Perfect for cruising, they hide calm coves, multi-coloured beaches, and dramatic cliffs that run into the reaching waves of the sea. These tiny islands sit directly on the equator, approximately 1,000 kilometres off the west coast of Ecuador, where the 13 gems spread themselves seductively over 50,000 square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean.

The fascinating array of wildlife is what brings most curious travellers to the shores of the Galapagos, where its isolation from the mainland has ensured completely unique species of reptiles, bird and marine animals have evolved across the islands.

Surprisingly fearless, the wildlife of these islands are famous world-wide for their role in Charles Darwin's formulation of his theory of evolution. Although the Galapagos tortoises were made famous by Darwin's study (these gigantic tortoises are the largest in the world and are known to live for over 150 years), the islands are also populated by various species of seals, flamingos, penguins, marine iguanas, scarlet-faced lizards, bright herons and scuttling crabs. A quarter of the shore fish, half of the plants and almost all of the reptiles are exclusive to the Galapagos Islands.

For experienced divers, the world below the islands’ brilliant shore is equally as bewitching, where the cold currents from Antarctica and the warmer ones from the Pacific ensure marine life is vibrant and varied. Eagle rays, barracudas and bonitos swim alongside hammerhead sharks and water jacks, making for truly wonderful scenery. For those less accustomed to strong currents, the tropical wonderland is perfectly explored by snorkelling.

Access to the islands is completely controlled and possible only with a trained guide. Exploration of these fascinating pieces of history is limited to marked paths but somehow doesn’t manage to affect enjoyment of this rich ecosystem that is as captivating as it is protected.