Topping any avid traveller's bucket list, the Galápagos Islands wow with otherworldly scenery, close animal encounters and once-in-a-lifetime cruising adventures. Risa Merl explores the islands on a superyacht charter.
They glide up to our masks, plunge beneath us and repeat. We catch on and try to match them flip for flip. Soon we are playing a frenetic game of waterborne tag, one that the sea lions are bound to win. For lovers of nature, animals or rare experiences, it is a thrilling sport.
Moments like this are what make a visit to the Galapagos special. The fearlessness and tameness of the animals is extraordinary, whether it's the sea lions and penguins who view us as entertainment, the birds who don't move a feather when we approach or the giant tortoises roaming the farmlands on Santa Cruz Island, so peaceful in their grass-gnawing existence that your presence cannot disturb them. Thankfully, these animals have not been given a reason to fear man.
Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835, and his time there led to his theory of natural selection. In 1959, the Charles Darwin Foundation opened to ensure the conservation of the island's unique ecosystem. This, coupled with the Galapagos National Park's strict visitor guidelines, has helped preserve it as a place where nature rules supreme.