So you’ve decided that a cruise boat, rather than a hotel stay or island-hopping, is the best way to see a great variety of Galapagos wildlife with the minimum of fuss. Itineraries range from 4 to 15 days, visiting 4-15 islands (more or less!) and almost everything is included.
Now, whatever your budget range, there will be at least half a dozen options. Prices roughly correspond with boat size, because spacious cabins allow for queen/king beds, large sundecks allow for a jacuzzi, and it is preferable to have separate dining, bar and lounge areas.
The vast majority of boats can accommodate 16 passengers, though on most cruises the actual number on board is less. The standard of service provided by the crew, and especially the guide which leads tours on land, is universally high — but can vary markedly.
When is the perfect time for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands?
If your tolerance for humidity (or rainfall) is low, both are lowest from May to December. From January to May, average temperatures are higher. Optimal water temps can be enjoyed around April, though wetsuits are widely available for rent.
However, since the principal reason to visit the Galapagos is its abundant wildlife, we took the time to make a nice infographic about mating/migration seasons for the spectrum of species found on the Islands. You can find it on our infographics page.
January: Giant tortoise eggs are hatching. The future is especially bright for these Galapagos giants since rats were practically eradicated from the Islands in a comprehensive poisoning program in 2012. Meanwhile, Green Sea turtles come onshore to begin laying their eggs — usually at night. This activity peaks in February and lasts until June.
There are three dimensions to the fascinating wildlife of the Galapagos: land, air and sea. Though many creatures are comfortable in more than one (even all three!), the vast majority of species reside exclusively below sea level.
So to get the most out of a Galapagos trip, we recommend bringing a dive mask. Maybe you already own one, or can pick one out in your local dive shop. This is preferable to a used mask which may not fit exactly. A new snorkel might also be a good idea, though fins (which are heavier) can be rented. In fact, fins are entirely optional.
After a short orientation from your tour/cruise guide, you’re all set to explore the first few meters of the Galapagos underworld. If no wetsuits are provided and you find the water chilly, a tight-fitting shirt/vest and cycling shorts are usually enough…
It isn’t only the abundant wildlife that makes Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands totally unique.
Arriving at opposite sides of the same island (there are roughly 20 in total) can be like landing on different planets. You can even start climbing directly from some beaches to elevations of several thousand feet.
That’s because the Galapagos Islands are all relatively recent volcanic creations, between 2-5 million years old. The most geologically active are Isabela (the largest) and Fernandina, pictured left. They are also the most westerly (and thus youngest) islands.
The Galapagos boast the highest concentration of active volcanoes on earth. The most recent eruption of Wolf volcano (see top of picture) in 2015 was preceded by eruptions of Fernandina in 2009, Cerro Azul in 2008, Sierra Negra in 2005 and Alcedo in 1993.