A Galapagos cruise is one of the most incredible wildlife travel experiences on offer around the world. The opportunity to encounter the wildlife of the fascinating archipelago in a relaxed, unhurried way allows participants to make a genuine connection with this most magnificent part of the planet.
A Wealth of Unique Wildlife
Many of the animals that can be seen during the course of a Galapagos cruise are endemic to the region and cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. The ones below are the most famous of these species, but there are plenty of others.
The Waved Albatross: There are just 35,000 surviving Waved Albatrossand. Although they spend some time around the South American coastline hunting for food, their only breeding grounds are in the archipelago. Interestingly, unlike many other birds, they mate for life. Their most unique feature is their ability to fly for extended periods of time without touching land. With a huge wingspan and a distinctive yellow beak, they are a magnificent sight to behold in flight.
Flightless Cormorants: These endemic birds have evolved in the islands without any natural predators, so they have lost the ability to fly. However, they've developed other useful skills: they have a streamlined body and webbed feet to enable them to dive and hunt for food in the ocean. With an estimated 2,000 surviving cormorants, these extremely rare birds are only found on two islands within the archipelago.
The Giant Tortoise: The Galapagos Giant Tortoise is the most famous of all the wildlife found in this part of the world and can live to well over a century. An iconic emblem of the islands, the tortoise can be found on numerous islands, with each species’ shells varying slightly in size and shape. The discovery of these adaptations played a large part in Charles Darwin's formulation of his theories of natural selection.
The Marine Iguana: Just as comfortable on land as in the ocean, the Marine Iguana is unique in its abilities. It is able to dive to 30 feet in order to hunt and is the only species of its kind in the world. While it's certainly not easy on the eye, the animal's incredible evolutionary adaptations more than make up for its strange and fierce appearance. They can be found in large numbers on all islands of the archipelago.
Darwin's Finches: The name refers to 15 different species of finches that are at home on the islands, and whose diminutive physical appearance belies their massive importance in the development of Darwin's theories. He discovered that each of the finch species had distinctly different beak shapes (adapted to their available food sources), which served as the light-bulb moment for his research on natural selection.
Get Up Close and Personal to Wildlife on a Galapagos Cruise
A well-organised Galapagos cruise is the most effective way of accessing the wildlife-rich regions of the archipelago. Accompanied by a passionate and experienced naturalist guide, this kind of small group tour visits the major islands – as well as some of the more out of the way ones – in order to encounter as many species as possible in the most relaxed way.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Marissa chooses the expert-led Galapagos cruise itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in one of the most spectacular regions on Earth.