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furtherafieldWILDISLESWith our global radar very much focusedon the conservation and protection ofour planet, a visit to the Galapagosislands has never been more relevant.A pocket of the world that time forgot, it offers a uniqueopportunity to step back to a world as it may have been beforehumans walked the earth. It is also an eye-popping exampleof how species co-exist with their environment, and howchanges to our natural world impact on them. A journey through the Galapagos is a remarkable experiencefor anyone, but for nature-lovers it is pure catnip. Prepare toencounter landscapes of wild mangroves, volcanic summits,inland lagoons, cliffs and coasts, and spend days exploringpirate hideouts, spotting dolphins, whales, penguins and gianttortoises, and snorkelling coral reefs amid sea lions, seals andturtles. The islands deliver a revelation every hour, and they'reparticularly excellent for families as children are knocked outby the opportunity to interact with real-life furry favouritesgalapagosSPRING-SUMMER 2010I sea&iI81?The Galapagos is an eco haven off the coast of South America - a place where polar penguins strut alongside tropical flamingos, and whales share waves with giant turtles. Visit the islands and stepashore for the ultimate nature high ByKate Rigby

82Isea&iISPRING-SUMMER 2010and movie-style monsters. This is a highly active, educationaland fun holiday for anyone, but for youngsters, as the futureguardians of this planet, this privileged insight and appreciationof the natural world is invaluable. History in the makingThe Galapagos islands were first discovered in the 16th century,but it was not until 1835 that their most famous visitor arrived: theEnglish naturalist Charles Darwin. It was during his stay thatDarwin formed the basis for his theory of evolution by naturalselection. At the time, scientists and the Church held the beliefthat species were unchanging, and it was Darwin's revolutionarytheories on evolution (publicised some 20 years after his visit)that changed all that. Experiencing first-hand the ecosystems ofthe Galapagos, we can appreciate how, while nature clearlyadapts to its environment, it also relies on specific environmentalconditions to survive - conditions that we, as humans, arechanging day by day. As Sir David Attenborough points out: "Eventhough Galapagos is recognised as one of the best-preservedarchipelagos in the world, due to the consequences of humanintervention many species are now threatened with extinction.With prompt and holistic action, however, Galapagos can providea model of sustainability for the world." Fortunately, as yet the islands remain a startling reminder of themiracle of nature and the rich diversity of species we have on thisplanet. The rigorous work of the Galapagos Conservation Trust(GCT), the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDF), the GalapagosNational Park and others aims to keep it that way by raisingawareness and preserving the land and marine ecosystems. Assuch, any trip to the Galapagos promises to be as valuable andeducational as it is fun and enlightening. That said, there are verystrict regulations regarding visitors. As the GalapagosConservation Trust acknowledges: "Tourism is an undeniable factof life and has contributed to bringing the unique wildlife ofGalapagos to wider attention, as well as boosting the localeconomy. The challenge for GCT and its partners is how to raisepublic awareness of Galapagos without causing a flood of visitorsdestroying the unique experience they have come to enjoy."  With that in mind, cruising here is a somewhat uniqueexperience. There are numerous regulations regarding whichvessels are permitted, a cruising permit is required, and anofficial guide must accompany the party on board at all times.Your CNI charter broker can organise a yacht for you, and takecare of all the official requirements, but bear in mind you'll needto notify them well in advance if you wish to visit. A natural selectionThe Galapagos islands bridge the Equator in the Pacific Ocean,600 miles from mainland Ecuador. The 13 main islands andhundreds of other islets and volcanic rocks float on one of themost active volcanic regions in the world - the Nazca Plate.As you sail between the islands you'll be escorted by a circusof acrobatic birds wheeling overhead or dipping in the sea -these include cormorants, pelicans, gulls, penguins, boobies.When blue-footed maleboobies skip a matingseason their feet become bluer, making them more appealing to femalebirds the following season. Giant Galapagostortoises can survive a year without eatingor drinking.One in five of the 43 threatened Galapagosmarine species mayalready be extinct,prompting new pressurefor climate-change policies.In 1976, wild dogs wipedout a colony of around 500 land iguanas. Naturalpredators, such as dogs,pigs and wild cats, are now strictly controlled.FASCINATING FACTS