To set foot on the Galápagos Islands, you need permission. The archipelago described by British naturalist Charles Darwin in The Voyage of the Beagle (1839) is Ecuador’s most celebrated place, and the reason is its unparalleled wildlife.
All it takes is a few days among the dozens of islands to understand what inspired Darwin in his theories of natural selection. In Tortuga Bay on Isla de Santa Cruz, sea iguanas and red mangrove root crabs share space with the famed giant tortoises. After a two-hour speedboat ride, at Isla Floreana, a stop at La Lobería allows you to get close to sea lions. At every turn, you’ll run into the likes of frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies, birds that are symbolic of the archipelago. Swimmers sometimes come across whale sharks, the largest fish in the world, which swims between Isla Wolf and Isla Darwin from June to November. Scenarios of volcanic texture, like those found on Isla Santiago, transport you to a world that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie.
The experience is unforgettable due to the virtually untouched nature there. Around 97% of the area is preserved and the animals do not flee from our presence. Only five of the 13 largest islands are inhabited, and this is not insignificant: the population soared from 1,300 residents in 1950 to 25,000 in 2015. The one to inform us of this is Angelica Andino, a naturalist guide and environmental activist. “When I was a little girl I saw the movement grow. There weren’t so many hotels or boats,” she says. In order to help keep it preserved for a long time, Angelica advises to follow the park’s rules, to only hire authorized services, always be accompanied by guides, and never throw trash in the ocean.
The Galápagos is a trip back in time, with a layover in high-school biology and Darwin’s 19th century. The final stop resides in time immemorial, when mankind and nature were one and the same. So don’t forget to ask permission before entering. Nature thanks you.
LATAM has direct flights to Galápagos from Quito and Guayaquil.
Buy a complete package with accommodations and tours in the destination with LATAM Travel or at latam.com