An Eco Wonderland: The Galápagos Islands

by Karim Orange

Close your eyes and pretend you’re Alice In Wonderland. Today, as Alice, you are traveling to the Pacific Ocean by boat to reach a new and uncharted territory.

Before reaching the land, you jump into the water to take a swim in the beautiful turquoise waters. As you journey down deep into the sea you observe beautiful marine life, some that you have never seen before, and would only see in that part of the world.

The first thing you notice are hundreds of reddish-orange crabs known as Sally-Lightfoot Crabs, which are species only seen in the Galapagos. Next, you see beautiful Green Sea Urchins that swim by completely oblivious to your presence. You may see a 180-foot Whale Shark, which is the largest fish in the world. It is usually only seen in the sea, but today, as Alice, you can see him in the waters surrounding Galapagos (one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world). There are roughly 444 documented fish species that you may observe while down below, and 10 percent are endemic. Mix that with the one-of-a-kind marine plant-life, and you’re on your way to an eco expedition of a lifetime.

After you emerge from the sea, you finally step on the land. Galapagos is a group of volcanic islands 600 miles off the western coast of Ecuador. These unique islands were formed through seismic and volcanic activity. Combining this with its isolated location, the limited amount of humans living there and its unique ecosystem, Galapagos makes you feel like Alice in Biodiversity Land. The beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world, with no pollutants and very few people (but plenty of sea lions and penguins).

As you walk the islands you will see iguanas and turtles living together sometimes within feet of each other. Since there are no real predators on most of the islands (including humans), they are not scared of you. You can almost get close enough to make friends with them. Some of your new friends will include The Galapagos Giant Tortoise (endemic), Land Iguana (endemic), Lava Lizards (endemic). You will also see an array of birds that include: The Blue Footed Booby, Red-Billed Tropicbird and the Lava Gull (endemic).

Just like Alice, you are going to need assistance in exploring this new bio-diverse eco-wonderland. You are free to visit the islands daily, but you are not allowed to stay on most of them. The best way to visit the Galapagos is by yacht or cruise ship. Your trip begins by flying from mainland Ecuador, continuing on to San Cristobal (the most inhabited island in Galapagos) and then meeting your ship or yacht there.

If you really want to experience everything the islands have to offer, try a yacht like MV Origin, which hosts an intimate group of about 20 people, and fantastic Galapagos Island naturalists who will act as your tour guide. MV Origin is operated by Ecoventura and is a great option for sailing around the islands. The 20-passenger vessel offers luxury amenities and is eco-friendly. A family-run company based in Guayaquil, Ecoventura has introduced travelers to the eco-wonderland of the Galapagos Islands since 1991.

The boat itself was built to be fuel effective, and support the delicate ecosystem of the Galapagos. MV Origin offers several trip options such as family expeditions, women- only expeditions and, next year, they will offer an expedition led by Jack Grove who is a marine biologist, expedition leader and author of The Fishes of the Galápagos Islands.

After a long day of exploring, the yacht offers comfortable accommodations, exquisite dining, and comfortable cabins. MV Origin offers two naturalists as guides for your daily adventures (one for every 10 people), which is the best ratio in the Galapagos. The naturalists are engaging and know exactly where to take you to point out different species during your expedition. They help you to navigate Darwin's Theory of Evolution up-close and personal. A great read before your journey is Darwin’s The Origin of Species (in its 150th edition) before your journey.

When it comes time to plan your next vacation, consider the eco wonderland of the Galapagos. It truly is the trip of a lifetime.

Special thanks to Julie Zane, Cynthia Elliot and Constantine Faslot for their amazing photos.

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