The Galapagos Islands are a pristine wildlife haven off the coast of Ecuador, South America, and a place of legend thanks to a certain Mr Darwin and his Theory of Evolution. They’re remote, bursting with unique wildlife and landscapes and, rather refreshingly, the mark left by human foot print is minimal.
Snorkel with sea lions, mingle with giant tortoise and climb volcanoes as you explore one of the most bio-diverse places in the world. So ditch the rest of the travel pack and head to the islands for some serious ‘pinch me’ moments! But before you run off on your back to nature adventure, here’s everything you need to know about planning a trip to the Galapagos.
The Galapagos Islands – the important stuff…
When to go
The Galapagos Islands lie very close to the equator and have a pretty constant climate so that make them a great year-round destination. That said make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen because even in cloudy conditions the sun is string so you’ll burn really easily.
If you are really keen to maximise the amount of wildlife you see, consider and research the migration and breeding habits of birds and the change in ocean currents and temperature as this influences animal behaviour.
How to get to the Galapagos
All tours that visit the Galapagos Islands depart from Quito the Capital of Ecuador. The flight from Quito to the Galapagos takes approximately two and a half hours.
Which islands to visit
The Galapagos is made up of 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. Most people come to see the huge selection of wildlife and plant life as well as some monstrous volcanoes and coastal landscapes and as you travel around, the guides will be able to explain what you are seeing and point out any wildlife you come across.
What can you expect to see on each island?
– There’s a large colony of the huge waved albatross on Espanola Island.
– Rábida Island is a beautiful red colour due to the large amount of iron in the lava of it’s, now extinct, volcano. It’s also home to Flamingos.
– Pink flamingos and green sea turtles both nest in Floreana Island making it one of the most popular spots for wildlife watching and for some great snorkelling.
– The island of Bartolomé is actually an extinct volcano and has some incredibly coloured volcanic formations.
– While Santa Fe has the tallest Opuntia cactus in the Galapagos.
How much time do you get on the islands if you’re taking a cruise?
Taking away the 2 days you have when you arrive and depart the Galapagos Islands from/to Quito, there are approximately 2 island landings per day; each taking around 4 hours, so there is plenty of time to spend some time adjusting to life on land.
How long to stay
There are a huge number of organised tours/sailing trips around the Galapagos, you could choose a shorter 6 day trip, however as all trips include a couple of days in Ecuadorian capital Quito on arrival and departure days, it’s a much better option to take one of the 7-10 day tours to make sure that you maximise your time to the islands themselves. This is the kind of trip you do once in a lifetime – so you don’t want to leave yourself feeling short changed on time!
How to travel around the islands
A cruise is the best way to see lots of wildlife and maximise your time. We offer 4 different boat classes from standard up to deluxe, so whether you want to splash out on this occasion and cruise in style or are on a backpacker budget, there is an option to suit.
If you’d rather spend your evenings on land then you could also sleep in hotels on the islands and then hope between them on a speedboat – and let’s be honest a trip on a speedboat is exciting in itself! There are also land options that are a good alternative to a cruise – an ideal option if you don’t have good sea legs! Check out our Galapagos camping experience and Galapagos Multisport for more.
How to make your money go further
There’s nothing better than dishing out money for a trip and knowing, for sure, that there are no extras to worry about later on. And one of the great things about a Galapagos cruise is that they’re all fully inclusive while you’re at sea.
Your meals are all prepared fresh daily (with any special dietary needs are also catered for) plus non-alcoholic drinks included. There is a cash bar on board so you can still enjoy a chilled evening beer after a day spent exploring the islands.
Can you snorkel there?
Oh heeeeeeell yes. The Galapagos Islands are a great place to snorkel. The majority of tours will have snorkelling equipment on board the boat that you can use free of charge and will stop at various points along your trip at the best spots to give anyone who wants the opportunity plenty of time to take a dip.
The waters around the Galapagos Islands are jam-packed with marine life and you could quite easily run into sharks (eeek!), turtles, octopus, sea lions, sting rays and a whole host of rainbow coloured fish. Amazing.
What to pack
As little as possible is the short answer! If you’re including the trip as part of a wider backpacking trip – chances are you’re probably travelling quite light anyway but, if you’re not, then it’s advisable just to bring the essentials.
There are no porters on the islands so whatever you bring – you carry! Also, the boats you’ll be travelling on don’t have a huge amount of extra space, and because of this they carry a luggage limit. The boats are informal and casual, so you should really try and pack to reflect that.
A few of the more important things to remember include:
– Playing cards
– Hoody/warm top
– Windproof/waterproof jacket
– Small towel and swim wear
– Sun hat
– Sun tan lotion
– Insect repellent
– Hiking boots/sturdy walking shoes
– sea sickness pills – if you think you’ll need them
– and for god sakes don’t forget your camera!