Along with the Inca Trail and Patagonia, a trip to the Galapagos was a must-do for our time in South America, but the booking process was daunting, There are countless choices: island hopping or cruise, duration of trip, route of trip, type of boat, and so on. And it’s far from cheap. Based on initial research, we knew that a cruise was for us, and that we wanted to be there for at least a week. Neither of us is a cruise person, but it’s nearly universally considered to be the best way to see the Galapagos– we were able to do a lot of our long-distance traveling at night and make two island stops each day. I had read that at least a week was required to see a sufficient portion of the area, after our trip, we’d definitely agree. Though it seems like a lot of time with wildlife / on a small boat, the 8 days we had absolutely flew by, and we’d have been happy to stay longer and continue the adventure.
We took well over a thousand photos– one of the many reasons this post was so delayed– but we’ve picked out a few favorites below.
The moral of the story: Go to the Galapagos! It’s expensive and somewhat time-consuming to get to, but it’s unlike any experience we’ve ever had and was worth every penny.
Not pictured (because enough is enough): Galapagos hawks, Sally Lightfoot crabs, Galapagos doves, a truly excessive number of sea lions and tortoises, herons, various famous finches, exotic plants, all manner of underwater life including white and black tip sharks, octopus, eels, sea turtles, more photos of Yin and I acting ferocious, etc.
Practicalities / Galapagos tips should you be considering making the trip (seriously, make the trip):
- Do your research and choose based on your priorities. The area is impressively well-regulated and protected, and boats stick to a set of pre-determined itineraries with varied landing locations and routes among the islands. If there’s a particular type of wildlife or geological formation that you’re dying to see, you may be choosing a route accordingly. In our case, it all looked good, so this was less of an issue. Our bigger concern was group size: we didn’t want to end up on a huge boat and have to wait for a large group to get it together each morning / be the 90th person in line on a hike to find giant tortoises or in a scrum of snorklers, and we saw a ton of enormous boats. Basically, we were curmudgeons looking for the non-cruise cruise. We also wanted a highly rated guide and a fairly nice boat. We lucked out by working with the booking company Happy Gringo based on a recommendation from a fellow traveler. Maria was infinitely patient with our questions as well as our delayed responses while we tromped around the salt flats or other less-connected areas. And we were thrilled with the Beluga and its crew, as well as our fabulous guide Juan and the dozen or so lovely fellow passengers.
- At least in late April / early May during our cruise, seasickness wasn’t really an issue, even on our small boat. Sunscreen shortages were more of a concern, particularly given the exorbitant costs on the island, so we ended up doing a bit of scrounging from friends on board (thanks, Lee and Yin!).
- We snorkeled for an hour or more at least once a day, which we loved– the locations were varied and we saw an incredible variety of underwater life (enough to finally convince us to look into scuba certification when Southeast Asia rolls around…). The boat rented short wetsuits, which helped with warmth in the slightly chilly water / protected B from any serious sunburn. No need for anything heavier than that unless diving is involved.
- Be at peace with not being dry much: between the daily snorkeling, the average of two hikes on steamy islands and the attendant showers, and the sunscreen slathering that went on before all these activities, there’s not much choice in the matter.
- No fancy hiking gear required– just light clothes. Worth investing in a fancy camera, though– this is the first time on this trip that I’ve wished for our DSLR.