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Galapogas Cruise Boats & Itineraries

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Galapogas Wildlife Calendar

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Galapogas Islands Cruises and Tours

The Galapogas Islands are so famous that many people think they’re are a country in their own right! They’re not – the islands are a province of Ecuador, even though they lie nearly 1000km off the Ecuadorian coast. The government of Ecuador has forbidden passenger travel on the boats that supply the Galapogas Islands so the only way in is to buy a flight (prices are controlled by the state) from the mainland of Ecuador. San Cristobal or Baltra are the two airports of the Galapogas Islands, and depending on the length of your Galapogas cruise, you may fly into one island and out from the other. Ask your travel agent for a Galapogas Islands map so that you understand what is included on your cruise itinerary. 
The Galapogas archipelago consists of a group of volcanic islands that have also been known as the Enchanted Isles and the Archipielago de Colon. Thor Heyerdahl’s historic Kon-Tiki expedition on a balsa raft showed that prehistoric people from the coasts of Ecuador and Peru could have reached the Galapogas Islands, perhaps using them as a seasonal base for fishing. The first reliably documented visitor arrived by accident in 1535 when his ship was swept off course. The social history of the Galapogas Islands is a sensational mix of pirates, whalers, castaways, slaves and tyrants. In the 1930s, the lives of European settlers on Floreana seemed like something out of a soap opera, with a bizarre German ‘philosopher’, a mad baroness and her two lovers, and a string of scandals, mysterious disappearances and deaths. 
The Galapogas Islands are renowned worldwide as a unique ecosystem in which many endemic species have developed. Charles Darwin recognised their role as an evolutionary laboratory when he visited the Galapogas Islands in 1835 and wrote about the trip in his 1845 book ‘The Voyage of the Beagle’. His observations of the ecology in the Galapogas Islands led him to develop his theory of evolution and natural selection. When Darwin finally published his famous book ‘On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ in 1859, explaining his theory of evolution, it changed the way that scientists viewed the natural history of the planet (and shocked religious figures of the time for its controversial contradiction of the biblical view of creation). 
The Galapogas Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and World Biosphere Reserve, in recognition of the importance of their unique ecology. 
The Galapogas wildlife is fearless and is the big attraction for visitors to the Islands, many of them seeking to take incredible wildlife photos possible nowhere else.  Examples include the Galapogas giant tortoises, penguins, sea lions and seals. The most famous resident of the Galapogas Islands is probably Lonesome George the giant Pinta tortoise, believed to be the last of his kind until the recent discovery of a giant tortoise from Isabela which has some of the same genes. You might see whales and dolphins round the islands further west in the archipelago. The Galapagos penguin is the only penguin in the world which lives and breeds on the equator and (just) in the Northern Hemisphere. 
Bird life is abundant in the islands and everyone can spot pelicans, albatrosses, Galapogas hawks, Darwin’s finches, frigate birds and the famous blue-footed boobies that have almost become a symbol of the Galapogas Islands. Serious bird watchers will find themselves in a birdwatcher’s paradise here and will want to make sure they have a Galapogas guide who is knowledgeable about birds. Ideally, look for a specialist Galapogas Islands birdwatching cruise or tour itinerary so that the rest of the group will be bird watchers too and share the fascination for identifying every bird species on the list! Birdwatchers should note that the flightless cormorant is found only on Isabela and Fernandina, waved albatrosses are found in Española and there are large colonies of seabirds on Genovesa, in the far north east of the Galapogas archipelago. 
A good guidebook to the Galapogas is useful for understanding the history, natural history and culture of the islands. Take along a reference book or field guide if you want to identify the unique mammals, reptiles, birds and insects of the Galapogas Islands, and let your tour guide know if you have a particular interest in specific types of Galapogas wildlife. 
Amateur photographers will be in seventh heaven here in the Galapogas Islands – the wildlife really does not run away, so you don’t even need a zoom lens to get close-up photos! (Professional photographers will want to seek a specialist photography tour of the Galapogas Islands, with extra time allowed to photograph all the amazing wildlife). No matter how little experience you have of taking photos, you should get some great images here in the Galapogas Islands. Colourful Sally lightfoot crabs scuttle across dramatic volcanic rocks while iguanas sunbathe. Galapogas fur seals and sea lions lounge on the beaches, posing for your camera. You can take incredible wildlife photos even with the most basic camera equipment. Remember that photography supplies are limited or non-existent in the Galapogas Islands, so bring with you all the camera equipment, film, memory cards, batteries and lenses that you need to capture your images of Galapogas. 
A Galapogas cruise is the best way to see the islands but it is not a cheap option. Galapogas cruise prices depend on the level of luxury and comfort of your cruise boat cabin. Before you decide, check a Galapogas Islands map to see your itinerary, make sure the guide will speak your language, and know how many land tours and island visits you will make each day, and how many hours you will spend cruising. Check what is included on the budget Galapogas cruise boats – you might end up paying top prices for bottled water on some of the cheaper boats. Also find out the size of the vessel – the choice ranges from luxury catamarans and small boats with just 10 or 12 guests to the larger, more stable but less exclusive cruise boats with almost a hundred passengers where not all the cabins have sea views. Make sure there will be room to sit out on deck, but shaded from the tropical sun. 
There are strict regulations controlling travel and tourism in the Galapogas Islands and the tour itineraries are carefully designed so that you see the maximum variety of Galapogas wildlife with the minimum possible impact on the ecology of these unique island environments. Your licensed guide should follow the designated footpaths and stick to the tour itinerary. 
The budget way to see the Galapogas Islands is perhaps a hotel-based tour – base yourself in a Galapogas hotel on one of the islands, explore that on foot and take day trips to some of the other islands. Of course, you will not be able to see as many of the islands this way, but it is a more economical option for a Galapogas tour if your budget does not stretch to a luxury Galapogas cruise. Also you will get to see some of the 3% of the Galapogas Islands territory which is private land, not part of the Galapogas National Park, and is inhabited by the lucky citizens of this island paradise. The Galapagos sea lions seem to like their human neighbours – they come into the harbour and snooze on the moored boats! 
Diving tours in the Galapogas Islands offer the experience of a lifetime – where else can you dive with sealions, penguins, turtles, iguanas and (harmless) sharks all in the same archipelago? Currents in the Galapogas Islands are strong and cold (the Humboldt current passes through), so this is for experienced divers only, but if you know how to dive this could be the dive of your life. Check carefully with your travel agent what your Galapogas diving cruise will include and what diving equipment you will need to take. 
Think about the Galapogas weather before deciding when to book your island cruise, as this will affect your Galapogas cruising experience. As a rough guide, the warm wet weather season is from January to June – the sea is relatively warm, the air temperature is up to about 30°C and heavy but short bursts of rain interrupt the sunshine. July to December is the cool dry weather season – the sea is chilly and choppy, the air temperature is in the low 20s and there is very little rain, though the weather is usually overcast and visibility can be lower, especially in the mists of September. 
The timing of your Galapogas cruise does not depend only on the weather. As you would expect, Galapogas prices go up during Easter week, Christmas and school holidays. The cruise boats and flights are booked up well in advance for these peak holiday times, so don’t leave booking your Christmas, Easter or summer vacation until the last minute. 
Galapogas time is one hour behind the mainland of Ecuador, i.e. in the time zone GMT minus 6 hours. The entrance fee to the Galapogas National Park is US$100. The capital of Galapogas is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, on San Cristobal Island. 
The Galapogas islands are usually known by their official Spanish names, but some people also know them by the original names chosen by the English pirates – here in brackets: Baltra (South Seymour), Darwin (Culpepper), Española (Hood), Fernandina (Narborough), Genovesa (Tower), Isabela (Albermarle), Marchena (Brindloe), Pinta (Abingdon), Pinzon (Duncan), Rabida (Jervis), San Cristobal (Chatham), San Salvador (Santiago, or James), Santa Cruz (Indefatigable), Santa Fe (Barrington), Floreana (Charles), Seymour Norte (North Seymour), Tortuga (Brattle) and Wolf (Wenman). 
Visit CRACYP’s Galapogas Conservation Project with our luxury Galapogas tour
Galapogas Wildlife Photos
Volunteer in the Galapogas Islands!
Galapogas Islands Cruises & Tours:
wildlife vacations, diving holidays, hotel tours, birdwatching, Galapogas information, weather, Darwin, evolution, social & natural history in the Galapogas Islands, home of incredible wildlife photos

Galapogas penguin
Galapogas cruise boat between islands
Galapogas giant tortoise
Blue footed boobies in the Galapogas Islands
Galapogas sea lion pup with tourist
Galapogas frigate bird
Galapogas map & guidebook