To do list: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The veritable Ecuadorian trump card, a visit to the Galapagos Islands is an absolute must for anyone remotely interested in wildlife, biology, environment or conservation. Fixed-day land accommodation packages and cruise-based itineraries are both available to explore the remote archipelago. Here are just some of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences a trip to the Galapagos affords: 


1. Walking tour of North Seymour Island

Get up close and personal with sea lions, land iguanas, blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds while exploring the shores and rocky inland areas of North Seymour Island. Forget swarms of tourists – our group of 10 are the only humans I spy on the island during our entire tour. And it’s almost as if the animal inhabitants anticipate the visit, literally leaping out of the ocean or sauntering out of the trees and bushes to say hello and pose for a photograph, before going back to their business, showing and knowing no fear.


2.  Snorkelling on Bachas Beach

Galapagos sea-based trips will most likely incorporate some snorkel time, and it’s not difficult to appreciate why. Hundreds of unique fish species live among the coral reefs of Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz, and if you’re just a little bit lucky you’re likely to spot a Pacific green turtle, a spotted eagle ray or even a Galapagos shark. Wetsuits are available for more cold-blooded snorkelers.


3. A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station

Embrace your inner biologist with a trip to The Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. The station is dedicated to Galapagos conservation through scientific research and education. Be sure to meet Super Diego, a giant saddleback tortoise who is the proud father of more than 1,800 baby tortoises born via the centre’s breeding program.


4.  Spa time at the Pikaia Lodge

After a long day scouting giant tortoises and exploring lava tunnels on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, you might find yourself longing for a little rest and relaxation. Pikaia Lodge has you covered. Grab your swimmers and spend some time in the Jacuzzi at the lodge’s Sumaq Spa. The pool is entombed by floor-to-ceiling glass walls with spectacular views of the rolling highlands and coastal lowlands beyond. The spa also comes equipped with massage room, gym and sauna.


5. Scouting giant tortoises at El Chato Reserve

If for you a visit to the Galapagos means getting acquainted with a giant tortoise or two, add a visit to El Chato Tortoise Reserve to your must dos. The reserve was a working cattle ranch until the island’s tortoise population took a shining to its muddy pools and guava trees. The owners abandoned farming and switched to tourism, replanting native species throughout the property, a move that has encouraged the other local fauna to take up residence. When we arrive we watch as a smaller tortoise (most likely a female, our guide Socrates tells us) is making her way to the next mud bath, a yellow Darwin finch hitching a ride on her back.

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