One of my favourite jobs is answering family travel questions in National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Last year, a reader asked me about animal-loving vacations and I was more than happy to recommend the Galápagos Islands. With a plethora of wildlife to encounter, from sea lions to blue-footed boobies, this destination is perfect for viewing animals in their natural habitat. Here are 10 fast facts about the Galápagos Islands to inspire your next animal-loving vacation:
- Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978;
- A collection of 127 islands and rock formations, 19 of which are large, 4 are inhabited and a surrounding marine reserve;
- Located in Ecuador, approximately 1000 km off the coast of South America in the Pacific Ocean;
- The marine reserve (created in 1986) is located where three ocean currents converge;
- The Galápagos Islands are home to an abundance of marine life – a diversity seen nowhere else in the world – most of which scientists believe migrated from North and Central South America as well as the Caribbean;
- Land animals arrived when humans began to visit the islands in the 1600s;
- Scientists believe the Galápagos Islands were never connected to the mainland;
- A trip to the Galápagos Islands inspired Darwin’s Theory of Evolution;
- The islands contain ongoing volcanic and seismic activity;
- 97% of the land in the Galápagos Islands is designated a National Park. Visits are regulated to control ecological conditions.
To plan your trip to the epicentre of marine wildlife, look for tour planners who offer amazing adventure getaways. It is recommended that you book well in advance during peak season (the summer months).