Galapagos Travel advice
I have vivid memories of my trip to the Galápagos Islands on a 16-person boat. Being on a smaller craft means you can visit some of the smaller islands that the larger vessels can’t get to, and getting on and off the islands is a faster process. The downside is the boat pitching and tossing on the choppy water.
But no amount of mal de mer can detract from the exhilaration of swimming with turtles, or having a lonesome seal pup fall asleep on your shoes, witnessing the ritual mating dance of a pair of albatrosses, or the comical preening of the frigate birds proudly displaying their fine red breasts and impressive nests.
Possibly the most unexpected experience is the unholy stench of the seal colonies. The only thing that can drive it away from the olfactory memory is a glass of canelazo, a hot drink of rum, cinnamon, cloves, orange and lime; guaranteed to clear the nasal passages and soothe you into a gentle slumber, no matter how rough the waters outside.
Gill Whitelegg, London
Once in a lifetime
The Galápagos is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The diversity and uniqueness of the birds, animals and the islands themselves make it an unforgettable experience and, as such, getting the trip right makes a big difference. There are many options to choose from when selecting your cruise boat; quite a few of these offer four and seven- night trips. If you are planning to go for at least seven nights ensure that you select a boat which offers an itinerary of at least seven nights’ duration. The cruises that offer only four-night packages involve having to return either to Baltra or San Cristobal to drop off and pick up passengers. Because of the distances between the islands the itinerary will inevitably be more limited, and these boats will travel to fewer islands.
Due to the restrictions placed on the number of people allowed on the islands at any one time, selecting a smaller boat will minimise the waiting time, as numbers are staggered into smaller groups in separate small pangas taking you to shore.
The whole experience of visiting the Galápagos is awesome – don’t miss out on any of it. If you don’t snorkel, learn before you go. Not giving yourself the pleasure of snorkelling with seals, penguins, rays and much more is something you will regret forever.
Andrew Lewinski, London
Equator sing song
A visit to the Galápagos Islands is a unique experience. It is expensive so it is important that you plan well and make the best use of your time there. The islands lie on the Equator which you will cross at least once on your cruise. We crossed on January 25 – Robert Burns’ birthday – and so held a Burns supper on the boat that evening. As we sang Auld Lang Syne at the end of the supper our guide told us that every boat he had been on sang this as they crossed the line but this was the first boat to have had an evening of songs and poetry in the lead up to the crossing.
We visited the islands at 6am each morning and although there were other vessels around we basically had each island area to ourselves. This was the best way to appreciate the remoteness and uniqueness of the archipelago before the crowds descended and left us to enjoy the sea life including sea lions, dolphins and killer whales from the boat deck in the afternoon. We also went snorkelling and sunbathing from sandy beaches.
Marilyn Orcharton, Glasgow
Small is best
Having been extremely fortunate to have visited the Galápagos twice I would recommend the following: go on a smaller boat as this gives access to areas not available to larger ships; research your itinerary so that you get to see what you consider essential; for those of us who prefer not to fly from Heathrow, KLM offer a good variety of flights from provincial airports via Amsterdam; a seven-night cruise should be the minimum you allow for your visit; if you are short of time consider Guayaquil as a base, it is closer to the islands and is at sea level; a trip to a jungle camp on the Amazon is a must do on any Ecuadorean holiday.
Iain Harper, via email
If you are travelling on a budget, spend your days camping on the islands, and only use boats for travelling from one island to another, as the residential cruise prices are high. The highlands of Santa Cruz have cheap camping facilities and offer special views.
Elizabeth Ferguson, Newcastle
My tip for the Galápagos Islands would be to go diving at Gordon Rocks. It is a volcanic crater that allows you to get up close and personal with rays and sharks.
Kayleigh White, via email
Here are my top 10 tips for visiting the Galápagos. Book a small boat with a natural history guide; learn to snorkel before you go; buy a wildlife guide; take plenty of memory cards and wide-angle lenses (the wildlife is incredibly close); go outside at night (there’s no light pollution); leave a freepost postcard on Floreana (there’s a post office with a difference on the island of Floreana. It’s a barrel in which you put your postcard and visitors sift through and take postcards for addresses near where they live that they can hand-deliver). We left one for our parents, which was delivered a few weeks later, albeit with a British stamp on it. Get up close and personal with the giant tortoises; don’t forget the insect repellent; find out about the tipping procedure; join the Galápagos Conservation Trust.
Kate Smith, Cambs
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More on the Galápagos
The Galápagos Islands: Trip of a Lifetime
A graceful turn in the Galapagos
The Galápagos Islands: Darwin’s inspiration