The Galápagos Islands emerged in the Pacific Ocean 6 million years ago following a spate of volcanic activity and, isolated from the continental mainland, have become home to unique plant and animal species. Without fear of humans, they are sufficiently trusting to allow you to approach them and observe them up close. The islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which formed the basis for his revolutionary book ‘On the Origin of Species’, published in 1859.
Although geologically constantly on the move, these islands remain suspended in time, with giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins, frigate birds, waved albatross and blue-footed boobies and a wealth of rare flora all thriving there. For many, the fascinating and unique wildlife and natural beauty of the islands are matched by the thrill of being at sea. Find a spot on deck as you make your way through the ocean, often trailed by flocks of birds and playful dolphins.
You spend the first few days of your visit on Santa Cruz, one of the larger islands, a dormant volcano rising to 864m, with small villages and cattle farms in the interior. Your hotel, Mainao, which started life as a family home, is in a quiet part of the nowadays busy town Puerto Ayora, where you’ll find shops, bars, cafés and small tour operators. It’s just a block or so from the waterfront.