Galapagos Islands

Think wildlife destinations and you will almost always include the Galapagos Islands. But what are they really all about and are they really as great as we imagine them to be?

What most of us know about the Galapagos Islands on first blush is that Charles Darwin visited them and created our modern understanding of evolution as result of what he observed and learned here. If you saw the movie Master and Commander with Russell Crowe you’ll have seen that the islands are remote and quite dry looking. And that is probably about it unless you are a more serious naturalist or birder.

The islands are remote, about 1000 km from the South American mainland. They are rocky, being formed from the outcropping of vast underwater volcanoes. The Galapagos Islands are equatorial and so quite hot, but the ocean currents that flow here start in Antarctica and keep the islands dry as opposed to humid. They also provide a habitat for incredible sea life since each island is slightly different and being remote have maintained indigenous species that have evolved over of thousands of years without cross fertilization from any other biological regions. And that’s the reason that most people want to see the Galapagos. The animals are basically wild and unchanged from the time of Darwin (and longer) and so run, crawl and fly all over the place in abundance. They are remarkably unafraid of humans.

There’s lot’s of great surprises to discover and trips to visit the Galapagos Islands vary in three general types: small passenger yachts up to 20 people (most are 16), larger ships from 30 up to just over 100 passengers, and island hopper trips. The cruises, big and small, must all be licensed and each follows a prescribed route and sequence with a frequency that maintains control over visitor impacts. All ships disembark on various islands and tour with licensed naturalists.

Island hopper tours are quite different. These tours use small aircraft and “water taxis” that take visitors to and from islands. Visitors stay on islands as opposed to sleeping on the cruise ships. Most islands are not settled by people, but there are a few which were colonized by fisherman and their families before the islands became a “destination”. Today there’s still fishing though a lot of the people now work as crew and guides on the cruises.

We sell all types of cruises and island hopper programs. There are ships available in all price ranges – prices rise with quieter, more spacious, comfortable and new ships. Island hopper tours are all pre-planned and prepaid and can be scaled to most budgets and time frames. Generally, island hoppers are about a third the cost of full 7 day yacht cruises. They are entirely flexible and you can do lots of day tripping, hiking and a real bonus, we can set up a dive tour. This type of program can be a Tiny Tour if you are travelling as a family or with friends.

You can also get us to mix and match cruise trips and island stays and trips can be as short as 4 or 5 days up to 14 days. Please contact us to talk about what will be the best option for you. In the meantime, here are some videos of some recommended cruises to give you ideas to start dreaming. And yes, the islands are as great as you imagine they are.

Images and videos courtesy of Intrepid.

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