Situated just over 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) off the coast of Ecuador, the remote setting of the Galápagos Islands makes them one of the most coveted travel destinations in South America. If you are considering adding this wildlife-rich archipelago to your bucket list, here are 10 things to know before you travel to the Galápagos Islands.
1. The Galápagos Islands were one of the first of the 12 sites to make the original UNESCO World Heritage Site list when it was first drawn up in 1978. They also sparked the beginning of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection.
2. Around 2,000 species of wildlife found in the Galápagos Islands are endemic which means this is the only place on the planet you can observe them in their natural habitat. Such include the Galápagos fur seal, the Galápagos land iguana, the Galápagos sea lion, the Galápagos land tortoise, and the marine iguana.
Other species that you are likely to see include blue-footed boobies, penguins, marine iguanas, giant tortoises, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and flamingos.
3. The Galápagos Islands comprises 127 isles and islets of which only four are inhabited. Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal each offer a roster of luxury hotels, guest houses, and eco-lodges.
4. There are several ways to visit the Galápagos Islands. You may opt to either join a liveaboard cruise or base yourself on one of the inhabited islands and plan day trips and excursions from there.
5. Besides the wildlife, the Galápagos Islands feature phenomenal landscapes. The archipelago is a hot spot of some of the most active volcanoes in the world. Isla Fernandina is an active shield volcano and it is possible to hike to the summit of Sierra Negra. With a circumference of 5.4 square meters (14 square kilometers) this is the world's second-largest volcanic crater.
6. There is no best time to visit the islands as they are blessed with a pleasant climate year-round. However, the wildlife tends to be more animated during the dry season of June to December while January to May brings more rain, cooler temperatures, and travel deals.
7. It is mandatory that you travel around these protected islands in the company of a licensed guide. Local guides are fountains of knowledge and will only enhance your experience and understanding of the resident nature.
8. In addition to cruises and nature walks, the Galápagos Islands are a haven for snorkelers and scuba divers. The dive sites are warm and shallow enough to cater to all levels and ages.
9. When traveling to a destination so revered for its wildlife it’s easy to overlook the food. You can look forward to an abundance of fresh seafood, ceviche, and encebollado (a tuna-based soup). Other specialties include plantain, slow-cooked meat, and all the exotic fruits you could dream of. On Isla Santa Cruz you can take tours of coffee and chocolate plantations and learn about the local production techniques.
10. Photography is allowed while wildlife watching however flash photography is not permitted and nor are drones. But even if you forget to take pictures, the memories you will create while traveling the Galápagos Islands will last a lifetime.
For further information about the region, you can tune into our presentation on traveling to Ecuador. Contact me when you are ready to book your trip to the Galápagos Islands.
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