A trip to the Galapagos is an unforgettable experience. As Charles Darwin put it “The Natural History of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself”.
The islands are world renowned for their fearless wildlife but no amount of hype can prepare the visitor for such a close encounter with nature. Here, you can snorkel with penguins and sea lions, watch 200 kilogram tortoises lumbering through giant cactus forest, and enjoy the courtship display of the blue-footed booby and frigate bird, all in startling close-up.
Lying on the Equator, 970 kilometres west of the Ecuadorean coast, the Galapagos consist of six main islands: San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, Floreana, Santiago and Fernandina. There are also 12 smaller islands – Baltra, Santa Fe, Pinzon, Espanola, Rabida, Daphne, Seymour, Genovesa, Marchena, Pinta, Darwin and Wolf – as well as over 40 small islets. The Galapagos has been called the greatest wildlife show on earth. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is worth saving for and the high prices are one way of keeping the number of visitors within sustainable levels to ensure the Galapagos’ survival as the world’s foremost wildlife sanctuary.
One of the best ways to experience the Galapagos is on a cruise. The benefits of cruising around the Galapagos are that you cover more distance, visit more islands and therefore have the opportunity to see more wildlife. Also, all meals are included on the boat so there is little expense when you get there. Typically a small yacht would include a lounge and bar area, dining room and sundeck.
There are 116 visitor sites in the Galapagos, roughly half of which are land based and the other half snorkel or dive sites. Small groups are allowed to visit in 2-4 hour shifts to limit impact on the area. In 2012, the Galapagos Islands Park Service decided that all cruise boats have to do a 15 day itinerary in order to protect the fragile ecosystems and spread out the visitors to different sites as the boats cannot visit the same site twice in a two-week period. This also means that passengers can visit parts of the Galapagos that were not on the previous itineraries.