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Discover the Extraordinary Galapagos Islands

The starkly beautiful Galapagos Islands offer an extraordinary cruise experience. A visit to this archipelago, located in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, feels like a step back in time, or a visit to a land that time forgot.

Cruising is an ideal way to see the islands and their fascinating inhabitants, many of which – like the famous blue-footed boobie – are found nowhere else on earth. The spectacular birds of the islands also include frigates, Darwin finches, storm petrels, waved albatrosses, Galapagos hawks and tropical penguins. There are giant tortoises, tiny sea turtles, lava lizards, and sea lions, too.

These isolated, volcanic islands provided naturalist Charles Darwin with inspiration for his 1859 book about evolution, On the Origin of Species. Darwin studied the islands’ mockingbirds and tortoises, finding differences in the animals that lived on separate islands. He theorized that slight differences in terrain and climate caused the animals on each island to evolve differently.

On your cruise, a naturalist presents nightly lectures to help familiarize passengers with the sights, sounds and history of the islands.

You can expect to visit several of the islands, starting with Isla Baltra and the low-lying island of North Seymour, where blue-footed boobies and a large colony of frigate birds nest. There are opportunities to snorkel at Champion Island, home to a number of Floreana mocking birds. The island of Floreana itself features flamingos and white-cheeked pintail ducks.

The island of San Salvador has striking volcanic formations, including lava tubes and tuff cones. Sea lions and penguins are often seen off Pinnacle Rock. The cold waters of Elizabeth Bay off Isabela Island provide a perfect habitat for Galapagos penguins. Other unique sights of the islands include a "white forest" of incense trees and cotton plants, dramatic grottos formed of black lava and flightless cormorant birds.

Just four of the 19 principal Galapagos Islands are inhabited by humans. The most developed island is Santa Cruz, where the town of Puerto Ayora offers hotels, restaurants and shops. East of the town is the Charles Darwin Research Station, where visitors can learn more about the islands’ geology, ecology and weather patterns and see some of the famous giant tortoises.

Perhaps the most important item you can pack for a Galapagos Islands cruise is a camera. For whatever reason – perhaps the isolation of the islands or a lack of large predators – the animal population seems to have a rare sense of security. They are generally accepting of the presence of humans, and will take little notice of your camera as you snap away. You’ll definitely want to have a camera at the ready to take photos of the remarkable and appealing creatures you’ll see.

Protected as a national park since 1959, the Galapagos Islands represent a delicate and precious ecosystem. Cruise lines strive to provide their guests with the unique experience of a Galapagos cruise with as little environmental impact to the islands as possible.

To find out more about your options for an unforgettable cruise of the Galapagos Islands, contact Cruise Holidays.