The Galapagos Islands’ most famous tourist, Charles Darwin, left behind more than just a good tip: He established the theories of evolution and natural selection that have immeasurably influenced scientific thought for over a century. Today, Darwin’s legacy and passion for nature live on in the Galapagos, where visitors can celebrate his accomplishments and experience for themselves the wonders that inspired this scientific visionary.
Darwin, a British naturalist, arrived in the Galapagos in 1835 during a scientific expedition through the Pacific Ocean, and he later published his memories of the trip as the famous book, The Voyage of the Beagle. During his visit, Darwin was awed by the Galapagos’ wildlife, from the giant tortoises to blue-footed boobies to sea lions.
He was particularly interested by a series of small birds, known as finches. He noted that these birds were quite similar but had distinctive traits, such as their beaks, prompting Darwin to ask whether or not the birds had descended from a common ancestor and grown different over time depending upon their habitats and food they ate. In fact, today, these birds are called Darwin’s finches in recognition of his observations and analysis of them.
More than 20 years after leaving the Galapagos, Darwin published On the Origin of the Species, which is now regarded as a breakthrough of modern science. This revolutionary book and the ideas it contains were brought about thanks to the incomparable Galapagos Islands: Darwin traveled from island to island, going from the white-sand beaches to the lush highlands to magnificent volcanic formations, in order to study one-of-a-kind creatures like the magnificent frigate birds before he developed his groundbreaking theories.
The species that Darwin observed and used as the basis for his ideas still call these islands home. On your next vacation, if you’re looking to get off the beaten path and visit one of the most well-preserved natural regions in the world, take a trip to the Galapagos and go bird-watching for Darwin’s famous finches or blue-footed boobies, get up close and personal with playful sea lions, see giant tortoises, and even snorkel with sharks beneath some of the bluest seas on earth!
Or, if you’re more interested in seeing some truly unique terrain (Did we mention Darwin was also a geologist?), then the Galapagos still have plenty to offer you. 500 miles at sea, you can visit not only spectacular beaches, but the slopes of active volcanoes and tunnels made of hardened lava. There’s also plenty of sightseeing to be done underwater, where you can snorkel along reefs and through submerged rock formations.
Today, a foundation and research station in the Galapagos are named in Darwin’s honor and work toward the mission of conserving their environment and ecosystem. At the Charles Darwin Research Center–which is a key destination on most trips to the Galapagos offered by Palace Tours–visitors can learn firsthand about the impressive efforts underway to preserve these pristine islands, as well as meet some giant tortoises.