For those seeking interaction with a variety of ecosystems, endemic species, and geological and volcanic wonders, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador is a destination both uniquely gorgeous and historical in nature. Distributed around the equator, these islands are part of a national park and biological marine reserve comprised of a complex system of ocean currents that travel through 15 major islands, 3 smaller islands and 107 islets and rock formations.
The best way to experience the Galapagos Islands is with a luxury cruise. Travel experts agree that a cruise offers the convenience of viewing a variety of terrains and small land masses and is a favorite means of transportation for those wishing to photograph or dive in the Galapagos.
What to Expect
For safety reasons and to enhance your cruise experience, avoid the Galapagos area in September as the waters are very rough. Not only will this increase the chance of seasickness, but it also prevents you from being able to dive.
In order to dive in the Galapagos, travelers must be certified and experienced in diving. Currents can make diving dangerous, especially the South Equatorial Current in the eastern and central islands, the North Equatorial Current in the northern islands, and the Cromwell Current in western and central islands. If you are certified and plan to dive, be sure to bring a high-quality underwater camera so you can capture the unique underwater wildlife of the Islands.
Speaking of photography, the area itself is a very casual destination and photographers of all skill levels find themselves thrilled with the extensive photo opportunities. Animals in the Galapagos area are curious and people-friendly, so it is easy to capture incredible photos.
Spanish is the primary language spoken on inhabited Galapagos Islands. While there are no indigenous people, the islands are inhabited primarily by Ecuadorian Mestizos, descendents of Spanish colonists and indigenous Native Americans from Ecuador. The population has increased from around 2,000 in the 1950’s to around 25,000 people located over five islands today.
Galapagos Islands Cruise Itineraries
Cruise itineraries to the Galapagos Islands can vary from 3 – 12 days, depending on your budget and how much you want to see. The islands that appear on your cruise itinerary may depend on the National Park Service, but a tour of the Galapagos Islands often includes:
Bartolome – Bartolome Island is a volcanic islet off the coast of Santiago and boasts mangrove forests and golden sands. This island is one of the few that is home to the Galapagos penguins, the only penguins to live on the equator and is also a great place to snorkel.
Santiago – The first island discovered in the Caribbean by Columbus, Santiago is the home of sea and land turtles, flamingos and many other birds, and sea creatures such as the Galapagos fur seals.
Santa Cruz – Hosting the largest human population, Santa Cruz is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, and visitors are welcome to view the giant wild tortoises in the mossy highlands.
Isabela – Named in honor of Queen Isabella, this seahorse shaped island offers beautiful beaches, saltwater lagoons, and caves. The equator runs across the island and Puerto Villamil is located at the southeastern tip of the island.
Fernandina – The youngest and westernmost island in the Galapagos, this area offers an iguana haven and views of volcanoes.
Floreana – Enjoy snorkeling with sea lions in crystal waters off Champion Islet and stroll the white sands beaches to see sea turtles, flamingos, and a variety of other shore birds.
Espanola – The oldest island in the Galapagos, Espnola is very remote which means it has a large number of endemic species including the lava lizard, mockingbird, and tortoise.April through December offers the chance to see waved albatross and colorful iguanas. This island is home to Darwin’s finches, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies.
Where ever you go in the Galapagos Islands, this once-in-a-lifetime luxury cruise will surely me one of your most memorable vacations ever.