By Rachel Ang
By Rachel Ang
It was 180 years ago that Charles Darwin first set foot on the Galápagos Islands, an equatorial stopover on the now famous Voyage of the Beagle. During his five-week stay he observed how the animal species had evolved differently to survive on the varying topography and climate of each island. Inspired, this expedition eventually led to his theory of natural selection, and consequently, one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in human history.
And it was in October of last year that Pikaia Lodge opened, a new concept hotel combining luxury accommodation and adventure, enabling visitors to tread lightly on this ecologically fragile, remote chain of islands. The theme of the lodge is inspired by Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and Pikaia takes its name from Pikaia Gracilens, believed to be the first creature to evolve into a vertebrate during the Cambrian period some 500 million years ago, the oldest known ancestor of all modern mammals, fish and reptiles.
Pikaia Lodge is perhaps the most picturesque luxury lodge in the world, found 450m above sea level, between the savannah and tropical forests of Santa Cruz island. Santa Cruz is the central and second-largest island of the Galápagos, home to 25,000 inhabitants. The entire island is a massive dormant volcano.
The lodge comprises 14 rooms and villas and over 31 hectares of land, including a sanctuary for wild giant turtles. Designed by Ecuadorian architect, Humberto Plaza, the rooms are modern and minimal, large and airy, complete with all trappings expected of a luxury lodge: private balcony, walk-in closet, daily fruit basket, spa bath, iPod speakers and wireless internet.
Most importantly, the lodge’s elevated site and floor-to-ceiling windows look out over the arid savannah of the Galápagos National Park to the north, dormant volcanic cones and mountains densely covered with tropical cloud and forests to the southwest. All around is the Pacific Ocean and the unique islands which make up the Galápagos – the cooled lava flows of volcanic explosions of more than a million years past.
Pikaia operates daily land tours of Santa Cruz, and sea tours visiting nearby islands on their private yacht, the Pikaia I. Walk in Darwin’s footprints and marvel at the endemic wildlife – sea lions, iguanas, lava lizards, finches, swallow-tail gulls, cormorants and petrels …and of course, giant turtles. Having evolved without predators for millions of years (until the advent of humans) these animals have no fear of man and while human visitors are not allowed to approach or touch them, the animals are frequently curious and friendly.
Follow up your adventures with dinner at the Evolution restaurant, perched on the edge of a crater, which serves up traditional Ecuadorian fare, or a drink at the DNA bar. Pikaia also boasts an infinity pool looking over the island, relaxation spa, gymnasium and library – which as you’d expect, is dedicated to the topics of science, evolution and the Galápagos.
Barrio El Camote
a 100 m de Cerro Mesa
Santa Cruz Island
Pikaia Lodge – From $1,260 a day, with three, four or seven-day programs.