The Galapagos Archipelago is an isolated and marvelously unique corner of our ever-shrinking world. First recognized in 1935 by Charles Darwin, it has since been renowned by biologists, geologists, tourists, marine specialists and divers from around the world, as well as the world-renowned organization UNESCO, which named it a World Heritage Site in 1978. From giant tortoises to blue-footed boobies, sunbathing to hiking and sinkholes to lava caves, this ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’ holds something for everyone. Yet despite the fame that the Galapagos Islands have, visitors often underestimate the true extent of their wealth. Covering an area of more than 28,000 sq. miles and with significant differences between each island, it is important to be well organized before arriving to this scientific paradise. Read about tips for a great Galapagos vacation here.
What to pack
Packing appropriately is key to being safe and comfortable on your Galapagos vacation. As the archipelago is situated directly on the equator, the sun is very strong and, if not appropriately prepared, it can be extremely dangerous. A light shirt, comfortable shorts and also sunglasses are important to be comfortable during the day. It is also a good idea to bring a large hat to shade your head and shoulders from the sun. Additionally, all guests are encouraged to use a strong sunscreen, no matter your skin type, as the majority of activities occur outside.
On the other hand, some of the best Galapagos sites are underwater and as such, it is a good idea to bring a swimsuit to enjoy the remarkable marine landscapes. If you are a diver or snorkeler, a wet suit may be a good idea as in some places sea temperatures can drop as low as 18°C.
Bringing the appropriate footwear is also imperative, as most expeditions involve a fair amount of walking. While upholding all park safety requirements, paths are kept to a minimum to avoid interfering with any natural processes and, furthermore, a few trails take guests over volcanic rock and age-old lava flows (expedition cruises always offer alternatives if guests are not sure they are up for the challenge!).
The official currency in the Galapagos Islands is the US Dollar; however ATM machines can be difficult to come by, and most stores either do not accept cards or use manual machines, which can be inconvenient. Thus, it is highly recommended to bring hard cash with you to your Galapagos vacation. Our yachts, Isabela II, Santa Cruz II and La Pinta, and the Finch Bay Hotel all accept major credit cards and instruct visitors on how to make hotel or ship payments easier.
Have a goal in mind for your Galapagos Vacation
The Galapagos Islands are made up of 13 major islands and 6 smaller ones, each one strikingly different from the next, with habitats ranging from salty lagoons and barren deserts to green pampas and volcanic craters. In order to properly take advantage of your time in this unusual corner of the world, it is important to have a general understanding of the islands and their various habitats.
The Galapagos Archipelago is not your typical equatorial archipelago, but it consists of a variety of habitats and ecosystems that vary in accordance with the altitude and size of the island, as well as the particular ocean current that passes by it; it is because of this that just one island, for example, can support both penguins and cacti. This diversity is further enhanced by the fantastic geological formations that form the base of the islands, including but certainly not limited to giant sinkholes, an ocean uplift, the Galapagos blowhole, Kicker Rock and underwater caves. Even the beaches vary, with red, white, black and even greenish sand.
Once you have a general understanding of the islands and their main attractions, take a moment to decide which areas interest you the most and which itineraries coincide best for your Galapagos vacation. For assistance with this, review the archipelago’s most iconic animals and the available itineraries at http://galapagosbig15.com/. Several species such as the marine iguana and blue-footed booby inhabit the majority of islands in the Galapagos, but many more have very restricted habitats. We have included some examples below:
Galapagos Giant Tortoise
Galapagos tortoises live in the highlands of Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands, but may also be observed at the breeding center in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz and Cerro Colorado on San Cristobal Island.
The Galapagos flamingo specifically lives on Santa Cruz, Bainbridge, Santiago and Floreana islands, which have saline lagoons where the birds feed.
The Galapagos Penguin
The Galapagos penguin primarily lives on Isabela and Fernandina Islands, although there are a few populations on some of the more central islands, where ocean upwellings occur.