Located over 500 miles from the Ecuadorian mainland there’s a bunch of isolated volcanic islands home to biodiversity that’s unlike anywhere else in the world. Their name? The epic Galapagos Islands, of course.
Giant tortoises, sea lions, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies are just some of the amazing species visitors run into on a daily basis on our Galapagos tours. There are many ways you can explore the islands, but if you want to get the most authentic and in-depth Galapagos experience, the secret is island hopping (particularly if you go on this 8-day trip). Here, we have seven reasons why:
Meet and learn from the locals
No one knows a place better than the people who live there year-round. And the locals here spend each and every day in an amazing National Park. Not only are they friendly and proud to show off their home to visitors, but they also have the best insider tips. For instance, years ago on Santa Cruz I remember having no idea where to go to find sea turtles when a local pointed me down a long dirt road and through a thicket of mangroves. I didn’t realize how lucky I was until I dove into the water there and was surrounded by grazing sea turtles… and not a single other human.
Variety of wildlife
We always refer to the Galapagos as one destination, one unit. What many people fail to realize though is that there are 18 (yes, 18!) independent and unique islands. In fact, certain wildlife can only be found on specific islands. The Galapagos penguin only lives on Fernandina and Isabela; red-footed boobies are most prevalent on Genovesa; even Floreana has an endangered mockingbird named after it. As such it is pretty obvious that if you choose to see only a couple of islands, you could be missing out on a great deal of fantastic wildlife.
We dare you to find anywhere else that can make learning and conservation this much fun. With so much engaging wildlife it’s easy to get both children and adults alike invested and interested in the future of these creatures. Take the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz, for instance. Here, visitors can learn how the giant tortoises are protected and see every life stage from hatchling to 100 year old behemoth. And I can personally guarantee that once you’ve seen a sea lion rescued from a tangle of trash, you will be the first to volunteer for the next recycling or highway cleanup event.
As you already know, one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a destination is to try the local dishes. The Galapagos is no different. Dive into a dish of seasoned chicken and rice or sample some freshly made ceviche. Local breakfasts offer a variety of fresh fruit and yummy friend plantains. Oh, and did I mention my personal favorite, the exotic-flavored soft serve ice cream (pineapple, guava, and mango)? Of course, the seafood here is especially fresh and even better, quite inexpensive. So grab a fork and an $8 lobster tail and dig in.
This one really is a given. Sure you can visit a beach from a big ship but with such limited time ashore you’d probably rather been snorkeling with sea lions or tracking down giant tortoises. When you island hop though, you have the chance to spend a few hours each day simply basking in the sun or relaxing in the cool waters. Tortuga Bay is a personal favorite with sprawling white sand and perfect curling waves. You can even rent kayaks for a quick paddle out amongst the reef shark breeding grounds. And if you prefer to try your hand at surfing, Puerto Villamil on Isabela is gorgeous spot to catch some waves.
Avoid the crowds
Island hopping means it’s a lot easier to find that one-on-one wildlife experience you’ve been searching for. You simply have time to walk the beaches, dive in the coves, and hike the lava fields without worrying about running into more than a couple of people. Even better, if you do it on a small group tour you’ll have both a group of like-minded friends and an array of cool adventures to experience with them. Want examples? Well, try taking a boat out into the Pacific and having the best kayak of your life, snorkeling in the exceptionally marine-filled waters of Kicker Rock, or embarking on some unbelievable hikes (one of the hikes on Intrepid’s trip lasts a cool 7 hours!).
Value for money
If you weren’t aware, Ecuador is cheap. We are talking thirty cents for a soda cheap. But islands tend to be more expensive considering the cost of getting supplies there. But providing you spend some time on the mainland (and why wouldn’t you – there’s so much to do), the costs will basically balance themselves out. Also, if you do go on a small tour then a good proportion of your meals are included, meaning more time to spend with the islands’ incredible, life-changing wildlife and scenery.
Can’t think of anything better than island hopping in the Galapagos? Fulfill your dreams on this 8-day trip.
Image Credits: All c/o Intrepid Travel (except hero image c/o iStock)