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Sunbathe with the seals in the Galápagos Islands.
If you’ve always fancied yourself as a bit of a boffin or just love animal and marine life, this could very well be the trip of a lifetime. Cited by Budget Travels as one of the ten islands to visit before you die, the Galápagos archipelago is still an absolute wow, allowing you to follow in the evolutionary wake of history changing Charles Darwin.
The Galápagos Islands are home to a whopping 500 spectacular native species found nowhere else, so the giant tortoise which gives the archipelago its name is only one reason to visit. Darwin termed these islands the ‘laboratory of evolution’ and many of the species he observed in the 19th century, such as penguins, sea lions, finches, blue-footed boobies and the marine iguana, can still be seen in their natural habitat. You can see the waved albatross, which has a 7 to 8 foot wingspan, on Española island.
Located more than 600 miles west off the Ecuadorian mainland, the archipelago consists of 13 major islands, of which 5 are inhabited. Tour operators navigate the islands, employing naturalists to guide you through the rocky coasts, lagoons, coral reefs, and white sand beaches. Gap Adventures (www.gapadventures.com) offers small-group itineraries that may include meals, airfare from Quito, and a cabin aboard a 16-passenger ship. The islands' interesting volcanic geology is also impressive and they are ideal for adventure activities, from snorkeling to kayaking and hiking.