Galapagos Islands

Spectacular, isolated and populated by some of Mother Nature’s most bizarre creations, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands really do feel like a world apart. One thousand clicks off the South American mainland, this humble archipelago and its fauna – which set the religious world aflame in the 19th century – remain as riveting and rewarding an ecological adventure as it ever was.

Inquisitive sea lions and spiky marine iguanas breach and bask between island and shore, while friendly hammerhead sharks patrol the depths and giant tortoises lumber the land. Nowadays, the islands host a steady stream of modern-day explorers; but as far as face-to-face, flipper-to-fin wildlife encounters go, the Galapagos experience truly is in a league of its own. 

  • • Keep an eye out for dolphins breaking the waters around Genovesa
  • • Get up close and personal with the fur seals of James Bay
  • • Search for nesting sea-turtles on Espumilla Beach
  • • Spot storm petrels on the wing off Prince Philip's Steps
  • • Snorkel among the manta rays and sharks of Darwin Bay across Bahia Sullivan's 100-year-old lava flow
  • • Learn about the islands' history at Puerto Ayora's Charles Darwin Research Station
  • • Stroll among the giant tortoise population in the Santa Cruz highlands
  • • Splash about in Punta Moreno's beautiful lagoons
  • • Pitter-patter with the penguins of Elizabeth Bay
  • • Photograph the pink flamingos in Las Bachas lagoon
  • • Check out Fernandina Island's marine iguanas
  • • Hear tales of the pirates who used to seek shelter in Buccaneer Cove

See all Galapagos trips


Transport

NEMO III (Original)

Features

  • • Is one of the few luxury twin hull sailing catamarans in the Galapagos that can sail without the use of an engine (weather and wind permitting)
  • • Twin hulls means a much sturdier and more comfortable boat than those with only a single hull
  • • Has 8 double and twin cabins all with private bathroom and air-conditioning. This means you sail with no more than 16 others
  • • Has a great range of 10, 7 and 6 day itineraries available – see below
  • • Offers excellent itineraries that includes all the Galapagos' highlights and visits the Northern Islands, including Genovesa – a highly sought-after location
  • • Has an indoor AND an outdoor lounge to relax
  • • All meals are included on board, tea, coffee and water are available around the clock and a bar sells soft drinks and alcoholic beverages
  • • Has 7 Friendly crew members and a fully qualified naturalist guide
  • • Has a beautiful sundeck to enjoy the stunning climate and scenery
     

Take the NEMO III on these trips: Galapagos Panorama - Northern Islands Galapagos Panorama - Southern Islands Galapagos Escapade - Northern Islands Galapagos Escapade - Southern Islands Glimpse of Galapagos - Northern Islands GMSE Glimpse of Galapagos - Southern Islands

Queen Beatriz (Comfort)

Features

  • • Luxurious double hull motor yacht
  • • Twin Hulls means its much sturdier and more comfortable than a single hull boat
  • • There are four different types of cabins on this ship: 3 x Standard Twin, 2 x Deluxe Twin – with Balcony, 2 x Deluxe Double – with balcony, 2 x Suite – spacious with lounge
  • • Sail with no more than 16 others
  • • Offers a range of 17, 10, 7 and 6 day itineraries
  • • All meals are included on board, tea, coffee and water are available around the clock and a bar sells drinks and alcoholic beverages
  • • Snorkelling gear, towels and wetsuits are all included
  • • Has 7 Friendly crew members and a fully qualified naturalist guide

Take the Queen Beatrix on these trips: Classic Galapagos - Southern Islands Classic Galapagos - Central Eastern Islands Classic Galapagos - South Eastern Islands Classic Galapagos - Central Southern Islands Galapagos Explorer - Southern Islands GLKI GLKJ Galapagos Encounter - Central Islands GLGG

More about the Galapagos

Ecuador might be smaller than its heavyweight South American neighbours, but this audacious land stakes a legitimate claim as the continent's most complete package. Blessed with a bonanza of perfect beaches and the remarkable Galapagos Islands, Ecuador's wealth of natural riches make it a one-stop shop for incredible real life experiences. Come and indulge in a scoopful of the Amazon rainforest, a generous helping of the Andes and a refreshing glass of colonial Quito - Ecuador makes for a scrumptious serving of South America's best.

When to travel 

Simply put, there's no bad time to visit the Galapagos Islands. Good weather is mostly found year round, as are the animals. This being said, November through to June is the preferred time to visit, with clearer skies, calmer seas and decreased winds. Of these, March and April have less rain, and November and December are the warmest months. July to November is the best time for divers, as whale sharks can often be spotted at Wolf and Darwin islands.
 

Geography and environment

The main 18 islands of the Galapagos (ranging from 4,588 sq km Isabela to 1.1 sq km Darwin) are lava-formed with mostly rocky shorelines. Some are sparsely vegetated with mountainous interiors and high central craters, while others are comparatively lush with white-sand beaches and mangrove-lined inlets. Some of main islands include: Baltra, Española, Fernandina, Floreana, Genovesa, Isabela, Marchena, Pinta, Pinzon, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Santiago. The Galapagos sprouted out of the Pacific from a sub oceanic lava vent on the ocean floor. The same process created the Hawaiian Islands, and still continues in both groups today.
 

A variety of great trips

We offer a wide range of six, seven and ten-day itineraries, which allows you to better choose the islands you want to visit and that suit any time restrictions or budget you may have. 
In order to best preserve one of the world’s most important and fragile natural 
ecosystems, the Galapagos National Park authorities restrict the number of visitors to each site by issuing permits to every visiting vessel. This permit (or patente) determines which sites can be visited each day and when. Far from restricting a visitor’s experience, this system actually enhances it because the itineraries are designed in such a way as to eliminate the amount of vessel crossover. This results in witnessing more of the wildlife you’ve come to see without vying with boatloads of other tourists to see it.
 

A typical day

So that you can make the most of your time on the islands, we do most of our long distance sailing at night. And because much of the wildlife is best observed early in the morning, early starts are pretty common. Each day consists of planned morning and afternoon activities, which tend to last between two to four hours. These could be anything from hiking to snorkelling to visiting research stations and include either wet or dry landings. While you don’t need to be able to swim to enjoy the Galapagos Islands, some of the more unique experiences are had with a snorkel, so some swimming ability will be richly rewarded. Finally, although days are pretty packed with activities, there is ample free time to simply enjoy the environment.

 

Meals

All onboard meals are included in the cost of the trip. The food is delicious, nutritious and plentiful, and complimentary coffee, tea and purified water are provided around the clock. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are available for purchase from the bar, and the cost is put on a tab that you will then be presented with at the end of the trip.
 
 
 

Top 5 wildlife encounters

 

1. Sea lions

Whether it's while loafing about on the beach or snorkelling off-shore, you'll be hard-pressed not to come face-to-face with these frolicsome critters at some stage. Playful, plentiful and pretty much fearless, you're supposed to keep a 2-meter distance from these guys at all times - though their insatiable curiosity can make this hard!
 

2. Marine iguanas

The only lizards in the world that can live and forage in the ocean, the marine iguana is found solely in the Galapagos. Fierce and ferocious though these Godzilla-like reptiles may appear (Darwin called them 'imps of darkness'), it's all bluff - they only feed on algae. And with lung capacities permitting up to half an hour of underwater foraging, you're just as likely to find them gorging on the islands' surrounding seabeds as scampering about the craggy rocks they inhabit.
 

3. Hammerhead sharks

Boasting one of the animal kingdom's most puzzling physiologies, the scalloped hammerhead shark is found in abundance off Wolf, Bartolome, Santa Cruz and Darwin Islands. Unlike most sharks, they will often merge into schools of over 100 during the day, making for some incredible and surreal photo opportunities. And with no known human fatalities and a wealth of natural prey on offer, diving among them isn't as scary or dangerous as one might think!
 

4. Darwin's finches

Though dull in colour and nondescript in appearance, the 13 types of finches that Darwin found in the Galapagos gave rise to one of the most controversial and game-changing theories the world has ever known. In short, by studying the anatomical differences between finches from different islands, Darwin hypothesised that the birds' various adaptations to their different habitats and geographical separation from each other had eventually resulted in their mutation into different species: his Theory of Evolution. In his journal, he also reports that the birds were so unaccustomed to human presence that he'd often find them coming in to perch on his shoulder, which made for some very easy specimen-collecting on his part.
 

5. Giant tortoises

No trip to the islands is complete without a visit to its most famous residents. Weighing up to 400 kg, regularly living more than 100 years and able to go for up to one year without food, giant tortoises are gentle and slow-moving beings and are an intriguing and humbling spectacle to observe
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Island information

A trip to this constellation of islands is like setting foot on the planet for the very first time. An Eden of flora and fauna that inspired Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, this enchanting paradise is bound to captivate the most adventurous of travellers. 

Isla Santa Fe 

Home to a colony of notoriously tame sea lions, it’s possible to take a dip alongside the friendly population in crystal-clear waters. You’ll also be privy to parades of iguanas progressively prowling the beaches like a scene from a tiny Jurassic Park. 

Isla Espanola 

Ornithology spoiler alert: virtually the entire world population of waved albatross can be found here. And it gets better: boobies, mockingbirds, doves - the list of feathered friends you can make here goes on and on.

Isla Floreana 

Green beaches? Check. One of the most remote post boxes in the world? Check. Mega-wildlife-watching opportunities? Check. Isla Floreana has long been considered a highlight of the archipelago, where passing ships used to stop to collect mail from the wooden barrel postbox in the 18th century. 

Isla Santa Cruz 

Discover the secrets of the Galapagos that inspired the Theory of Evolution at the Charles Darwin Research Station and meet the island’s famous giant tortoises.

Isla Rabida 

This patchwork quilt of various volcanic landscapes is home to a brackish lagoon boasting a star-studded shoreline of wildlife: flamingos teeter at the water’s edge, pelicans chatter in the bushes and further out to sea, boobies plummet torpedo-like into the deep.

Isla North Seymour 

The rocky coastline of Seymour provides shelter to the region’s largest colony of frigate birds and blue-footed boobies, where treks through the cliffs bring you in close proximity to the nesting areas.

Isla San Cristobal 

Brimming with remarkable wildlife and landscapes, this is also a prime spot to view the ‘booby two-step’, the captivating dance performed by blue-footed boobies in the throes of courtship.

Isla Isabela

Surrounded by enticing turquoise waters, Isabela is the biggest island in the archipelago, and home to the largest tortoise population in the Galapagos. Here, you can hike volcanic landscapes and view convict-built remnants. 

Isla Genovesa 

A twitcher’s paradise, Genovesa is home to the full hat-trick of boobies, with masked, blue-footed and the rare red-footed all inhabiting this remote island.

Isla Bartolome 

The youngster of the archipelago, this island boasts an erratic volcanic landscape not matched anywhere else on Earth. A huge draw card is the iconic Pinnacle Rock, with views from the top to rival any you’ve seen before. And lucky snorkellers might even get to spot the Galapagos penguins! 

Isla Baltra 

Gateway to the Galapagos, and home to the main airport, Baltra is used as a launching pad when travelling to other islands in the region. This is a great location to spot iguanas strolling along the main street or sometimes even crossing the runway of the local airport.

 

FAQs

Is tipping customary in the Galapagos Islands?

If you have enjoyed the services provided by your guide and crew, a tip will be very much appreciated. As a guideline USD 10-15 per passenger, per day, is standard for the crew, and USD 7-10 per day for your guide. Tips can be left in envelopes in your cabin on the last day of your journey. Some restaurants on the islands may already include a 10% service charge in the bill, in which case an extra tip isn't required. At places that don't include a service charge, feel free to round up the bill or leave some spare change.

What is the internet access like in the Galapagos Islands?

There are reliable internet cafes on Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) and Puerto Baquerizo (San Cristóbal Island). Some hotels and restaurants on other islands will have Wi-Fi connection, but don't count on it.

 

Can I use my mobile/cell phone while in the Galapagos Islands?

There is good mobile phone reception on the larger islands, but don't expect it when at sea. The best local telephone companies are Porta and Movistar. Ensure you have global roaming activated before leaving home if you wish to use your mobile phone.

What are the toilets like in the Galapagos Islands?

Toilets on boats and in Galapagos Island towns are generally of the Western and flushable variety, though you might have to deal with pit/squat toilets in rural areas. When on land, it's a good idea to carry your own supply of toilet paper and soap, as these aren't always supplied.

 

What will it cost for a...?

Soft drink = USD 2 

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant = USD 5

Meal at a mid-range restaurant = USD 30

Can I drink the water in the Galapagos Islands?

Tap water in the Galapagos Islands is not safe to drink. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, bring water purification tablets or ask your leader where filtered water can be found.

Are credit cards accepted widely in the Galapagos Islands?

No, not widely. There are a handful of shops on Santa Cruz that may accept payments from major credit cards, but it is preferable to have cash on hand.

What is ATM access like in the Galapagos Islands?

The Puerto Ayora bank on Santa Cruz Island and Puerto Baquerizo bank on San Cristóbal have ATMs. The Banco del PacÃfico, on both islands, is open Monday to Friday 08:00 to 15:30, Saturday's 09:30 to 12:30. It is best to withdraw your money on the mainland, however, in case these are out of order.