Travel the Galapagos Islands by Land or Sea

Did you know that the Galapagos Islands were the first location in the world to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site?  This honor, bestowed in 1979, has not been taken lightly by the Ecuadorian government.  Strict rules for the protection of this unique environment ensure that this pristine wonderland remains unspoiled.

But how best to experience the islands?  There are options. One option is to take a cruise. Embarking on your journey from Guayaquil, Ecuador, you tour the archipelago on a 7 or 10 day cruise aboard one of National Geographic’s luxury, small ships.  You’ll be introduced to the islands and their diverse inhabitants by knowledgeable naturalists, most native to the islands, who will guide you as you snorkel, kayak and hike among the amazing wildlife (unfazed by visitors) and unique landscapes.  One of the advantages of this option is that your cruise ship will travel between islands during the night, so you wake up in an entirely new location and don’t waste time sailing between islands.  (A lot of folks would argue that sailing between islands is hardly a waste of time!  What could be more relaxing?)

The other option is to stay in a hotel on one of the more populated islands and take day trips aboard smaller boats to the less inhabited islands which are home to the diverse wildlife that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution.  The advantage of this type of trip is that it tends to be less expensive and you can travel at your own pace and set your own itinerary.  You’ll have more of a chance to meet local people, dine where the locals dine, and get the inside scoop on the best places to dive and snorkel that might not be accessible to a larger ship.  The disadvantage is that you may not encounter some of the species of animals found in the archipelago due to distance and time constraints.

Whichever option appeals to you the most, you won’t want to miss some highlights of a Galapagos experience. 

  • The West Islands highlights include visits to Fernandina and Isabela Islands.  On Fernandina Island visitor centers include Mangle Point and Espinosa Point where you’ll encounter the flightless cormorant, blue footed boobies, sea lions, fur seals and hawks.  This island is one of the youngest in the archipelago and has less vegetation.  Isabela Island is home to the giant tortoise and both land and marine iguanas.  The Sierra Negra Volcano is located here as are several coves and beaches like Puerto Villamil, Moreno Point and Elizabeth Bay.
  • The Southern Islands are generally better for snorkeling and diving, although there is also wildlife in abundance.  Gardner Bay on Espanola Island is noted for its beautiful white sand beach, and you don’t want to miss the blowhole at Suarez point where you’ll encounter albatross and other marine birds.
  • Snorkeling at Los Tuneles you’ll come across stunning angelfish, manta rays, sea turtles, and  sharks (friendly ones) in a labyrinth of lava tubes, the remains of lava flows from two of Isabela’s volcanoes.
  • Santa Cruz Island is the main tourist hub of the Galapagos.  You’ll find the Darwin Research Center here, a mangrove forest, and Tortuga Bay, home to the black sea turtle and all kinds of birds – sometimes even flamingos.

There is no doubt that a trip to the Galapagos Islands will be memorable for many reasons.  Contact Travel Leaders and we’ll put you in touch with an agent who can help you decide which option is best for you.

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