Sitting right on the equator about 1,000 kilometers off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are a wildlife lover’s dream. The islands were formed by a series of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, and then were made home by a diverse array of animals. Then, in the 1800’s, humans found the archipelago and began to study the ecosystems there.
Due to the various landscapes, land animals, and underwater adventures, visiting the Galapagos Islands has been a long-held dream of mine. I visited these islands with Andando Tours, a company who has over 40 years of experience cruising in the Galapagos.
Here’s everything you need to know about cruising in the Galapagos Islands!
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Cruising the Galapagos Islands
Best Time to Visit the Galapagos
While the Galapagos Islands have a wet season and a dry season, this really is a year-round destination. Each season has its own benefits, and the time of year you visit really depends on what animals you prefer to see and what kind of experience you’d like to have.
The dry season runs from June through November and brings along with it generally blue skies with very little wind. However, the seas tend to be a bit rough and cool during this time (which attracts marine life such as Hammerhead Sharks). While the dry season tends to be cooler than the wet, it can still get rather warm during the day, so keep that in mind if you are sensitive to hiking in the heat.
The wet season runs from December to May and you can expect to experience higher temperatures and daily rains, although they usually come in short bursts. It’s during this time that the ocean is generally the calmest and warmest.
Check out this calendar for more information about what kind of animals you can expect to see during the different months, although many of the animals are visible year round!
Read more: How to Pack for a Sailing Trip
To get to the Galapagos, you’ll have to fly into either Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador (I personally flew into Quito). There are direct flights to both of these cities from many places in the United States.
From either of these cities, you’ll have the option to fly to either Baltra Island or San Cristobal Island, depending on where your tour is departing from.
Experience the Galapagos With Andando Tours
If you’re looking for an extremely personalized tour experience curated by Galapagos experts, I highly recommend Andando Tours. Each of Andando’s tours has a low passenger-to-crew ratio, highly maintained boats, and exemplary service.
Something else I found awesome was that Andando gives the option to set up your transfer to and from the airport, and to plan an overnight in Quito before and after the cruise.
Quito is a cool destination in and of itself, and provides a great Ecuadorian buffer to the Galapagos, so I totally took advantage of this! They set up an amazing hotel in Old Town Quito and the transfers to/from the airport made things completely stress-free.
Andando Tour Options
What’s so special about Andando Tours is that you can choose and customize your trip to your taste. Andando curates tours via luxurious yachts, sailing boats, comfortable catamarans, and more. They even have options for those traveling with their family, or who want to orient their trip towards scuba diving.
From these boat options, you then have the choice of taking either a Western Island tour or an Eastern Island Tour. Depending on the length of your trip, on the Western tour you’ll have the option of experiencing Santa Cruz Island, Isabela, North Seymour, Floreana, Fernandina, Mosquera, and Santiago, while on the Eastern Tour you’ll have the option of experiencing Santa Cruz Island, Santa Fe, Santiago, South Plaza, Espanola, Genovesa, and Rabida.
In addition to all of this, Andando also hosts island hopping tours for those wishing to sleep on land, and day trips to Santa Cruz Island, San Cristobal Island, or Isabela Island.
Where you go and what kind of activities you do is totally up to your taste so be sure to go through all the tour options and choose the perfect tour for you.
I had a tough time choosing between the Western Islands and the Eastern Islands because every island in the Galapagos is extremely unique. I ultimately chose the Eastern Islands tour on the M/Y Passion and was able to check off all of my bucket-list wildlife experiences — including swimming with penguins and sea lions and I had plenty of encounters with the blue-footed and red-footed boobies!
On most of these tours, you’ll have your accommodations, meals, island visits, certified guide, snorkeling gear, kayaks, and airport transfers in the Galapagos included in the rate.
Items not in the price include your flight to the Galapagos, the National Park entrance fee, a Transit Control Card, personal expenses and gratuity, and alcoholic beverages. I highly recommend bringing $600 or more in cash per person for the Galapagos transit card (total of $120 in fees), gratuities, and for any souvenirs.
Additional Galapagos Islands Travel Tips
Interacting With Wildlife
Let’s be honest, a huge reason why most people dream of visiting the Galapagos is due to the incredible wildlife. What’s super cool about a lot of animals on the Galapagos is that they’re very tolerant of humans, have no inherent fear of us, and have little hesitation of getting close to us.
Just remember, while most of the animals on the Galapagos have seen humans before, they are still wild and will go on the offense if provoked or if there space is infringed upon. That said, in a lot of cases the animals approached me simply out of curiosity!
A good rule of thumb when interacting with these animals to appreciate but never touch, and pick up their clues if they want some space.
Leave No Trace
When visiting a place as pristine as the Galapagos, it’s key to make sure to leave the destination as you found it. Always stay near designated areas and be vigilant about your waste. Not only does this help preserve the islands for the existing plants and animals, but it helps ensure an amazing travel experience for explorers to come.
Galapagos Islands Packing Essentials
Sun Protection: It’s a good idea to bring PLENTY of reef-safe sunscreen. Being right on the equator, you’ll have to reapply several times a day. I also highly recommend a sun hat and a ball cap for dingy rides and windy days!
Water Gear: Being in the water so much, I chose to bring my long-sleeved rash guard, and my shortie wetsuit (a good idea if you don’t want to wear the long-sleeved wetsuits they provide on the cruise). I also packed a pair of sturdy water shoes for wet landings.
Hiking Gear: When your boat docks, you’ll be hiking a lot, so bring a light pair of hiking shoes or sneakers (if you are visiting during the dry season you can get away with sneakers, otherwise you may want hiking shoes). You’re also going to want to bring a rain coat for those wet-season pours!
Camera Gear: For great photos of the flora and fauna, you’ll want to bring a high-quality underwater camera (I used a Go Pro 6) and plenty of SD Cards! Check out this post for a full travel photography packing list.