Charles Darwin set off on a voyage in 1831 that would change not only his own life, but change the world as well. What he saw on an isolated group of islands out in the Pacific began an intellectual voyage that would span 20 years and would culminate in the then revolutionary theory that living things are shaped by the world around them. Darwin found a place where some birds no longer fly, tortoises weigh 500 pounds, penguins live on the equator, and Blue-footed Boobies perform elaborate dances for their mates.

As Darwin found, a main reason for the uniqueness is their remoteness. Officially part of the Archipielago de Colon, the islands straddle the equator 600 miles off Ecuador’s coast. Thirteen major islands, dozens of small lava islets, and reefs dot about 3,000 square miles of the Pacific. To populate the barren islands, seeds, insects, birds, and animals traveled on driftwood and strong winds. Because no humans landed before the 16th century, flora and fauna flourished untroubled and adapted to the new environment’s demands. 

Explorers discovered the islands in 1535 and during the next 300 years Spanish mariners, British buccaneers, renegades, and pirates visited them periodically in search of shelter. Today, the human population is confined to the four larger islands and is engaged in farming, fishing, raising cattle, and tourism. The Charles Darwin Research Station, housed on Santa Cruz Island, trains naturalist guides from all over the world and is charged with the task of advancing conservation on the islands.

Trips to Join

From $5,680

Natural History

Ecuadorian Cloud Forest and Galápagos Island Adventures

with Pacific Horticulture Society | Escorted by Clayton Tschudy
Oct 29, 2020 - Nov 8, 2020
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From $7,260

Natural History

Galapagos Islands | Florida Museum of Natural History

aboard M/Y Coral I or II
Dec 2, 2019 - Dec 12, 2019

Trips to Plan

From $5,195

Natural History

Galapagos Islands | Investigating Endemic Wildlife and Geological Formations

11 Days | Choose your dates
From $4,595

Natural History

Pure Galápagos: Perspectives by Land and Sea

10 Days | Choose your dates