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9 Coastal Wonders To See Now

Authors Heather Hansen and Kimberly Lisagor have traveled the world investigating coastal sites that are as stunning as they are endangered. Here, they share advice for planning an eco-sensitive trip―and how you can help.

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Galpagos, Ecuador
Photo: Tui de Roy /Minden Pictures/National Geographic Stock

Galpagos, Ecuador 

Why go? The 19 islands retain 95 percent of their native species, including plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world. Each island has its own phenomenal features, from smoking calderas (craters) and green-sand beaches to giant tortoises and prancing birds with powder-blue feet. Española Island is the most paradise-like.

Why care? Three years ago, UNESCO put the entire archipelago on its list of World Heritage sites “in danger.” They cited the perils of illegal fishing, unsustainable tourism, and immigration, and the single greatest threat to the islands―non-native species.

Plan your trip: Peak months include mid-June through early September, and mid-December through mid-January. December through May is the rainy season, when air and water temps are warm and inviting. The rest of the year the water is cooled by the Humboldt Current, which also carries a vast array of marine life. All visitors to the islands must be accompanied by a certified naturalist guide. The Galápagos Conservancy (galapagos.org), which works closely with Galápagos National Park (galapagospark.org), maintains a list of travel partners that promote sustainable tourism.

How to help: Learn more from the Charles Darwin Foundation (darwinfoundation.org) about what’s stressing the islands.

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