Last year was the well-publicised 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book On the Origin of Species and trips to the Galapagos Islands, the place that partly inspired his famous treatise were two-a-penny. Perversely, lower prices and more availability probably make this year a better time to visit to the Galapagos Islands, which is usually seen as a once-in-a-lifetime destination.
The archipelago, 972km west of Quito, has a population of around 23,00 but sees more than 160,000 tourists annually; even environmentalists, however, concede that income from tourism is needed to protect the islands. The Canada-based company Gap Adventures (www.gapadventures.com; 001 416 260 or 0044 8444 10 10 90) is currently offering 10 per cent off its Voyage Galapagos trips, meaning that a six-day-trip can now be had for as little as US$1,600 (Dh5,875).
Its Budget Galapagos trip is aboard an air-conditioned motorised yacht, which stops at Baltra, Floreana, Espanola and Santa Cruz. The maximum group size is 16 and the tour includes a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, Floreana Island, Gardner Bay and Punta Suarez, seeing many of the islands' extraordinary species, including giant sea turtles, masked and blue-footed turtles and many types of bird. The trip price includes return flights from Quito, two nights in hotels and three nights on board the yacht (twin share), most meals and the services of a tour guide. The next trip departs on April 5. For those wanting a longer or more luxurious visit, the company offers three other types of trip, including its 10-day Comfort Galapagos trip, for $3,499 (Dh12,850) per person.
For a cruise closer to home, take advantage of Dubai's new cruise terminal and the last of the cool weather for a seven-night trip around the coast of the UAE and Oman aboard the Costa Luminosa (; 0044 845 351 0552).
The Jewels of the Emirates cruise, calls at Muscat, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi, and returns to Dubai - although instead of disembarking, guests may decide to stay on board to enjoy the ship's four restaurants, 11 bars, theatre, casino, nightclub, 4D cinema, roller skating track, golf and Grand Prix simulators and Samsara spa.
The cruise is currently available for $782 (Dh2,875) per person (a $360/Dh1,325 reduction on the full brochure price), including all meals and departs Dubai on March 13.
Looking forward again to Easter, Anantara (www.anantara.com) is offering two attractive packages for the beginning of April.
The Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort near Liwa is offering three nights for the price of two between April 2 and 5; a double room for three-nights costs from $1,075 (Dh3,944) including taxes and breakfast. For more information and reservations, call 02 886 2088 or email email@example.com.
The Desert Islands Resort & Spa, part of the nature reserve on Bani Yas Island, is offering four nights for the price of three between April 1 and 8; the total price for a double room for four nights is $1,570 (Dh5,759) including breakfast and two activities per day per person and an Easter Sunday brunch. For more information and reservations, call 02 801 5400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Responsibletravel.com is offering two- to four-week trips taking part in conservation programmes to monitor elephants, black rhino, hyenas, cheetahs and lions. As well as the opportunity to get up close to these interesting animals on nature reserves in Zululand, one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa (www.zulu.org.za). There is a special offer on holidays departing on March 1, 15 and 29: you can bring a friend for free. A two-week trip costs from $1,308 (Dh4,794) land only, including camp accommodation, all meals and training. To book, visit www.responsibletravel.com From April 15, you could save up to $947 (Dh3,474) per person on Cox and Kings' short safari breaks in South Africa. Book two nights at the all-inclusive Shamwari Game Reserve and Oceana Beach & Wildlife Reserve in Eastern Cape or Jock Safari at Kruger National Park, and receive two complimentary nights at hotels in Cape Town or the Garden Route. The package costs from $939 (Dh3,445) per person. Call 0044 207 873 5000, or visit www.coxandkings.co.uk email@example.com