Galápagos Islands

(c) Robert KunstaetterA trip to the Galápagos is an unforgettable experience. As Charles Darwin put it: “The Natural History of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself”. The islands are world renowned for their fearless wildlife but no amount of hype can prepare the visitor for such a close encounter with nature. Here, you can snorkel with penguins and sea lions, watch 200-kg tortoises lumbering through giant cactus forest, and enjoy the courtship display of the blue-footed booby and frigate bird, all in startling close-up.

A visit to the islands doesn't come cheap. The return flight from Quito and national park fee add up to over US$500; plus a bare minimum of US$175 per person per day for sailing on an economy-class boat. There are few such inexpensive vessels and even fewer good inexpensive ones. Since you are already spending so much money, it is well worth spending a little more to make sure you sign up with a reputable agency on a better cruise, the quality of which is generally excellent.

Land-based and independent travel on the populated islands are other alternatives, but there is simply no way to enjoy Galápagos on a shoestring. The once-in-a-lifetime Galápagos experience merits saving for, however, and at the same time, high prices might be one way of keeping the number of visitors within sustainable levels. The islands have already suffered the impact of rapidly growing tourism and a viable mechanism is urgently needed to ensure their survival as the world's foremost wildlife sanctuary.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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