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The Galápagos: one big evolutionary party

Elaborate mating dances. Posturing and parading. Whistling and twittering. Lounging and basking. Such is the festivity of the natural world in the Galápagos Islands—where there’s always something evolutionary happening.

We can’t help but go all Darwin on you when it comes to the Galápagos, seeing as how the young naturalist’s visit to these islands in 1835 sparked a new conversation about life itself that is still ruffling feathers. From his observances of subtleties in animal adaptation in the Galápagos, Darwin determined that living things are shaped by the world around them.

The Galápagos Islands will feed your sense of awe and wonder.  It is here, and only here, that you’ll find the giant Galápagos tortoise, a 500-pound vegetarian that lives to be 150 years or more; the marine iguana, the only lizard that swims in the ocean; the Galapagos land iguana, poor thing, according to Darwin, from its “low facial angle (has) a singularly stupid appearance”; the Galápagos penguin, the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild; and the “true” Sally Lightfoot Crab that tiptoes nimbly across rock and sand.

Then there are the blue-footed boobies flaunting their cerulean feet for all the single ladies. These guys court, mate and nest all year round—talk about a party!

So what else do 95 species of birds, mammals and reptiles do for fun on the 13 main islands that make up the archipelago?

Galápagos island action

San Cristóbal, where Charles Darwin first touched down, was turned into a penal colony for mainland Ecuadorian prisoners in 1880. Today it’s a free for all of frigate birds, sea lions, giant tortoises, marine iguanas and blue- and red-footed boobies. Punta Pitt at the far eastern end of the island is home to a raucous bunch of stag sea lions.

On Santa Fe Island the unruly sea lions sprawl such that you can barely get to the footpaths. Dining nearby on succulent prickly pear cactus is the Barrington land iguana, endemic to Santa Fe Island. The island’s finches feast on ticks and parasites off the backs of these cold-blooded creatures.

Geological wonders abide on Santa Cruz Island, itself a dormant volcano where you can explore lava tunnels more than a mile long and visit “Los Gemelos” (the twins), giant holes that were formed from a collapsed magma chamber.

Santa Cruz Island is also where you’ll visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, an educational resource center on everything Galápagos where you can learn about breeding of giant tortoises and efforts to save them.

For tortoises in the wild in greater abundance than all of the Galápagos Islands combined, head for Isabela Island where there’s a different tortoise species for every one of the island’s six volcanoes. The surrounding waters of Isabela also happen to be the best for spotting whales while the mangroves along the coast at Playa Tortuga Negra and Caleta Black are home to the mangrove finch—a sadly dwindling party with fewer than 100 left in the world.

The Galápagos underwater party

The more serious revelers take it “underground.” Snorkeling just off shore you can peer into a see-and-be-seen world of frolicking sea lions, curious marine iguanas, tropical fish, plus rays, eels and sharks.

Scuba diving in Galápagos is exclusively for intermediate and advanced divers. Some of the hottest spots are Gordon Rocks where the hammerhead sharks hang, and Leon Dormido (also known as Kicker Rock), so named because the formation looks like a sleeping lion.

In the Galapagos you’ll wish the party never ended. The up-close moments with wildlife. The intimate experience of nature doing its thing. And you, the observer and the observed, part of the whole brilliant cycle of life.

It’s time to get this party started. Book your Galapagos adventure now.

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The Beak of the Finch

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