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 $6,495

Natural History

Galápagos Islands | Investigating Endemic Wildlife: Cruise aboard Tip Tip II

with Florida Museum of Natural History
Jul 31, 2024 - Aug 10, 2024
From $7,325


Galápagos Islands | Nature and Wildlife Photography aboard Tip Top II

with KS Nature Photography
Jul 17, 2024 - Jul 27, 2024
From $7,495


Nature and Birding in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest and Galápagos Islands

with Hawks Aloft
Jun 18, 2024 - Jun 29, 2024

Trips to Plan

From $4,375

Private Journeys

Galápagos Islands | Archipelago Explorations by Land

10 Days | Choose your dates
From $3,975

Student Travel

Galápagos Islands | Conservation and Service Learning

8 Days | Choose your dates