitors, he didn’t plan his visit. He kind of just hung out on the islands when his ship HMS Beagle stopped over on the Galapagos after surveying the coasts of South America.

What you will see in the Galapagos?

Darwin had an extraordinarily open mind for the time he lived in and he noted that there was a large number of species that were perfectly adapted to their surroundings on each island, paying particular attention to a scientific family of birds called finches. Some 28 years after his visit in 1859 [what was he waiting for – a publisher’s advance payment?] he wrote ‘On The Origin of Species’ which turned scientific theory on the origin of life on its head and in doing so ensured that the Galapagos Islands, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution will always be inextricably linked.

When you read more generally about the Galapagos Islands one word keeps popping up and that word is “unique”. It is an over-used adjective to the point that these days it almost crops up on a daily basis and we can hear about the unique beauty of a person or place or the unique properties of some technology. But in the case of the Galapagos islands the mixture of geography, geology, large number of endemic animals and above all the scientific history connecting the islands to Darwin and the theory of evolution combines to make the Galapagos a truly unique destination which is exactly why UNESCO refers to them as a “..unique living museum”.

This is the reason why anyone with the slightest interest in science or history is tempted to visit the Galapagos. You can explore these extraordinary beautiful islands with their unique history and amazing and unique endemic wildlife and then understand the geography and geology that created the conditions for animals to evolve to become endemic which in turn led to Darwin’s observations and book.

A typical well-planned cruise will allow you to see these stunning desert-like volcanic islands set in an azure ocean (which just happens to be a national maritime reserve) and observe endemic and native species such as the Galapagos Albatross, The Galapagos Giant tortoise, The Galapagos Marine Iguanas, the Lava Lizard and the Galapagos Sea Lions.

What are the Galapagos Islands famous for?

For all these reasons the Galapagos Islands are rightly famous but one further reason is that because of the lack of natural predators due to the volcanic origin of the islands and their remoteness, the animals are extremely tame and without instinctual fear. You can literally sit down next to a sea lion on a beach or pose for a photo next to an iguana and the animals will not budge.

There are extremely few places in the world where you can get so close to the animals which in turn leads to amazing photo opportunities. Stunning landscapes, obliging animals and azure seas in the background mean that the Galapagos is also a world-class destination for photography. Some visitors decide to take cruises which are tailored for photographers and the slower pace allows for amazing photo opportunities.

A few years ago wildlife experts were approached by the USA Today newspaper and asked to name the 10 best places in the world for wildlife. The Galapagos Islands won and you have to believe that part of the reason is due to how you can get so up close and personal with all the wildlife – a feature that children absolutely love.

So what would be the most memorable experiences in the Galapagos? What will you see that will stay with you forever? Perhaps it will be snorkelling with curious sea lions, perhaps it will be the extraordinary quantity of wildlife at every turn, the mixture of a luxury yacht cruise and continual wildlife sightings, maybe seeing giant tortoises in the misty Santa Cruz highlands or laughing at the absurd mating rituals of the albatrosses and blue-footed boobies or perhaps just seeing your children fully engaged – for once – in the engrossing experience known as a Galapagos Cruise.

Whatever you see in the Galapagos that turns out to be the most memorable for you and your family we at GTC are convinced that by the end of your trip you’ll know very well why you travelled to the Galapagos and you’ll become one more Galapagos ‘fan’ telling your friends and family what the Galapagos are famous for.

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