Theory of Evolution

Charles Darwin stayed here just five weeks, studying the behavioral patterns of the Galapagos' wildlife inhabitants in 1835. yet his name is so inextricably linked to the archipelago that you'd be forgiven for thinking he had spent half his life here. During his visit Darwin took in-depth notes and brought various specimens back home with him, the sum total of which would prove pivotal in supporting his theory of evolution and so cementing the Galapagos' place in history.

Darwin's Finch Galapagos

Battle for Survival

One of the great mysteries that surrounds the islands is just how such an astonishing array of creatures got to this remote volcanic archipelago in the first place. Most are assumed to have undertaken epic voyages to do so, some by air, others either swimming, drifting or catching a ride on driftwood.

The isolation and relative lack of natural predators or human interference have made the islands a relatively stable environment, in which this huge variety of wildlife has survived and thrived. The biggest threats have been posed by sporadic volcano eruptions and the periodic failing of trade winds, precipitating the devastating El Niño phenomenon. Rising water temperatures destroy the nutrients brought north by the Humboldt current, causing much of the eco-structure of the archipelago to collapse. Other challenges have been much more subtle, the day-to-day challenges of finding food sparked a process which peaked the interest of Darwin all those years ago.

Remarkable Adaptation

Gradually, over many years, subtle differences began to emerge in many of the species found here, with physical features changing as the creatures adapt to the unique demands of the Galapagos. This process is perhaps most markedly seen in the marine iguana, whose shorter body, powerful tail and special glands allow it to dive deep in the ocean to feed on the algae which grows on the sea bed. Out of sheer necessity, it adapted to the body it needed to become the world's only sea-going lizard.

Darwin Galapagos - Marine Iguana

At Close Quarters

It isn't just the process of evolution, the bizarre nature of the creatures, or the sheer variety of different species that are found here that makes the islands so remarkable. What is equally remarkable is just how tame and indifferent the inhabitants are to the presence of humans. In fact some are positively curious, as anyone who has snorkeled in the company of playful sea lion pups will testify. What this means is that you can genuinely get closer to wildlife here than anywhere else in the world. You just might find that the bench you wanted to sit on is occupied by a sea lion.

Preservation

To preserve the islands for future generations and to offer a degree of privacy to the wildlife, visitor numbers and access points are controlled by local authorities. Small groups are led around marked trails by fully-licensed expert guides, giving the right balance between a great experience for the guests, and the ongoing preservation of this extraordinary habitat that will forever be linked to its most celebrated visitor, whose observation and research changed the way we think about life today.