Galapagos Islands Complete Guide To A Fascinating Vacations
Of course many of you have heard about the Galapagos islands, but have you ever imagined that place to exceed all your expectations? As amazing as you can imagine, it is a place where the wildlife is very peaceful & friendly and contact with animals is close and personal.
Galapagos islands are considered a double-heritage world that is located 620 miles off the Ecuador’s coast, in the Pacific ocean. They consist of 19 islands, and many small islets, forming a huge archipelago with all sorts of magical animals and plants.
How to get to the Galapagos Islands?
Travelling to these islands can be expensive, but with the right planning, you can spend a lovely vacation to a small cost. You can fly directly to the Ecuador, or have two flights, depending on where you live and the available flights. Most trips don’t include flight cost, and flights are either in the morning or at night, so you must plan for staying 1 night on the mainland before taking a bus and a ferry ride to your destination island.
One of the important things to consider is your stay during the vacation, because it will determine the costs of your trip.
There are actually 2 types of stay. The first one is a hotel on any of the three inhabited islands where you enjoy the wild life and explore the other islands through day-trips. The second type is live-aboard stay on a boat.
Factors to consider when choosing between hotel or boat stay:
The hotel stay is much more affordable and there are hotels and restaurants offering great prices on islands like San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela and Floreana.
2- Time management.
Staying in a hotel means to waste much time in boat transportation to each day’s destination, and then back to the hotel. On contrary, live-aboard passengers wake up each morning in a new destination, ready for fun and exploration because these boats usually navigate at night when the passengers are asleep. That’s one important factor to consider.
Staying on land will restrict your trips to the five near islands that can be reached in one day. So, if you like exploring more of the distinct wildlife in Galapagos islands, the live-aboard boats will offer you as much places as possible.
When to visit the Galapagos islands?
High season is in June, July, August and mid-December to mid-January. Prices are highest during these months.
Hot season is from December to May when the ocean is calm and the sky is sunny with little daily rain.
The cold, dry season is June to November when the sea is rough due to the Humboldt Current that brings the cold water to that region. Experienced divers prefer this season because it holds chance for tourists to see fantastic marine life. The cold water doesn’t only attract small creatures, but also big schools of hammerhead and whale sharks.
Where to stay?
There are two main cities to stay in before reaching your island destination, Quito & Guayaquil, where the first one is the capital city of Ecuador and the second is the largest city there. Most trips will fly you to one of these cities before you reach the islands.
Note that the new Quito airport is far from the city itself, so if you arrive late at night and you have a morning flight, it is better to sleep somewhere close to avoid a long drive.
For staying in the Galapagos islands, know that most tours start and end in Santa Cruz; the most popular place for tourists there.
What to do in the Galapagos islands?
1- Wildlife watching:
There are fascinating landscapes and animals there to watch. You will see unique animal species that are found only on these islands due to their remoteness and isolation. Best time to start watching is around 5 Am, to avoid the heat and the crowds that may drive the animals to hide.
Live-aboard Divers will take you to the best spots to see beautiful marine life.
Isla Lobos and Kicker Rock, in San Cristobal, are great spots to swim with sea lions and turtles.
Isabela, the biggest island that boasts 6 volcanoes, is a good place to see dried lava beds. You can also walk in the high lands to see lots of plants and vegetation.
5- Surfing & kayaking:
You can rent boards and kayaks in Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.
You can help with the natural habitat restoration or work in a local farm. Find more on:
EcuadorVolunteers.org and Ubelong.org.
Visiting most of these islands is not allowed without a licensed guide who works with the Galapagos National Park. You can book day trips from Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, but still the best way to enjoy more islands and wildlife is taking a cruise on small yachts.
Taking a boat tour will require booking a few months earlier, because boats fill up in the high season. The national park restricts the number to 100 passengers, but that number can crowd the beach. So, the best number to enjoy your trip is around 30 passengers, and you will only find that in low seasons.
What to pack for the Galapagos Islands?
1- Sun hat, sunglasses and lots of high-quality, water resistant sunscreen.
2- Moisturizer, insect repellent and any medicine you take. Also bring something for motion sickness.
3- Hiking or heavy duty shoes with hard soles, because you will walk over volcanic soil and rocks.
4- Sandals and flip flops for the beach and boat tours.
5- Your swimsuit, diving suit or rash guard.
6- Snorkeling gear, fins and swim mask.
7- Rain gear, umbrella, waterproof clothes or anything that protects from rain as well as the sun.
8- Your electronics, including binoculars, a dry bag for electronics and better have waterproof camera or protection gear, because when you are on a boat or out their photographing landscapes, there is no protection or shelter if it rains.
9- Quick-dry clothes and also breathable, long clothes to provide protection from the sun.
10- Refillable water bottle, to reduce the plastic waste on the islands and preserve their nature.
11- Bring enough cash. Most places there accept credit cards and the islands have ATMs but it could be empty at the moment you need money, and some fees must be paid in cash, like the $100 parking fee.
What shouldn’t you bring to Galapagos islands?
Anything that is not related to the native wildlife of these islands is considered a threat, like new or invasive plant species. So, the first thing that visitors do is signing affidavit statement that they are not bringing any plants, animals, seeds, dirty or contaminated outdoor gear, and foods of course.
– Anything that is considered an environmental threat to the native animals or plants.
– Anything that is considered a new introduction to the native animals or plants.
– Anything that might be harmful to the islands nature.
– Anything that might have seeds or spores clinging to it.
– Any stuff that may hold chemicals/harmful materials like beauty products, shoes soles, travel bags, or outdoor gear … All of these must be inspected carefully and other stuff must be washed and sanitized from anything that might harm the wildlife.