Naturalist Charles Darwin may not have known what he was getting into when he first explored the Galapagos Islands as part of a five-year journey to chart the area for the Royal Navy. He and his cohorts discovered hundreds of new species and collected thousands of samples from the plants and animals that live there. Almost 200 years later, the wonder of the life that lives above and below the sea at this archipelago remains as breathtaking as ever.
Despite the inevitable tourism trade that's grown over the years, the islands are fiercely protected and divers can still rub elbows with sea creatures that haven't learned to be afraid of humans. There are more than 300 species of fish, 650 shells and mollusks, 120 crabs and 200 starfish and urchins alone [source: Gct.org]. Add to that the giant sea tortoise, marine iguana, penguins, sea otters, dolphins and sharks, and it's clear why diving in the protected waters of the Galapagos Islands is on the list of most SCUBA enthusiasts.