A Guide to the Galápagos Islands
This guest post is by Ali Dempsey of Global Basecamps.
Exploring the Galápagos Islands is a once in a lifetime experience. The unique islands are home to many plant and animal species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The incredible wildlife on the islands includes giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas, and many bird species. In 1978, UNESCO selected the Galápagos as a World Heritage site, and recently the islands have experienced rapidly increasing tourist traffic. In an effort to preserve the islands, the government of Ecuador will introduce new travel rules in 2012 to help mitigate the negative impact of tourism to the islands. The new policy states that a ship cannot visit the same island twice within 14 days. The goal is to keep traffic dispersed throughout the islands and to make the Galápagos a better experience for all visitors. Here are a few tips to consider when planning your trip to this beautiful destination.
When to Visit
There’s really not bad time of the year to visit the Galápagos Islands. The peak season is from mid June to early September and from mid December through mid January. During the summer the island will feel less remote and less isolated than it would should you visit during the off season.
During the months of December through May, the water and air temperature are warmer though you will experience more rain. You will experience light rain almost daily, though usually for a short period of time. The warmer water makes swimming and snorkeling more inviting though there are fewer fish to see this time of year. This time of year is mating season for land bird as well as sea lions. Around March and April you can see many newborn sea lions. December through May is also the best time to see sea turtles. During February, March, and April flowers bloom on the island, offering incredible views of a bright landscape.
During the months of June to November the water and weather are much cooler, which draws more fish and birds. It can be cloudy and windy during this time of year, though there is little rain. The ocean is also not as calm. However, this is an incredible time of year to go diving at the Galápagos since there are more fish, seabirds, and penguins. On Genovesa island owls mate in June and July, as well as blue-footed boobies.
Where to Stay
Cruising around the islands is a popular option for a Galápagos vacation. With the new travel rules the length of cruises will increase from around 7 to 14 day cruises, as boats will be unable to visit the same sites as often. Should you want to spend more time on land, Galapagos walking tours are also an option on the island of Isabela, where you can see active volcanoes, wetlands, and a beach. There are also some lodging options on the islands, such as the Galapagos Safari Camp, which is located on a farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island on the border of the national park.
The Galápagos offers countless activities to appeal to every traveler, including scuba diving, snorkeling, biking, hiking, and kayaking. There are many ways to discover the land and marine wildlife. Take a short, leisurely walk or an extended day hike to one of the remote camp sites. Popular snorkeling locations are Devil’s Crown, where sea lions can often be found, Pinnacle Rock, where you can see bright parrot fish as well as penguins, and Xarifa, or Turtle Rock, which is great for viewing reef sharks, scorpion fish, string rays, and sea turtles.
What to Pack
Since the weather is good for visiting year round, ranging from 69°-84°F light weight clothes are best, including t-shirts, tank tops, shorts, and a bathing suit. Most boats don’t have a dress code, so it is fine to dress casual. We suggest bringing a daypack for hikes that might include sunscreen, sunglasses, a windbreaker and of course a camera! Also, be sure to bring comfortable walking or hiking shoes that you don’t mind getting a little wet.
Be sure to have a passport that is valid for 6 months past the date you enter Ecuador. Citizens from the US, Canada, and most European countries that are traveling to Ecuador for tourism, business, or study do not require a visa unless they will be staying more than 90 days in one calendar year.
The official currency on mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos is the US Dollar. You may want to bring some small bills with you for tipping.
Global Basecamps is a specialty travel company that helps independent travelers research and book locally owned boutique hotels, off-the-beaten path lodges and multi-day excursions all over the world. Global Basecamps Galapagos tours offer a variety of small-ship cruising options unique multi-day walking safaris, and lodge-based island explorations.
*All photos in this post courtesy of Global Basecamps.
*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of BeersandBeans.com, NarikosNest.com & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!
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