The Galápagos Islands in Ecuador are a major highlight of South America. I’d say that you can’t miss them, but unfortunately a lot of people do. Even I was on the fence at first about whether I was going to visit the Galápagos. Now that I have, I can’t believe I doubted it! Not sure if this is the trip for you? Here are 7 things to know before you visit the Galápagos Islands!
A trip to the Galápagos is expensive.
I’m not going to lie; a 5-day tour to the Galápagos put a serious dent in my bank account. It’s not exactly a budget backpacker-friendly place, which is why a lot of travelers I met didn’t plan to go. I tossed the idea around before I committed to it justifying it because I flew from Panama to Colombia instead of sailing.
To break it down, here’s what I spent in the Galápagos (accommodation included, food not included):
The cost of flights and tours will vary, especially if you are planning on doing a lot of scuba diving. I booked my flight with TAME and reserved my 5-day tour through a friend I met in while bicycling the Ruta de las Cascadas and visiting the Swing at the End of the World in Baños. He knew someone through the grapevine at RealityDreams Galápagos, so I just went with it! Best decision ever. Five days was a perfect amount of time to go and each day was jam-packed with activities.
Charles Darwin loved the Galápagos.
Now this is something I didn’t know before visiting. Darwin sailed to the Galápagos, where he researched and formed his theories on the evolution of species and natural selection. Darwin’s legacy still lives on in the Galápagos; there is an island and research center named after him. And a giant statue of him.
Look out for last-minute tour deals.
Your best bet when booking a tour might be to wait until the last minute. I booked my flight four days in advance and my tour just two days before flying to the Galápagos. Many tour agencies have last-minute deals for 5 or 7-day cruises or land tours. Land tours like the tour I went on include snorkel or scuba trips. I was on a boat every day! The biggest difference I saw between land tours and cruises was that we never slept on a boat. I felt a fair amount of sea sickness while on the boat, so I think I made the right choice about not going on a cruise.
It’s possible to visit without a tour package, but it might not be as cost-effective.
The great thing about the land tour was that I didn’t have to figure out any of the details. I met the group at the boat dock or scuba shop every day and didn’t worry about what the plan was for the day. Having to coordinate separate boat tours, ferries, and accommodation every day in the Galápagos would be a challenge. I don’t think it would be much cheaper and you might miss out on experiences that packaged tours have to offer. I’m not a tour lover, but the land tour was so awesome because I didn’t have to worry about whether I was going to see the best that the Galápagos had to offer in five days.
The Galápagos is extremely protected.
From 2007 to 2010, the Galápagos Islands were on the list of World Heritage sites in danger due to the rise in tourism, poaching, and pollution. Visiting the islands sometimes means you look but don’t touch. You might just circle around islands on a boat to marvel at the wildlife and landscape without being able to get a hands-on experience, but it’s the safest way to keep the islands and wildlife around longer.
You’ll see wildlife that you can’t find any other place on earth.
Where else can you see blue footed boobies, penguins, sea lions, 100+ year-old tortoises, and reef sharks in one place? Maybe the zoo, but the Galápagos was like a natural playground for these beautiful creatures. With three different ocean currents merging here, you really won’t find the mix of marine life in the Galápagos anywhere else. It’s no wonder these islands fascinated Darwin!
The weather is amazing all year round.
There’s no “bad” time to visit the Galápagos. Since the islands are located near the Equator, temperatures don’t vary drastically. The dry season is from June to November and the wet season is from December to May. I visited the Galápagos in February and experienced perfect weather for the entire five days. As long as seasons with high numbers of tourists are avoided (June-September and December-January), you really can’t go wrong with when you visit.