Galapagos Islands Vacations
Galapagos Islands Vacations, particularly cruise travel, have grown in popularity in recent years. Since Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution catapulted the Galapagos Islands onto the world stage, this mystifying archipelago has remained one of the most fascinating destinations on the planet. The desire to visit the islands has promoted the development of a number of travel choices for eager adventurers. With multiple islands to choose from and generally not enough time to cover them all, visitors to the Galapagos are faced with the initial challenge of deciding where they want to spend their precious time. All together there are 20 islands, 13 larger and 7 smaller – each of which is home to a unique ecosystem, including a diverse range of birds, plants and animals - some endemic to one tiny island!
Before you travel, it is a good idea to make a note of the sorts of things you want to see during your trip, this will help you narrow down how to allocate your time between the various islands. For example, if you are predominantly interested in checking out the bird life of the islands then you might want to spend more time on Santa Cruz, where the greater flamingos nest or on North Seymour to witness the blue-footed booby perform its mating dance. Of course, wherever you go you are sure to be astounded by the variety of wildlife on display but it’s always nice to have some sort of a plan like a true explorer.
So, you know that you’re going to the Galapagos Islands to see a bunch of animals that have so far only existed for you on the Discovery Channel. However, there is a lot to see on these islands and numerous ways to see them. With this in mind, you should try explore the various options on offer and try as many different activities as you can during your time in the Galapagos.
If you’re interested in observing the marine life that surrounds the islands, then you will definitely want to take to the water with some snorkeling gear in order get up close and personal with the marvelous array of creatures that reside just below the surface. If you are in the right place at the right time, you may be treated to sightings of sea-lions, white tipped reef sharks, sea turtles and stingrays along with a plethora of multi-coloured fish.
For those who would rather keep their feet on terra firma, there are designated hiking trails that will take you to more remote parts of the islands, where the animals live and play without human interference. Seek out some of the islands' ancient tortoises and unique iguanas as you go and be sure to take a look at the impressive volcanic calderas as well.
Other activities available to visitors to the Galapagos Islands include hopping in a sea kayak and exploring the perimeter of your chosen island as well as camping. There are few things more adventurous and magical than lying out under the stars for a night or two on these incredible islands.
There are two main ways to explore the Galapagos Islands, and arguably the most popular is a Galapagos Islands Cruise – we will get to the other option later. There are a few obvious advantages of opting to take a cruise around the Galapagos archipelago. One of these is that you will save a lot of time traveling. Generally speaking, the cruise boats navigate the water at night. This means that after a day of exploring you can retire to your comfortable cabin and drift off to sleep while the captain steers you to your next destination. You wake up the next day to find that all the hard work has already been done for you and all you have to do is get up and enjoy your day.
Another major advantage of turning your vacation to the Galapagos Islands into a cruise is that everything is already planned out for you. No need to spend time researching where to stay, as you will be spending your nights on the boat. You also don’t need to waste time trying to find places to eat because all of your meals will be provided for. This means that you save valuable energy that you then can exert on making the most of your incredible destination.
Maybe you’re an expert planner and you don’t mind spending some time before your holiday mapping out where to eat and sleep every night of your trip. If that’s the case, then there are still some advantages of taking a cruise around the islands. The first of these is that you will be accompanied by an expert naturalist guide. That means that any questions you have regarding the wildlife you see will be knowledgeably answered and you will be taken to exactly the right spots at exactly the right times in order to see everything you wanted.
The final advantage of taking a cruise is that it is a completely unique experience. Nowhere in the world will you be able to sail around this many equally fascinating islands in such style and comfort. If you’re going on a trip of a lifetime, why hold back?
Galapagos Island Hopping
We told you there were two options and now we’ve covered cruises, it is time to move on to option number two – island hopping. While this involves a little more planning ahead of your arrival, the experience can be incredibly rewarding and not just because of the greater level of freedom you will have.
Perhaps the biggest draw of the option of island hopping is the flexibility it affords travelers. No need to depart at an exact hour on a certain day or to return to your cabin at a designated time. Those staying in hotels and lodges and making their own plans are free to come and go as they please. This might suit those with a very specific idea of what they want to see and do a bit better.
Another notable advantage of staying somewhere attached to the ground is the avoidance of any motion related illnesses. While cruises are romantic in theory, they can be ruined by a vicious bout of sea sickness. The lack of WiFi on board the boats can also be problematic, especially for those who don’t have the luxury of disconnecting during their vacation.
While you might spend a bit more of your downtime in transit if you choose to stay on land as opposed to on a boat, you will also get significantly more time to explore the islands in the evening, when otherwise you would be hanging out on the ship.
If you want to continue your adventure after dusk then the island hopping option is certainly the one for you.
If you decide that you want to spend your holiday making your own way from island to island staying in lodges, then here is some advice for having the best possible time while you’re at it. Firstly, you will need to take a look at your budget and decide what kind of accommodation you can afford. Regardless of how much you have left once the flights have been paid for, you can be sure to find something cosy and comfortable on each of the islands. If you want to see some of our recommended lodges then take a look at our post all about Galapagos Lodges.
Staying in a lodge on one of the islands is usually the more luxurious way to go about your vacation in the Galapagos Islands. If you really like a certain lodge then you can potentially stay there for virtually your entire trip and still see plenty of what this archipelago has to offer. By making the lodge your base, you can island hop during the days and return to your island of choice in the evenings. This may mean more time traveling and less time in the evenings to explore. But it is a little easier for those who don’t want to be constantly changing accommodation. Be aware, however, that speedboat journeys between islands can be pretty bumpy so if you’re prone to sea sickness, take some preventative measures beforehand.
While staying in one place appeals to some, to others the idea is positively unbearable. If you are happy to switch things up a bit then be sure to take a look at accommodation options on each of the islands you plan to visit. If your lodge is just down the road from the sites you want to explore, you will suddenly find yourself with barrels more time to seek out the wonders of the Galapagos Islands.
Things to Know
A vacation to the Galapagos Islands is unlike anything you will ever experience. For the most part we mean this in a positive way, but there are a few things you should be aware of before embarking on your vacation. Given the nature of the destination, some things that you are used to when going on holiday will be a little different. This is by no means a bad thing; it just means you need to be prepared adequately for what’s to come.
The first thing you need to take note of is what to pack. As the Galapagos Islands are situated close to the equator, the temperature generally stays pretty warm and given the amount of exercise you will be doing, it goes without saying you will heat up during your expeditions each day. This means that loose and comfy clothing is essential. Next consider the terrain of the islands. Huge swathes of volcanic rock make up a lot of these islands so it is vital to have footwear that can withstand these unusually harsh conditions. You will also want shoes that won’t get ruined in the water as well so you aren’t limited to how far you can explore. The water temperatures tend to be chilly, but that does not mean you should leave the sunblock at home!
Another important thing to note is that there are very few ATMs located on the islands. You will be able to withdraw cash on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal so be sure to stock up on money while you are there. The currency used in the Galapagos Islands, and all of Ecuador for that matter, is the US dollar so if you are coming from the United States it is probably a better idea just to bring a load of cash with you from home. Be sure to bring plenty of small notes - $5 and $10 are ideal as vendors may well struggle to give change and therefore refuse to accept $20 and above.
A vacation to the Galapagos Islands is guaranteed to be a trip you will never forget, regardless of whether you choose to go with a cruise or to do it on your own and opt for island hopping. You will see wildlife you didn’t even know existed and do things you never even dreamed were possible. So, to conclude, get your planning down to a tee before you depart and don’t leave anything to chance. The Galapagos Islands are one of the few places in the world that doesn’t really agree with spontaneity. Once you’ve got your itinerary sorted, stashed your cash and bought some sturdy shoes you are ready to go!