April 29, 2015

Take a virtual vacation with Google Street View: Galapagos Islands

Too busy this summer for a vacation? No room in your budget for a trip? Or do you just long to see the forbidden parts of the world, where even the most seasoned travellers rarely tread?

There’s an app for that. Sort of.

Google Street View can take you on a virtual tour of some of the most breathtaking and remote locations on the planet -- without you ever needing to leave your computer chair.

Sure, it’s a far cry from the real travel experience, but in some cases, Street View can become a window to destinations you would never see otherwise.

Here are some of the most striking and far-flung destinations you can visit through virtual tours with Google Street View.

1. Galapagos Islands

One of the crown jewels of Google Street View is its incredible Galapagos Islands tour. The tiny volcanic islands off the coast of South America play host to a staggering array of animal life, from sea lions and giant tortoises to iguanas and several rare bird species.

That diversity heavily informed naturalist Charles Darwin when he visited the islands to research his landmark treatise “On the Origin of Species.” Darwin’s theory of evolution endures to this day, and so does his research station in the Galapagos.

Google Street View lets you tour that research station, along with many of the areas Darwin visited. (And some he didn’t.) That includes ancient magma tubes, coral reefs, mangrove tree-shrouded rivers, a giant tortoise breeding centre and a blue-footed booby nesting ground.

The Google cameras will even take you underwater to frolic with the sea lions and “grab shell” with the giant tortoises in their natural habitat.

You can also explore the darker history of the Galapagos Islands with a visit to the Wall of Tears, a stone expanse built by prisoners of Ecuador between 1945 and 1959. Each piece of the 25 metre-high wall is a meticulously-stacked, jagged slab of rock.

2. Underwater relics

If the ocean is your final frontier, there are several amazing Google Street Views that can take you beneath the waves to “paddle” around at your leisure. The Galapagos tour offers plenty in the way of natural beauty, but there are also several man-made, coral-infused attractions to explore.

One of the most fascinating underwater tours takes you to the underwater museum of Isla Mujeres near Cancun, Mexico, where several man-made statues that have been set up on the ocean floor and surrendered to the ocean environment. The Google tour starts at a barnacle-encrusted Volkswagen Beetle and takes you across the ocean floor to a collection of human statues, many of which are covered in coral and other underwater plant life.

Another Google Street View will take you through the wreckage of the Mary Celeste, a former merchant vessel that was discovered at sea as an abandoned “ghost ship” in 1872. The Mary Celeste was rebuilt after that discovery, then deliberately wrecked in 1885 near Bermuda.

The ship’s skeletal remains make for fascinating (though brief) visit on Google Street View.

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