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5 Reasons To Visit The Galápagos Islands This Year

Vogue Logo By Christina Liao of Vogue | Slide 1 of 5: <p>A volcanic archipelago about 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador dispersed along either side of the equator, the Galápagos Islands could easily be perceived to be a <a href="http://www.vogue.com/article/top-travel-destinations-2017?mbid=synd_msntravel">faraway destination</a> that is more often dreamt about than actually experienced. And it was actually just 50 years ago that Lars-Eric Lindblad brought the first civilians on a no-frills trip to the islands for non-research purposes. Now, Lars-Eric’s son, Sven Lindblad, and the <a href="https://www.expeditions.com/destinations/south-america/galapagos/the-experience/team?mbid=synd_msntravel">Lindblad Expeditions</a> in collaboration with National Geographic serves as the leader in <a href="http://www.vogue.com/article/comfortable-flight-travel-accessories-pillow-rolling-luggage?mbid=synd_msntravel">voyages</a> for the unique region.</p><p>Aboard the new National Geographic Endeavor II, you’ll find considerably spacious rooms; a lounge area at the bow of the boat with panoramic windows; a quiet library to catch up on some reading; an expansive deck with tables and loungers; a small, but sufficient gym with great views; and even a massage room should you need a treatment after a packed day of daily activities that includes hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and trips around islands on a zodiac or glass-bottom boat. Aside from these great amenities, it’s also important to note the responsible practices Lindblad has put into place, such as providing biodegradable toiletries; limiting the use of plastic bottles by giving canteens to guests; using the condensation produced by air conditioning for laundry services to help conserve water and energy; and, with the help of donations from their passengers, granting more than $12 million since 1997 to support conservation, education, and research initiatives in the regions that they operate. Traveling with a company that cares and pays it forward makes a huge difference.</p><p>But why jump on a ship when you can book a comfy room on land? To get a real sense of the Galápagos and all that it has to offer (genetic isolation leads to speciation, after all), you have to jump from island to island, and this isn’t the kind of place you can wander aimlessly around. The archipelago was not only declared a <a href="http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1?mbid=synd_msntravel">UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978</a>, but is also a marine reserve and a national park covering about 95% of landmass with very strict rules; For example, visitors to protected areas must be accompanied by Galápagos National Park Directorate–certified naturalists. With such measures put in place, planning a weeklong trip on your own can be rather cumbersome and difficult, which is all the more reason to toss out your skepticism about cruises and remember that being onboard in the Galápagos is an extraordinary expedition rather than the leisurely diddle-daddle one associates with vacationing on a boat.</p><p>Below, five more reasons why the Galápagos is an once-in-a-lifetime trip you'll definitely want to take.</p><p><b>A True Educational Experience</b></p><p>For the science buff, the Galápagos is the most epic adventure you could possibly go on, as it’s where Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection stemmed from. Here, get the opportunity to make your own observations and definitely pay a visit to the <a href="http://www.darwinfoundation.org/en?mbid=synd_msntravel">Charles Darwin Research Station</a> on Santa Cruz Island to learn about the work being done to preserve the archipelago. Your knowledgeable naturalist guides are also a great resource: From explaining how introduced species like goats and the invasive-aggressive blackberry have harmed vegetation to detailing the life cycle of the blue-footed booby, they are well-versed in the islands’ biodiversity and history. Additionally, aboard the National Geographic Endeavor II, the bridge has an open-door policy, so feel free to saunter in and chat up the captain, learn about his experience, and learn a thing or two about sailing.</p>

A volcanic archipelago about 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador dispersed along either side of the equator, the Galápagos Islands could easily be perceived to be a faraway destination that is more often dreamt about than actually experienced. And it was actually just 50 years ago that Lars-Eric Lindblad brought the first civilians on a no-frills trip to the islands for non-research purposes. Now, Lars-Eric’s son, Sven Lindblad, and the Lindblad Expeditions in collaboration with National Geographic serves as the leader in voyages for the unique region.

Aboard the new National Geographic Endeavor II, you’ll find considerably spacious rooms; a lounge area at the bow of the boat with panoramic windows; a quiet library to catch up on some reading; an expansive deck with tables and loungers; a small, but sufficient gym with great views; and even a massage room should you need a treatment after a packed day of daily activities that includes hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and trips around islands on a zodiac or glass-bottom boat. Aside from these great amenities, it’s also important to note the responsible practices Lindblad has put into place, such as providing biodegradable toiletries; limiting the use of plastic bottles by giving canteens to guests; using the condensation produced by air conditioning for laundry services to help conserve water and energy; and, with the help of donations from their passengers, granting more than $12 million since 1997 to support conservation, education, and research initiatives in the regions that they operate. Traveling with a company that cares and pays it forward makes a huge difference.

But why jump on a ship when you can book a comfy room on land? To get a real sense of the Galápagos and all that it has to offer (genetic isolation leads to speciation, after all), you have to jump from island to island, and this isn’t the kind of place you can wander aimlessly around. The archipelago was not only declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, but is also a marine reserve and a national park covering about 95% of landmass with very strict rules; For example, visitors to protected areas must be accompanied by Galápagos National Park Directorate–certified naturalists. With such measures put in place, planning a weeklong trip on your own can be rather cumbersome and difficult, which is all the more reason to toss out your skepticism about cruises and remember that being onboard in the Galápagos is an extraordinary expedition rather than the leisurely diddle-daddle one associates with vacationing on a boat.

Below, five more reasons why the Galápagos is an once-in-a-lifetime trip you'll definitely want to take.

A True Educational Experience

For the science buff, the Galápagos is the most epic adventure you could possibly go on, as it’s where Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection stemmed from. Here, get the opportunity to make your own observations and definitely pay a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island to learn about the work being done to preserve the archipelago. Your knowledgeable naturalist guides are also a great resource: From explaining how introduced species like goats and the invasive-aggressive blackberry have harmed vegetation to detailing the life cycle of the blue-footed booby, they are well-versed in the islands’ biodiversity and history. Additionally, aboard the National Geographic Endeavor II, the bridge has an open-door policy, so feel free to saunter in and chat up the captain, learn about his experience, and learn a thing or two about sailing.

© Swimming with sea lions Courtesy of Christina Liao

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