Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
I lived in Ecuador for nearly five years and while there I was lucky enough to visit the Galapagos Islands twice – once for two weeks and a second time for a month. Without doubt, this volcanic island chain teeming with wildlife is one of my favorite places in the world. And the best part is, most of this wildlife is on or near the beach. If you are an animal lover, photographer, and beach enthusiast then kick a trip to the Galapagos up to the top of your sand bucket list. This place is AMAZING. I wrote this description of the Galapagos for Ecuador Explorer, an online travel guide I co-founded in the 1990s:
On land and in the sea, the Galapagos Islands give the impression of a diabolic Garden of Eden. The islands’ tumultuous volcanic history of scorched earth and fiery flows are evident the moment you arrive. Inhospitable. Uninhabitable. Tortured. These are the adjectives inspired by this lava-sea-scape.
But look closer and this seemingly spartan landscape is in fact teeming with life; the first of the Galapagos’ many contradictions. Suddenly you realize that what you thought was a rock is in fact a sun-seeking iguana! And to add to your surprise, it doesn’t seem the least bit perturbed by your intrusive gaze– another Galapagos contradiction.
Since travelers to the Galapagos, as well as residents, are strictly prohibited from accessing most of the island territory except by permitted boat tours, every beach is pristine, most are wonderfully wild, and both bird and beast are completely nonchalant about your presence. A few will show curiosity like the young sea lions that playfully swim right up to you nose-to-nose, but most of the wildlife just goes about their business as if you do not even exist. On some islands you actually have to watch where you are walking to avoid stepping on blue footed boobies, marine iguanas or nesting albatross!