Making a top list of the world’s best destinations for wildlife is almost impossible or, at least, very contentious, as it is so subjective.
What I do know is that in Latin America, my top pick is and has always been the Galápagos Islands and exploring them by boat is absolutely the best way to do it. I recommend taking a private yacht charter around the islands, where one can select the itinerary to suit one's interests.
Each comes with a specialist guide who gives one a a deep insight into the wildlife and conservation of these magical islands that are so unique. Where else can one see the entire metamorphic cycle of the blue footed booby, for example?
Another wonderful option is joining a small luxury cruise vessel, where one can sail with a small group of like-minded individuals on an exploration of the islands. These have fantastic wildlife guides on board who open up the islands to you to give you the most phenomenal experience.
Nothing can beat the unique species here and their sheer abundance, not to mention how unbelievably easy they are to see!! Wildlife in general is notoriously camera and people shy, so it is truly wonderful to be able to come to this archipelago and be welcomed at the beach by a colony of sea lions or marine iguanas resting on the rocks. They have few predators so curiosity has replaced fear.
This is a particular bonus when travelling with children as they don't have the same patience levels as adults to wait for that magic moment. They will love the crazy colours of the curiously named Sally Lightfoot crabs or the ‘Lost World’ prehistoric qualities of the large land iguanas. Frigate birds that puff up their bright red chests like balloons or the comical bobbing up and down of Blue Footed Boobies in their mating dance are equally entertaining for young eyes.
The Galápagos Islands though, like many of the world’s wildlife havens, has to fight hard to protect its inhabitants and its environment. Vital to its long-term survival is maintaining its pristine environment and minimising human impact.
I feel passionately about the protection of wildlife and habitats and any time I visit, I ensure that I support those operators and local providers that adhere to the strictest regulations possible on the environment.
For example, I was very excited to hear about the introduction of the first trimaran in the Galápagos, called the Camila, which was launched recently. Its reduced friction through the water means increased speed and therefore crucially a saving on the use of fuel. Happily this also means less sailing and greater stability and comfort on board for those who are not such great sea-farers.
Another of my favourite local partners is also building a superb new yacht to be called the Theory, set to join its sister ship the Origin in early 2019 offering a luxury cruise vessel with a host of eco-friendly features. They are also deeply committed to sustainable tourism practices in the Galápagos Islands, being the trailblazers and founding members of numerous conservation and sustainability projects.
So you can cruise these fabulous islands in superb comfort and with a clear conscience, perhaps also spending some time in the Amazon rainforest for an even more diverse wildlife experience or delving into the colourful artisan villages of the Andean highlands of Ecuador.
If you would like more information on Galápagos cruises, private charters and wildlife holidays I would be delighted to discuss this further.