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Daphne Major and Minor

These two small islands provide visitors with their first panoramic view of the archipelago after landing in the airport at Baltra. Since visitation on the Daphne Major is limited to one scientific group per month, a measure enforced by the Galápagos National Park Service to prevent erosion, passengers with the opportunity to disembark there should consider themselves lucky to be among the select company that have passed across the island's impressive slopes. It is clear from the beginning of the visit-a landing that requires leaping from the moving dinghy onto a vertical cliff face and clambering up the rocks to the head of the steep, rocky trail-that a trip to Daphne Major is a special experience.

A short trail leads up the side of the volcanic island (a tuff cone) to a 120-meter high summit, passing Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, and the famous Darwin finches that served as the subjects of Rosemary and Peter Grant's detailed evolutionary study described in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Beak of the Finch. At the climactic island summit are two small craters packed with hundreds of blue-footed boobies and frigate birds that have settled to find their mates-a virtual bird motel!

Daphne Minor is fairly eroded and not accessible to tourists, although the surrounding waters are very popular dive site. The underwater geology of Daphne is very interesting, with recesses and steep cliffs, and the possibility of seeing sharks (white-tipped, Galápagos, and occasionally hammerheads), sea turtles, or rays is high.

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