When Go Ahead’s Avery J. embarked on our Galápagos Islands & Ecuador tour, she thought she had an idea of the natural wonders she’d see. But from her first step on the Galápagos, she realized that nothing could have prepared her for the stunning diversity of these isolated islands.
“The entire archipelago is truly its own unique ecosystem,” she recalled. “Walking along the islands, one can truly appreciate the delicate nature of our environment and the need to preserve it. You cannot help but feel humbled and fascinated but the complexity of the natural world, and feel a responsibility to minimize the impact of the human race on the world around you.”
Here’s a quick look at the landscapes and wildlife you’ll see in the Galápagos with Go Ahead.
Tiny Bartolome Island comprises just 296 acres off the coast of the much larger Santiago Island, but visitors to Bartolome will find vivid testaments to the Galápagos’ volcanic past. Bartolome is one of the youngest landmasses in the Galápagos, and younger rock formations are characterized by sharp angles suggesting the violence of a volcano’s eruption. Nowhere is this ages-old volcanism more evident than at Pinnacle Rock, where sea lions lounge in the sun. Here, Go Ahead’s visitors enjoy a snorkeling expedition, then hike to the highest point on the island for spectacular views of Bartolome and nearby Santiago.
The largest island in the Galápagos, Isabella’s northern reaches lie on the Equator, so be sure to bring your sunblock! What we call Isabella Island is actually a group of peaks from six convergent volcanoes. The soil produced by these volcanoes is still relatively young, and so the vegetation on Isabella Island gives it a distinct look among the others you’ll visit. The land here is covered with hardy ferns and shrubs, offering plenty ample food for the island’s population of gentle tortoises.
Visitors to Fernandina Island typically stay close to the sea and away from the crater of this active volcano. Eons ago, lava flows and wave action created a spit of land known as Punta Espinosa (“Spiny Point” in English). Here, scores of marine iguanas gather to bask in the sun and bake on the hot black lava.
You’ll wade ashore at Puerto Egas on Santiago Island and find yourself on a stunning black sand beach flecked with bits of white shells pummeled and polished by the waves. As the Galapagos goes, Santiago is a relatively old island—the oldest lava flows on the island are date from 750,000 years ago. The jagged coastline of black lava rock is pockmarked with tidal pools, the most famous of which is a short vertical chute nicknamed “Darwin’s Toilet.” Don’t let the name fool you: “Darwin’s Toilet” refers to a geological oddity, a cylinder of extra-hard lava rock. As the waves roll in, water rises in the chute, only to quickly plummet as the waves recede. The receding water creates a familiar visual effect for visitors who stop by Darwin’s Toilet. Who says world-famous scientists don’t have a sense of humor?
The russet-colored sands of Rabida Island comprise perhaps the most striking visually striking beach in the Galápagos. Volcanism is highly unpredictable, and a fluke of nature led to the high iron content of Rabida’s rocks. The Galápagoss sit atop a geological phenomenon known as the Galápagos Hotspot, a semi-permanent plume of magma that bubbles toward the Earth’s surface even as tectonic plates shift above it. When Rabida was created, the magma plume must have contained a high proportion of iron ore—just another random event in the history of our planet, but one that created the stunning beaches on Rabida.
Santa Cruz Island
If you close your eyes on Santa Cruz’s Bachas Beach, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Caribbean. In stark contrast to the black sands of Santiago and the red beaches of Rabida, Santa Cruz is covered in fine white sand. The soft beaches here are an ideal habitat for tortoises, and the archipelago’s conservation efforts are centered here at the Charles Darwin Research Station
Have you ever visited the Galápagos Islands? What did you think of the terrain?