The famous Galapagos Islands are a collection volcanic islands distributed around the Equator, located just of the coast of Ecuador. With a population of just over 25,000 people, most of the islands are uninhabited and are known best for their astounding wildlife, both on land and underwater. They’ve become an increasingly popular destination for cruisers in the past 15 years, offering just enough “off-the-beaten-track” allure for those looking to explore somewhere a little different.
If you’re considering a cruise to the Galapagos Islands then you’ll need to make careful preparations due to their remote location. Visiting the islands can be expensive, so if you’re making this a once in a lifetime trip, make sure you do your research and plan ahead to ensure you get to see and do everything you want to.
The first and most important decision you will make is whether to travel by land or by cruise. If travelling by land, Galapagos has two airports and you can fly to either from Quite or Guayaquil. However, most experienced Galapagos travellers will tell you that exploring the islands is much better done by cruise ship – and in particular a small vessel – giving you access to some of the more remote islands and revealing the true splendour of the volcanic landscapes and diverse wildlife.
The Galapagos Islands are protected by UNESCO, so every vessel that enters the area has to follow very strict guidelines. Part of these guidelines are dedicated to laying out careful routes that cruises must follow, ensuring that minimal disruption is caused to the landscape and wildlife. The added bonus of this is that the waters are quiet and on many cruises you won’t see another boat for the duration of your trip.
There are a variety of different cruise options available to visitors. The trips and schedules differ widely and you can choose to spend anywhere between 3 and 14 nights on board a ship. It is worth remembering that the Galapagos Islands offer a lot to see and do. The 3 night cruises will give you a taste of the magic of these secluded islands, but if you can stretch to at least 7 nights you will be able to see much more of the region and it will make your trip much more worthwhile.
Most cruise lines will make roughly two land tours/excursions each day. The majority of these will involve some hiking. Those who are less confident with fitness will usually be able to take easier routes, but it’s worth enquiring with your tour operator, travel agent or cruise line before setting off. If you feel that you can make these short hikes they are well worth the effort, offering spectacular glimpses of truly unique flora and fauna.
Wildlife enthusiasts will not be disappointed on a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Aside from the incredibly diverse array of species, visitors are often amazed at how calm and approachable the animals are. Due to the strong protection laws in the area the animals are not used to human predators and are largely unafraid of human contact. While sitting on a beach or taking a dip in the sea you may well find yourself shoulder to shoulder with a penguin or even a sea lion.
Aside from the land excursions, most cruise lines will offer their guests the chance to enjoy a spot of snorkelling. It’s highly recommended that you take advantage of these opportunities as the marine life in the around the Galapagos Islands is thought to be some of the most diverse in the world. Amongst the thousands of species of fish the occasional manta ray can sighted, as can hammerhead sharks. If you’re a serious enthusiast of marine life you may want to enhance your trip further and consider an operator that specialises in scuba diving.
When planning your trip, think about the time of year that you want to travel. Climate wise, a trip between November and June is advisable. From February to March the weather tends to be mild with occasional showers. The sea is often a lot calmer at this time of year making boat trips easy to stomach. Many visitors opt for a visit in April or May, when the wildlife is thought to be at it’s most luscious. Many of the bird species arrive back from migration at this time of year and tortoise and iguana eggs begin hatching. Snorkelling enthusiast will also find that the visibility is good at this time.
For more information on Galapagos Island cruises please call one of our Cruise Experts on 0800 008 6677.