What's the best time of the year to visit the Galápagos?
This is the question prospective passengers ask us the most. Our answer is, "It doesn't matter when you go; what matters is how long you go for!" There's not much rain, and there's never been a tropical storm of any type in the Galápagos. While there are a couple of official "seasons," the differences are slight. Actually, Darwin said it all:
There are some differences in what you will see in the islands from month to month, but again, the differences in the qualitative experience are small (read more)
Why do I need to spend 11 days in the Galápagos?
Actually, a 2 week tour of the Galápagos Islands is recommended for maximum observation, photographic opportunities, and just plain enjoyment. But 11 days will work.
Basically, each island is different, with its own unique ecosystem and wildlife distribution. Not only are many species endemic to the Galápagos Islands, they are often endemic to a specific island. In other words, each island has plants and animals that you're not going to see on any other island. So, the more islands you visit, the more unique wildlife you're going to see. If you want to see the red-footed booby, you have to go to either Tower (Genovesa) Island or Punta Pitt on San Cristóbal Island. If you want to see the flightless cormorant, you have to go to Fernandina or Isabela Island. If you want to see the waved albatross, you have to go to Hood (Española) Island. And the list goes on.
What is a typical daily schedule like?
Well, first off, there is no "typical" day in nature - our schedule is purposely loose to allow us to take advantage of unusual animal encounters or conditions - flexibility is one of the advantages of a small group size. Some landings might warrant a 2 hour visit, while others are more suited to 4 or more hours. That said, your day on the yacht might look something like this:
5:45am • wake-up call
6:15am • breakfast
7:00am-10:00am • morning excursion (on occasion we might land as early as 6am depending on the location)
10:30-11:30am • snorkeling
12 noon • lunch
1:45-2:30pm • snorkeling, kayaking, or zodiac cruising possibly
3:00-6:00pm • afternoon excursion
6:15pm • Tour Leader's evening lecture
7:15pm • dinner
7:45pm • Naturalist Guide's briefing for tomorrow
The one sure thing is that our trips are active. It is your vacation, but we want to provide you with as many options as possible to allow you to see and experience the Galapagos as fully as you wish. On that note, be sure to also take the time to enjoy the stars from the top deck of the yacht - your guide will be happy to point out the Southern Cross or other equatorial constellations.
Is the trip strenuous?
A visit to the Galápagos is truly the trip of a lifetime, but it can be somewhat strenuous as well. The trails are about a mile to a mile and a half in length; many have uneven lava rock to traverse, others are hard packed dirt, and still others are merely a “walk on the beach”. One visitor site has some 400 stairs to the top, another is a slight boulder scramble for 100 yards, and one has a 30 foot lava “staircase” - with steps that range from 7-20 inches in height (although with a railing). We walk at a leisurely pace allowing you to both watch where you are walking, and stop and take in your surroundings.
Getting on the islands is via inflatable zodiac, stepping off the yacht down into the zodiac, and then upon landing either swinging your legs over the zodiac pontoon into the waterline for wet landings, or stepping from the zodiac pontoon to a dock or lava dock for a dry landing. Crew members are always there to assist on the zodiac transfers.
Optional snorkeling activities will typically be from the zodiacs, requiring participants be able to climb a short ladder into the zodiac when finished.
You should be in good physical condition to enjoy this trip to its fullest. Anyone is, however, free to opt out of a particular visit for any reason if they wish; remaining on the yacht and enjoying some rare quiet time.
I'm a birder. Is this the right trip for me?
Yes, and no. We are not operating a specialized birding tour in that we will not spend hours waiting out a single species. That said you could reasonably have every expectation of seeing all Galapagos endemics on our cruises (with the exception of the Mangrove Finch, which is basically impossible to see as there are no visitor sites near its limited range). Several birding companies charter our programs and vessel to operate as their specialized birding tours, with no changes to the routing..
13 species of Darwin's Finches
4 species of Mockingbird
Galapagos Rail (can be challenging to find)
2 species of gull: Lava & Swallow-tail
And that's just the endemics. There are also three booby species, two frigate species, two owl species, tropicbirds, noddies, pelicans, and so much more.
Do you have a Galapagos Reading list?
Yes! If you'd like to brush up on your Galapagos knowledge, whether to ID the wildlife, or learn about the geology, history or research, there is a book for you!
What If I'm Traveling Alone?
First, we do not have a Single Supplement Charge. For example, if you are a female and are willing to share a cabin with another female, you pay the standard Trip Cost. If it turns out that there isn't another single female on the trip, you get the cabin to yourself - again at the standard Trip Cost. Second, about half of our passengers are couples and half are singles. What is more important is that almost everyone has a common orientation - a serious interest in natural history. Singles should not be concerned about being "left out."
What if I'm not a photographer?
No problem. Once again, our trips are totally oriented to providing a comprehensive, professionally-led, natural history tour of the Galápagos Islands. Natural History and Photography are actually very compatible activities. For both interests we want to be ashore early in the morning, as well as late in the afternoon - this gives us the peak animal activity, in addition to the best lighting of the day. It is not unusual for us to be the first group ashore in the morning, and the last group to leave shore at the end of the day. Our slower pace (maybe 3 hours on a trail that other groups might do in 2 hours) also allows both more time to observe behavior as well as capture the photos you have dreamed of.
On the trails the Naturalist Guide is physically leading the group and identifying and interpreting the flora and fauna. The Tour Leader will traditionally "bring up the rear" quietly lingering behind a bit with photographers as needed (although by park regulations we do need to remain in one loose group with the guide). The Tour Leader might also offer very brief photo advice on angles, filters or exposure, as well as what are some of the "signature images" of the islands.
Photographers and non-photographers alike will get their get full value and enjoyment from our programs.
Is Sea Sickness a concern?
The Galápagos waters are at their calmest the first half of the year. Even during the latter half of the year few passengers will greatly suffer from the motion of the ocean. The south easterly currents arriving in the archipelago tend to be disrupted by the 13 major islands and 40-plus islets, creating just a few locations where you are likely to experience a stronger swell or rougher water. These locations are fairly predictable so that your guide can warn you in advance.
Most travelers will not need to take any precautions. Otherwise different things work for different people, with the 3 of us in the office placing our faith, and stomachs, in 3 different solutions should be encounter rough water (more likely in the southern ocean rather than Galapagos); Dramamine, Sea Bands pressure point wrist bands, or Ginger tea or candy.
For others, you might need something more. Fortunately, there have been some significant medical breakthroughs in the last few years with regard to motion sickness.
The Scopolamine "patch" has traditionally been the strongest and most effective way of dealing with motion sickness. It is available by prescription only, and does also come in a pill form – it is an anesthetic with a range of possible side-effects include drowsiness, dryness of the mouth, blurred vision, and disorientation. More recently developed is Promethazine (Phenargan), which now appears to be the drug of choice for many. It is a phenothiazine antihistamine, also by prescription only, with somewhat fewer side effects. Consult your physician about these or any other medications.
Is Travel Insurance available, suggested, required?
Trip Cancellation Insurance Coverage is strongly suggested, both to protect your investment in a tour, and also to safeguard yourself in the case of an accident while abroad. We recommend Allianz Global Assistance based on our past experience with them, on their competitively priced products, and seeing how they have dealt with the occasional passengers who have needed to file a claim. Insurance may be purchased anytime between 2 years and 24 hours prior to departure. Options include pre-existing condition coverage as well. Click the following link for more information.
What more can you tell me about the GALAPAGOS TRAVEL company history?
Barry Boyce, founder of GALAPAGOS TRAVEL, followed his personal passion for Natural History with a visit the Galapagos Islands in 1988.
Are there any reviews of GALAPAGOS TRAVEL workshops I can read?
Sure! We have gathered reviews, press, and a collection of past traveler's images and stories. We don't really fit the TripAdvisor review format, but you can read about us there too.