Galapagos Islands: Experience the Enchantment
Friday, May 17th, 2019
A visit to the Galapagos Islands is like a visit to a distant living planet. The ecosystems, made world-famous by the studies of Charles Darwin, are not only unique within all the world, but unique from island to island. Here you can walk right up to massive tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions, and prehistoric birds, none of which evolved to run from humans. Active volcanism has crafted a surreal, otherworldly landscape of stark beauty.
Tightly controlled by the nation of Ecuador and situated 600 miles off the Pacific coast, 97% of the Galapagos land mass is a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here is what you need to know when considering a visit to the fascinating Galapagos Islands.
Major airlines AVIANCA, LATAM, and Tame operate daily flights from the mainland airports at Quito (UIO) and Guayaquil (GYE), to the island airports at San Cristóbal (SCY) and Isla Baltra (GPS). Due to the remote location of the islands, all flights depart in the morning and return in the evening. If traveling internationally, expect at least one overnight stay on the continent in either direction. Note that flights can be significantly discounted if included as part of a tour package through Central America Journeys. Holders of an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) may qualify for discounted airfare as well.
A private boat or yacht can be piloted to the Galapagos Islands, but several hoops must be jumped through. Arrival must be arranged 60 or more days in advance with a local intermediary.
ISLAND TO ISLAND INFO
If landing at the airport in San Cristobal, the main tourist hub of Santa Cruz is just a short ferry ride away. All of the inner islands are easily accessible by ferry or aquatic taxi.
EMETEBE Airlines and Air Galapagos operate air taxi services which are quick and comfortable, but pricier and more erratic than the ferries.
BEST TIME TO GO
There is no bad time to visit the Galapagos. If you want to observe a certain species, check online or with your travel insider to see if that species’ migratory pattern lines up with your travel plans.
The high season for travel to the Galapagos Islands are the months of July, August, and December. Airfare and lodgings will be more expensive during these months.
June through December are the cool, dry months with occasional misty rains. Expect more rains in the warmer season of January through May, with breaks in the showers punctuated by brilliant blue skies.
Tours are generally all-inclusive and can be tailored for families, groups, singles or couples. The biggest decision facing visitors is whether to opt for a land-based or sea-based tour.
Less expensive and ideal for those that don’t want to use their sea-legs, land-based tours quarter in hotels and eco-lodges on one of four permanently inhabited islands, particularly Santa Cruz. Accommodations range from eco-friendly lodges to luxury resorts. The downside is that embarking and disembarking every morning burns valuable time. Land-based tourists are also restricted to the five islands within a day’s journey. There’s a lot to see on those islands, but it is limiting.
A sea-based tour quarters guests on a cruise ship or touring yacht. Again, amenities range from basic to opulent. While pricier, these sea-based voyages have a logistical advantage… inter-island travel can take place at night. Like magic you wake up anchored just a stone throw away from your next adventure! Cruise tours also have access to remote islands, untouched by humankind and unique to the world in biodiversity. Tour ships are smaller than the traditional cruise liner, limited by law to 100 passengers.
The Galapagos is truly all about experiencing nature at its core. You can only enter the bounds of the Galapagos National Park if you are accompanied by an officially qualified guide. Exploring with a quality naturalist guide can make all the difference in your vacation. Quality guides will have a wealth of knowledge relating to wildlife, conservation, history, geography, geology and environment. At Central America Journeys, we always work with top-tier guides to ensure that your Galapagos experience is beyond expectation!
Some of our Favorite Experiences
Meet the Giant Tortoise
Get up close and personal with the famous Galapagos tortoise on the popular islands of Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal. Average size is 1.3 meters long and 475 pounds but can get up to over 800 pounds. These gentle giants fascinate newcomers and are truly a one-of-a-kind experience. More off the beaten path, you can hold a baby tortoise egg at the breeding center in Puerto Villamil on Isabela.
The largest population of Galapagos penguins congregates around Tagus Cove on Isabela. This is a truly amazing experience watching the only penguins north of the equator waddle around the islands like they own the place…which they do!! One might also encounter the the popular Blue-footed booby playing and showing off their attractive footwear. Tortoises abound here as well. The site also features the Wall of Tears, built by prisoners when Isabela was an Ecuadorian penal colony.
The young, volcanically active island of Fernandina is home to the largest colony of marine iguanas, the Galapagos native flightless Cormorant, as well as a large population of sea lions. These marine iguanas have adapted over time to become exceptional swimmers and primarily feed off what the ocean provides. Witnessing volcanic activity in the evening from the comfy confines of your boat creates quite the spectacle. The island is pristine and has remained untouched through the generations. A true gem for anyone visiting the islands.
Diving and Snorkeling
Taking to the sea around the Galapagos Islands is a great way to meet the iconic wildlife. You will be amazed by the breathtaking colors and friendly wildlife that surrounds you. Your new best friends will be the playful sea lions as come meet you face to face. On a special diving excursion, one might have the chance to swim with pacific sea turtles, joyful dolphins, gentle whale sharks or a group of hammerhead sharks. A brand-new world awaits you immersed under the sea in the Galapagos.
Ready to Discover
Are you ready to discover this land of enchantment? Countless adventures are located throughout the islands. Let us help you craft an itinerary that encompasses your interests, passions, and quenches your wanderlust. Tell us what most intrigues you or let us make a recommendation and design an unforgettable travel experience. We are here to take the stress out of travel planning and ensure that your time abroad is spent fully enjoying your vacation, worry-free.
If your wanderlust is calling, why not start by filling in our travel enquiry form or give us a call at (877) 509-6033. We take the stress out of planning and deliver highly personalized travel packages and concierge service for individuals, families, and groups.
With an adventurous spirit,
Your friends at Central America Journeys