Postcard: The Galápagos Islands

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Hermits, castaways, Howard Hughes—spending a lot of time alone can lead to strange behavior. Case in point: the Galápagos Islands, an isolated archipelago over 600 miles west of Ecuador where the resident animals—salt-sneezing iguanas, bloodsucking vampire finches—are like no others on the planet. "A little world within itself," Charles Darwin called it after arriving in 1835 as the naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle. He left with enough notes and specimens to inspire his theory of evolution and the landmark treatise On the Origin of Species.

Today, visitors to what is now Galápagos National Park may feel as if they've stumbled into a casting call for Animal Planet. Blue-footed boobies perform goofy, elaborate mating rituals; 500-pound giant tortoises mosey across the sands; flightless cormorants stay put. The lack of natural predators also means many creatures are amazingly fearless. Curious sea lions may amble up to investigate: "Hmmm, tennis shoes, shorts, baseball cap—another Turisticus americanus." Let's just hope they can consider our species highly evolved.

AAA can help you plan a trip to the Galápagos Islands or anywhere else. For more information, visit AAA.com/travel.

This article was first published in September 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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