Trip to the Galapagos
The Galapagos is a trip of a lifetime that actually lives up to and surpasses expectations, and our 30 years of experience have allowed us to perfect the art of adventure travel to this remote corner of our world.
Simply put, it is the best place in the world to safely get up-close to, and even interact with, animals in the wild. That’s why it’s so important to avoid the common mistakes some travelers make in the planning stage that can result in anything less than a trip of a lifetime. Before you decide on the ideal trip for you, we would like to offer this guide past those pitfalls to maximize your enjoyment of the Galapagos and those amazing animal encounters.
Make Sure You Know Which Galapagos You Are Planning to Visit
97% of the land area and 100% of the maritime area of the Galapagos Islands is within the National Park. The only places not within the Park are the population centers where you will find the hotels. There are 70 terrestrial visitor sites and 75 marine visitor sites throughout the National Park where travelers are permitted to go ashore or go snorkeling to see animals up close in their natural habitat. The only way to access the great majority of these landing sites is on a live aboard vessel that takes you on a cruise through islands.
The only way to access the great majority of landing sites is on a live aboard vessel that takes you on a cruise through islands.
Only a hand full of landing sites are accessible from the hotels and this is mostly by day boat. All the hotels compete for spaces on the day boats as there are more hotel accommodations than there are spaces on the day boats because few boats that are permitted to go into the Park operate day trips. If you are lucky enough to get a day boat out into the National Park, you start your day by having to take a power boat ride to the landing site. These can be two hour rides each way. Not that pleasant and really a waste of your day.
In contrast, the permitted live aboard yachts arrive at your first landing site before you wake up and you’ll have the opportunity to go ashore and visit two different sites for up to 2 ½ hours each, along with snorkeling, kayaking and dinghy rides. Many yachts offer cabins, services and amenities equivalent to Galapagos hotels. The hotels are best for those who want to stay on after or arrive before their cruise for some diving or down time as well as families with toddlers too young to travel aboard the yachts.
The lesson here is that when you see a hotel package that seems too good to be true it is because you are likely to spend very little time within the Galapagos National Park seeing its animals. The hotels give you access to the port towns, which are small and can be fun, but they are not the key reason the Galapagos has become a premier destination.
Take Care Before You Book Your Air
The Galapagos is a destination where you are far better off working out what you want to do first, and then organizing your flights afterwards. If you are planning to take a cruise it is far better to work out your cruise dates and availability before you purchase your international tickets, and to let the cruise company purchase you tickets from the Ecuadorian mainland to the Galapagos for you. Doing so insures you arrive at the right airport in the Galapagos at the right time to make it to the start of your cruise.
Some Galapagos dates, like Christmas and Easter sell out years in advance, while other dates end up sold out well before departure.
Travelers booking their international flights—or flights all the way to the Galapagos—before they have worked out their plans in the islands first, run into a number of problems. Some Galapagos dates like Christmas and Easter sell out years in advance, while other dates end up sold out well before departure. Travelers who purchase flights before arranging their Galapagos stay may discover there is literally no room at the inn (or on the yacht). Another common error when booking flights first is to discover that it is hard to fit a cruise into the flights you have booked. The cruise dates or availability of cabins may not work. Another mistake some travelers make is to book flights in and out of Baltra Island airport in the Galapagos, only to discover that the cruise leaves from the Galapagos Islands’ other airport in San Cristobal.