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Vacationing in the Galapagos with Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Darwin

Frigate bird puffs its throat in the Galapagos. Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images.

In his novel, Galapagos, master satirist Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) spins an Apocalyptic tale in the unlikely setting of a Garden of Eden-like group of islands – the Galapagos – way out in the Pacific off the coast of Ecuador. Says critic Jaime Capulli, “For anyone planning a trip to (the Galapagos), the novel is a great way of boning up on what this wondrous place is really like (although it's hardly a guidebook) – and with a lot of chuckles to boot.”

A spokeswoman for local tour operator Voyagers Travel says one good way to explore the islands is to bunk down on an expedition cruise ship. A seven-night cruise, for example, might stop at 11 or so islands, including some smaller ones with no ferry service.

Cruise ships typically sail around the Galapagos at night, allowing passengers to wake up at the destinations on their itinerary. Non-cruise sightseers, on the other hand, normally take daytime ferries or speedboat rides from island to island, so they have less time to enjoy their stopovers. What's more, island-hoppers use up even more time packing over and over as well as checking in and out of hotels and inns on the islands.

Still, the folks at Voyagers Travel point out that the notion of tailoring your own itinerary has a lot going for it as well. Besides the obvious flexibility to decide when and where you'd like to go, a big plus for island-hoppers is that you can spend as much time as you want on a given island. And as much time as you want on activities such as bird-watching, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking or just getting to know the giant turtles, blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, seals, sea lions and the other homies of the Galapagos.

Either way, whether you want to see the islands on an an expedition cruise or on your own itinerary – or anything in between – the folks at Voyagers Travel are happy to work with you.

In his book, Vonnegut dreamed up a “Nature Cruise of the Century” in which dozens of celebrities were to sail around the islands on a public relations tour. But only a handful of passengers actually made it on the ship, the tour having been kiboshed by disasters ranging from a financial crisis to food shortages to a burlesque war between Ecuador and Peru. The ship wound up wrecked on a fictional island in the Galapagos.

In a sort of tip of the hat to Charles Darwin, generation after generation of the survivors' descendants lived on the island for a million years. Over time, they slowly evolved – through a Darwinian process of natural selection – into a species fitted for life on the island as aquatic mammals.

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