"There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties ... The lower animals, like man, experience manifest pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering" (Charles Darwin)
Le Galapagos islands I am a dream, one of the places in the world that amazed and amazed me more than any other. Here you have the opportunity to live in an upside-down world, utopian today, where animals and plants are the masters and we are guests, paparazzi wandering around the islands.
I will tell you more, the Galapagos are also one of the places in the world where I have felt the happiest and most free in my life (if you have followed my stories on Instagram I think you understand enough ..). I also struggle to explain it, but that's the way it is. When I was there, I was completely absorbed by the beauty of everything around me, I walked laughing 24 hours a day and, as a great lover of animals that I am, I believe that there are very few places in the world that are equally fascinating. In the Galapagos I really felt in harmony with nature like never before! But I don't want to bore you with my sentimentality, the journey is unfortunately over and I want to give you all the information and all the tools to organize it in total autonomy as always.
Pills of history and geography
Le Galapagos islands are a archipelago of thirteen volcanic islands (7 major and 6 minor) located in the Pacific Ocean, about 1.000 kilometers from the South American coast, e they belong to Ecuador. The islands are distributed around the equator, which runs right across the island of Isabela. The Galapagos were first discovered by "mistake" in 1536 by a bishop of Panama while sailing between Panama and Peru, but they first appeared on a map only in 1570. During the 3 centuries following their discovery, the Galapagos were only used as a base by buccaneers, fishermen and whalers ; the first resident of the islands was an Irishman in 1807.
The most famous visitor is of course Charles Darwin, who arrived there with the Beagle in 1835 and he stopped for a little over a month noting everything he saw (and which then allowed him to formulate and publish the famous essay “The origin of the species” many years later). 97% of the archipelago officially became a National Park in 1959 and organized tourism began (very quietly) only towards the end of the 60s and has increased exponentially in the last 10 years. Suffice it to say that from the 60000 visitors a year in the early 90s, now we are already almost 250000 !!
The relative isolation of the Galapagos and the wide variety of climates and habitats due to the sea currents in the area have led to the evolution of numerous endemic species of animals and plants (species that are therefore not found anywhere else in the world) and more than 50% of them are currently threatened or threatened with extinction due to climate change and environmental exploitation. Let's meditate people!
Why go to the Galapagos
I think why to go can already be understood from what has been written so far. The Galapagos Islands are a decidedly atypical and unique tropical paradise; they are not similar to anything else, there is no lush vegetation in Hawaii or the Bahamas, but there are a number of landscapes (often lunar), plants and animals that you have never seen in your life and that you cannot never see anywhere else. The fact of being able to be so close to animals, di walking escorted by giant turtles or swimming with sea lions, iguanas, sea turtles and sharks is really priceless for me. Last but not least, my personal concern (because human beings never learn from their mistakes) is that tourism will increase too much in the next few years and it will be difficult to keep this paradise intact and protected. It follows that I advise you to go there as soon as possible, naturally choosing a form of responsible and sustainable tourism.
When to go to the Galapagos Islands: is there an optimal period?
Let's start by saying that there is no month or period to avoid, but there are a few things to keep in mind. To the Galapagos there are 2 seasons:
1) The hot and humid season (January to May): in these months it is warmer (25 ° -30 ° the maximum), there is more sun, but the islands are crossed by short and strong showers. The hottest month is March, with air temperatures exceeding 31 ° and water temperatures hovering around 25 °.
2) The cold and dry season (June to December): in these months the temperature is lower (about 22 °) and there are often drizzles on the internal plateaus, especially in Santa Cruz. The water temperature is much colder (around 18-20 °) due to the Humbolt current. The latter also determines the movement of the sea, which is decidedly more wavy and rough. This is also a favorite season for scuba divers as the colder water can see more marine life. In September, the little sea lions are born.
THEhigh season tourist coincides with the period from December to April and in the months of July and August.
How to reach them, where to fly
The Galapagos can only be reached by plane flying from Guayaquil or Quito. There are 3 companies that fly to the Galapagos, to Santa Cruz (Baltra airport) or to San Cristobal, and they are the Tame, Avianca and the LAN. The prices are more or less the same. There are usually at least 2 connections a day between the mainland and both islands and the flight takes just under 2 hours.
Health insurance is required
In Ecuador our health coverage is not valid. My advice is to always take a classic medical-luggage insurance that can cover you during the trip. I am very happy with many insurance companies, a site that compares the policies of different companies and proposes the most convenient policy for that particular trip. To do this you will have to enter the data relating to your trip (country, duration, etc.) and they will send you an email with the best proposal that you can then buy directly online.
How to move between the islands
To move from one island to another there are connections made by different companies with gods large motorboats for about 30 people. There are 2 connections per day between Santa Cruz and Isabela and between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, at 7 am and 2 pm (to both islands). They take about 2h-2h 30 'depending on the sea conditions. However, there is no direct connection between Isabela and San Cristobal then you will be forced to go through Santa Cruz; in this case the only thing to do is to take the first speedboat of the morning from Isabela (at 6) and then wait until 2 pm in Santa Cruz to take the other one to reach San Cristobal (in fact you lose a day!) . Each route costs $ 30 and it is best to book it at least 1 day in advance.
There are 2 companies, the Emetebe and Fly Galapagos which offer daily flights between the 3 main islands. These are small 5-seat aircraft and the cost is around $ 150 each way. And if your baggage exceeds 11 kg (which is very likely) you will also have to pay an extra.
How to visit the Galapagos? Better a cruise or island hopping?
The two most common ways to visit the archipelago are cruises or what is called island hopping, or jumping from one island to another while always sleeping on the ground. There is no better way than another, but there are certainly advantages and disadvantages related to both modes, in addition to the discussion on sustainability (which I will discuss in a separate paragraph that you will find below).
Currently there are nearly 100 boats carrying 4 to about 100 passengers one, from the most spartan ones to the super luxury ones or even those dedicated to diving. Most carry 20 passengers plus crew. Cruises last normally from a minimum of 3 days up to 3 weeks; let's say that to make sense it should last at least 5 days.
Cruises have more or less fixed itineraries: there is one that covers the islands to the south (San Cristobal, Santa Fe, Espanola and Floreana), one for the islands to the north (Santiago, Bartolome, Genovesa, Rabid and Nord Seymour) and one that covers Isabela and Fernandina. In the choice, in addition to the budget, you must keep in mind that you will need more days if you want to reach the more distant islands (such as Genovesa for example). The itineraries have been regulated since 2012 to avoid “overcrowded areas” in some islands. Furthermore, by law all cruises should have a certified naturalistic guide on board (the most qualified guides are those of "category III"), but in reality this is not always the case.
- you can also reach the most distant islands that cannot be reached in any other way
- the costs are higher than island hopping
- it is not feasible for those who suffer from the sea (like myself)
- all times are marked by the program and there is no room for freedom during the day
Island hopping: you base yourself on the islands by sleeping on the ground
Island hopping can be managed and organized independently (as I did) or you can rely on an agency that organizes the itinerary, daily tours and book transfers and accommodation facilities. The inhabited islands of the Galapagos, therefore the only ones where you can sleep, are only 4: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana. There are daily connections among the top 3, while for Floreana there are not always (and there are only a couple of places to sleep / eat here). Visiting the islands in this way naturally allows you to be much more free and flexible in deciding where to go and what to see and, above all, to get in touch with the local population.
- freedom of movement and maximum flexibility
- you come into contact with the local population
- you do not suffer from the sea
- you spend less
- with the daily tours you can only reach a certain number of islands, the closest ones
How much is spent in the Galapagos? They are not cheap but there are some tricks to save
A trip to the Galapagos Islands is far from cheap, but there are several ways to cut costs significantly.
The local currency is the dollar, as in the rest of Ecuador, and normally only small denominations are used (up to a maximum of 20 dollars).
The entrance fees. The entrance fee to enter the Galapagos is dollars 100 and you pay it in cash as soon as you land in Santa Cruz or San Cristobal. This tax is in fact the ticket to enter the National Park. To these you will have to add $ 20 as a transit fee to be paid before checking in at Guayquil or Quito airport. Finally, if you decide to set foot on the island of Isabela you will have to pay others dollars 10 (directly upon arrival on the island).
The flight. To reach the Galapagos you can fly either from Guayaquil or Quito (making a stopover in Guayaquil anyway). The minimum price for a return flight from Guayaquil is approx dollars 400 and from Quito about 500 dollars.
How much does a cruise cost and how to save
The cheapest cruises can be found at a lower price by booking them directly in Puerto Ayora or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. If you are hoping to find a more beautiful and luxurious ship at a lower price once you arrive in the Galapagos you are wrong because unfortunately it doesn't work that way. For the latter, you should book directly from Spain before leaving because there are no last minute offers. The indicative costs of the cruises are these:
- Tourist class ship: $ 450- $ 550 per person per day
- First class ship: $ 550-750 per person per day
- Luxury ship: from $ 750 upwards, per day per person
- Ship dedicated to diving (4/5 dives per day): from 4000 to 6000 dollars per person for 1 week. These ships are few (there are only 6) and are booked even 6 months in advance
How much does it cost to sleep, eat, tour ..
The cost of living in the Galapagos is roughly double the cost of living in mainland Ecuador (which in itself isn't that cheap). On the 2 most inhabited islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal, the tourist offer is now very varied and ranges fromhostel (a bed in a dormitory costs about 10-15 dollars per night) all’luxury hotel ($ 200 and more per night). The same goes for eating; the average price of a meal is around 10-15 dollars, but there are also small minimarkets where you can eat for a few dollars. Unfortunately, however, you cannot save on cost of tours which hovers between $ 50-60 for half day tour, To $ 100-150 for a day tour with or without snorkeling / diving. All tours usually include equipment, lunch, and drinks.
Where to sleep in the Galapagos
In the Galapagos, the offer of accommodation is not as narrow as one might think, especially in Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. They range from a few dollars a night hostels to luxury hotels (few). I slept both in luxury (in Santa Cruz) and in medium hotels (in Isabela and San Cristobal), in particular in these:
- Royal Palm Galapagos (Santa Cruz) : if you are looking for true luxury, relaxation and discretion, the Royal Palm Galapagos is the place for you. There are different types of accommodation, from deluxe rooms up to the independent villa of 100 square meters, and they are all completely immersed in nature. There is a swimming pool, spa and restaurant where a superb breakfast is served (as well as lunch and dinner). The staff are incredibly nice. Here you will find the complete list of the facilities located in Santa Cruz
- Albemarle Hotel (Isabela) : the Albemarle Hotel is located right in front of the beach, in the center of Puerto Villarmil, the main town of the island. It is a small hotel with a nice terrace, a small garden and a swimming pool. The rooms are large and very nice, especially the sea view ones. The breakfast is excellent and the staff is very kind.Here you will find the complete list of the facilities that are located in Isabela
- Hostal Cattleya (San Cristobal) : this small hotel is located in the center of Puerto Baquerizo, the main town of San Cristobal. It is a stone's throw from the lot where the boats leave and arrive for Santa Cruz, it has a beautiful terrace and a large common room where an excellent breakfast prepared by the very kind owner is served. At the Hostal Cattleya you can breathe an air of home. Here too, the owners are exquisite. Here you will find the complete list of the facilities located in San Cristobal
My itinerary in the Galapagos between the islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal
My trip to the Galapagos was part of a longer trip, a 1 month trip, in which I was both in Peru and Ecuador. Not having much time, I was able to dedicate only 8 days to the view of the Galapagos, but in my opinion they are more than enough to fully appreciate this paradise. As you can see, I arrived in Santa Cruz and left from San Cristobal and this saved me some time. In case you have fewer days and you still want to have a taste of the islands, I would recommend you to go only to San Cristobal, it is the island that I liked the most and that allows you to do more things independently, without having to participate necessarily. to tours.
- Flight from Guayaquil to Santa Cruz
- Santa Cruz
- Transfer to Isabela
- Transfer to San Cristobal (via Santa Cruz)
- San Cristobal
- San Cristobal
- I fly from San Cristobal to Guayaquil
The rules to follow
The Galapagos Islands were declared a National Park in 1959 and for this reason some rules must be respected (which are actually common sense rules). The rules to be respected are these
- Do not feed the animals
- Do not get too close to the animals (they must be at least 2-3 meters away)
- Do not touch animals or plants (and this is especially important for some species, such as sea lions - if you touch the cubs, the mother will no longer recognize the baby's smell!)
- Do not take away any natural objects (living or not ... starting from corals, shells, etc.)
- Do not leave the marked paths
- Do not bring pets to the islands
- Don't buy items made with plants or animals
- Don't leave litter around (of course!)
What to bring
- Photographic camera (possibly with a serious zoom)
- GoPro or similar to take underwater photos / filming (can also be rented for 20 doll / day)
- High sun protection (minimum 50, remember we are at the equator!)
- Rock shoes (the rocks are of lava origin therefore very sharp)
- Mask and snorkel (but can be rented and are often included in tours)
- Trekking shoes
- Light wetsuit (even just a thermal diving shirt)
- Seasickness pills
- Basic Medicine
- Enough cash (there are only 2 ATMs in Santa Cruz and 2 in San Cristobal - no ATMs in Isabela)
- Water bottle
- Adapter with American socket (the one with the 2 blades)