The Galapagos Islands is a group of volcanic islands located in the Pacific Ocean 973km off the west coast of South America. The islands have some of the most diverse wildlife in the world making it a paradise for diving, bird watching and all nature lovers.
Small ship Galapagos Island tours give you the opportunity to watch giant Galapagos tortoises and Blue Footed Boobies in the morning and snorkel with sea lions and marine iguanas in the afternoon. The Galapagos is famed for being one of the most exciting places to dive on earth and almost every scuba diver has these islands on their bucket list.
The Galapagos Islands is the perfect destination for nature loving travellers, due to the unique wildlife and geography of the area. Scuba divers and birdwatchers in particular would be interested in the destination, but it really appeals to anyone interested in wildlife.
Generally, travellers that visit this region are well-travelled and educated, 45 years and over and usually travelling as couples or groups of friends. There is the potential to send families to the Galapagos, but you need to be mindful that small ships aren’t the best environment for small children so an island-hopping stay with land-based accommodation is usually more suitable.
The Galapagos is a year-round destination, and no time of year is likely to disappoint as animals are active year-round. There are essentially two main seasons in the Galapagos, the ‘hot wet season’ from December to May and the ‘dry season’ from June to December however being located along the equator means that the average minimum/maximum temperatures in the Galapagos archipelago only vary moderately.
The first decision to make is whether to do a cruise or land based ‘island hopping’ tour. Island Hopping typically involves a tour of 4 to 8 days and combines stays in Santa Cruz Island, Isabela and San Cristobal Islands, day tours of these and other surrounding islands. The main advantage of this type of tour is that it’s usually less expensive than cruising and involves less time on boats for those who are prone to sea sickness.
Generally, the choice comes down to what wildlife you wish to see, and our handy map gives you a good idea of what you can see and where. Some of this wildlife is seasonal so if you are really wanting to see a particular species of bird for example then you will need to book the right itinerary.
Whilst it is an expensive destination this doesn’t mean you should try to cut costs and choose a more budget way to travel, to the contrary really. Apart from providing a more comfortable journey with better food and service, a luxury lodge or cruise also charges a higher price because they have more experienced and better qualified naturalist guides. The knowledge and dedication of these guides forms an integral part of your Galapagos experience and we cannot understate how important this is in a destination with such an amazingly diverse and fragile ecosystem.
How to get to the Galapagos Islands
There are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands so you must fly via either Quito or Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador and more than likely you will need to overnight in either of these cities before and after your cruise. Most flights from Quito stop in Guayaquil and depending on your route the flight will take between 2.5 to 3 hours. There are two airports taking flights from the mainland, the primary one being on Baltra Island which is connected to Santa Cruz Island and the other one being on San Cristobal which takes fewer flights.
Cruising in the Galapagos can be the better way of seeing the islands as you can visit more remote spots and potentially more areas as the vessels typically cruise at night to reach new anchor points. Most vessels in the Galapagos are small ships of around 16 to 20 passengers however there are several luxury vessels in the 30 to 50 passenger range and a few larger vessels taking between 50 and 100 passengers.
Top things to do in the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands offers everyone the possibility to enjoy a great variety of activities for all ages, interests, and fitness, ranging from the contemplative to the adventurous, and knowing that in everything you do you will experience the best of the wildlife and nature.
By far the most popular activity in the archipelago, trekking in the Galapagos brings the best opportunity to take some amazing pictures of the wildlife and landscapes. You and a small party will be led by a naturalist guide appointed by the Galapagos National Park through trails brimming with wonderful life and awe-inspiring views.
Most tours include snorkelling, the easiest and most practical way to experience the amazing underwater world of Galapagos. Even from the dinghy, you can already see some curious sea lions and penguins watching you coming closer. Enter the waters, and you’ll be overwhelmed by the abundance of marine life surrounding you.
Paddling alongside the island’s shore and observe many birds nesting in the tree branches, schools of baby rays and sharks, as well as other marine life enjoying the tranquil turquoise waters of Galapagos. Discover the hidden beauty of lagoons surrounded by mangrove forest while kayaking at leisure.
In the Galapagos, you can see so many water species and so close; and scuba diving is, without a doubt, the best and most rewarding underwater experience available. Just picture yourself swimming along schools of rays, and admiring really close their graceful movements and shapes, and sea lions wanting to play with the calm turtles who are trying to eat some algae off the rocks.
For more on Galapagos visit www.galapagos.org/travel/travel/planning-a-trip/
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