Located off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands played an integral role in the development of one of the most groundbreaking theories in science history: evolution by natural selection. It was there that Charles Darwin fine-tuned his hypothesis, and while you may not be able to make such a breakthrough, Galapagos tours do provide the opportunity to see nature in a way you never have before. Famous for its isolation (620 miles off the coast) and its wildlife, there are few experiences quite like a visit to the famed archipelago.
Head below the water
Although many of the famous residents of the Galapagos reside on land, if you head out into the surrounding waters, there is plenty to see. One of the easiest ways to get an up-close look at some of the islands' well-known marine wildlife is to snorkel between the small North and South Plaza Islands. This narrow channel is home to a large population of sea lions. Swimming through the waters, you'll get a first-hand encounter with these friendly denizens of the ocean. The island of Mosquera is also a sea lion hotspot.
Sea lions aren't the only animals you can encounter once you head beneath the water's surface, however. Snorkeling also provides the chance to swim alongside the marine iguana, which holds the distinction of being the only lizard that can survive in the sea. Additionally, it's only found in the Galapagos, making spotting this unique creature even more memorable.
Visit with penguins
It may come as a surprise to some travelers, but the Galapagos Islands are home to a small population of penguins. In fact, they are the northernmost species of flightless bird in the world. There are only about 1,500 of them on the islands, and one of the best places to catch a glimpse is Isabela Island, one of the largest of the group, as well as the smaller Bartolomé Island.
Travel with tortoises
The Galapagos tortoise is arguably the most famous resident of the archipelago, and the best place to see them is on Santa Cruz Island. In addition to catching a glimpse of these iconic reptiles, you can also take advantage of the island's camping opportunities, which are among the best in the region.
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