Most people have heard about the mind-blowing display of incredible animals and fauna that live on the Galapagos Islands. Some of which, after a five-week visit in 1835, inspired Charles Darwins’ On The Origin Of Species. By now, most have probably heard the amazing stories or have seen pictures of the sea lions and sharks drifting through clear seas, or the ancient giant tortoises gently chomping their way through green fields.
The Galapagos’ outstanding reputation as a bucket list holiday destination really does precede it. However, the biggest concern for most intrepid travellers are two fold, the cost of the vacation and the amount of time it takes to get there. All of these concerns can be alleviated if you embark on a group tour of the islands, where expert local knowledge is provided alongside a motivated group of like-minded travellers.
I didn’t know that
- Over 97% of the islands are national parks.
- The Galapagos Islands are home to active volcanos. The last eruption took place in 2018
- It’s the only location in the Northern Hemisphere where are able to see penguins in their natural habitat. The Galapagos penguin is the second smallest penguin on the planet
- Due to the all year round climate you can visit any time of the year.
- The famous Galapagos giant tortoise can live for well over 100 years
- Charles Darwin Stepped foot on the Island in 1835
- The first settlers to the Islands were the Spanish in 1535
- It is not permitted to move to the islands, However, the total population is around 25,000 people. Most of which live in Santa Cruz.
Where are the Galapagos Islands?
The Galapagos Islands is a volcanic set of islands within the Pacific ocean. It is considered a mecca for wildlife viewing and photography. It forms part of the republic of Ecuador and it lies approximately 1000km off its coast
In total, the archipelago consists of 19 islands along with dozens of smaller island and rocks that take up a vast area of around 17,000 square miles (45,000 square kilometers) of the Pacific ocean. Thanks to the absence of natural predators, the wildlife on the Galapagos has no fear of humans, this ,means that the islands is one of the world’s greatest destination to visitGa
The best time to visit the islands
Due to it being on the Equator, the Islands are lucky enough to experience a stable climate all year round. However, there are 2 distinct sessions on Galapagos. Between December and May the temperature’s best described as hot. There is a combination of sun, warmth and rain, where afternoon showers are frequent. Average temperatures during this session are between 80 and 90 degrees
The second season is considered to be a little cooler and spans from June to November. Average temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees. Most fays tend to be cloudy, cool and dry.
Where to stay on the Galapagos Islands ?
The Galapagos only has 4 inhabited Islands, these are San Cristobal, Floreana, Isabella and the capital Santa Cruz. You are not permitted to stay on any other island.
In total there are over 200 locations to stay at so there is plenty to choose from. If you are looking for a bit of Luxury, then there are nearly 50 stat hotels. The Cas Playa Mann Galapagos and the Galapagos Eco friendly, both boast world class facilities and are highly rated on trip advisor. However, it is worth noting that even the lowest star rated accommodation is clean, tidy and perfectly acceptable for your stay.
The dishes are simple, light and fresh, combining the elements of Ecuadorian highland dishes with meat, potatoes and grains, along with coastal ingredients like yucca, fish and seafood. A local breakfast in the Galapagos Islands typically involves fried dumplings of green plantains (bolones) or fresh fruit.
#1 Explore the the incredible biodiversity
The Islands are full of diversity, and the majority of the birds, animals and fauna you will see are indigenous to the Galapagos. In fact, over 97% of the animals and reptiles you see will don’t live anywhere else on the planet. This is perfect for wildlife lovers and photographers who love nature. You will not be bored with the amount of islands that you can visit, but be prepared to have your bags searched when hopping around. The government are very keen to ensure that the fragile eco system is kept as sterile as possible.
On your travels don’t expect everywhere to look like a a tropical paradise, it is worth noting that many of the smaller islands are volcanic, rocky and stripped bare of any kind of vegetation you might have expected the animals to need. This is a unique and beautiful ecosystem; one that’s unlike any other in the world
#2 Enjoy the world famous coffee and chocolate
Chocolate and coffee is made differently on the Galapagos islands. On Santa Cruz, The coffee beans are meticulously hand selected and are slow-roasted on a farm. A typical coffee is roasted and sweet cereal and biscuit notes. Round, with some cacao-like bitterness and full body, this is a must for every coffee lover. It is quoted as saying that “The magic of the enchanted islands: its nature and its people in your cup”
There are many countries that claim that they produce the finest, highest quality, divine chocolate products. However, the Galapagos Islands actually do. It is widely regarded that one of the best chocolate suppliers in the world is Ecuador. Using Arriba Cacao, which is solely found in the South American country, you can make the finest dark chocolate in the world. And it is no surprise that the one place creating its own unique products is the isolated, beautiful Galapagos Islands. Upon wandering through the town of Santa Cruz, one of the four inhabited islands, you will discover a store that is known worldwide. This is Chocogalapagos
#3 Visit the Lava Tunnels
These impressive and awe inspiring underground tunnels are located southwest of the village of Santa Rosa. They are more than 1km in length and were formed when the outer skin of a molten-lava flow solidified. When the lava flow slowed down and eventually stopped, the molten lava inside the flow just kept going. This flow emptied out of the solidified skin and created this amazing tunnels. Because they are situated on private property, the tunnels are unable to be visited without an official guide. The tunnels have electrical lighting, but you can also hire flashlights and torches.
#4 Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station
The World renowned Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) is situated in the town of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island and is the administrative branch of the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF).
The facilities were opened in 1964 to allow scientists to use the station as a base for their research on the Galapagos Islands. They can then use this research to advise the management actions carried out by the Galapagos National Park Directorate
For years the CDRS has worked on restoration, conservation and sustainable development projects to ensure that the Islands are well-managed. Hundreds of scientists, educators and volunteers from across the globe have participated in this effort. Currently, the base staff is composed by more than 75% Ecuadorians and is committed with the professional training of the permanent residents of Galapagos.
Whilst you are there, if there’s one thing you have to see and learn more about in the Galapagos it’s the giant tortoises. The Giant Tortoise is unique to the island and can live for more than 100 years, weighing up to 420kgs.
See this project in action by visiting the research centre and see the important work that has been going on since Charles Darwin himself stepped foot on the Island in the 1800s.
Getting to the Galapagos Islands
Flights to the Galapagos Islands are departing multiple times each day both Quito or Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador.
Flights from the U.S. are frequent to both cities.