Planning to travel to the Galapagos? Here are some useful tips to help you prepare your holiday.
The Galapagos Islands must surely count amongst the most stunning places to visit on earth. The natural plant and animal life here is so diverse and unique that it makes the Galapagos Islands some of the most loved and interesting ecosystems in the world. And the archipelago’s natural history and scientific importance has fascinated tourists and scientists from around the world for over 200 years now – ever since their most famous visitor, Charles Darwin, set foot here in 1835 and was inspired to write his Theory of Natural Selection.
Located approximately 600 miles off the coast of South America, the Galapagos are part of Ecuador and consist of 19 islands, which are home to its unique wildlife: Much of the flora and fauna, including birds, insects and exotic plants is endemic, i.e. can only be found here and nowhere else on the planet. And because there is truly no other place like it, the Galagapos are considered one of the most unique UNESCO World Heritage sites.
If you plan on making a visit, there are several things you need to know and consider before you visit the archipelago. Here are the top 10 Galapagos facts you need to know before you visit:
#1: Prep your wallet
It’s a fact that going anywhere that’s extremely isolated tends to be expensive and the Galapagos islands are no exception. There’s the tourist tax, the flight from mainland Ecuador (as there are no direct international flights to Galapagos), the mandatory tour package and the National Park fee. There are many rules and regulations to help keep these islands as pristine as possible and that means a lot of expenses that need to be passed on to visitors. This is not going to be a cheap trip so if you have set your heart on going to the Galapagos Islands, be aware that you have to have an appropriate budget.
#2: Once in a lifetime experience
While expensive, you will probably find that this trip is worth every penny. A holiday in the Galapagos is a once in a life time experience, a holiday like no other and it will leave you and your family with memories that you’ll never forget and treasure forever. There’s no place like it, period.
#3: Cash is king
Don’t rely on traveller’s checks, credit cards, or any other cash alternative in the Galapagos. Cash is what you need. Certain fees like the TCC (Transit Control Card) fee and the National Park entrance fee are cash only. The U.S. Dollar is the official currency of Ecuador, and you’ll find that having US dollars to hand is crucial here. Visa and MasterCard are great as emergency credit cards but if you want to ensure you can get around and into places, you must carry cash, and plenty of it. You don’t want to find yourself in a remote place unable to pay the tax or entrance fee.
#4: Going without a tour guide is illegal
Protecting the natural beauty of the islands is crucial, and so 95% of the land area is designated as protected by the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD). This means tourists are permitted to explore specific visitor sites only with a licensed guide. If you arrange your trip with Voyagers Travels, you can be sure to be in good hands. There are certain areas where you can explore a little bit by yourself, at your leisure, but in most areas you must have a guide with you. Just be aware of this and carry some extra cash for a tip.
#5: Know Your Options
There are several different ways to explore the amazing Galapagos Islands so be sure to choose the one that suits your specific needs and preferences best. There are cruises, land-based tours, and even some independent island hopping tours to choose from but the latter will mean some areas are off limits. Land-based tours start on the main islands like Isabela, Santa Cruz, or San Cristobal. They tend to be more expensive and restricting, but allow you to see places that you might not get to otherwise.Cruises are the most popular way to see the Galapagos and allow a lot of exploring including from afar by taking special water routes to see those islands that you can’t set foot on.
#6: Plenty to See
There’s no lack of things to see in the Galapagos. Keep in mind that you will want to give yourself time. Not only is there so much to see but there are 19 islands that can be explored to some extent or another and transportation to and from each island takes up time; not to mention the fact that for safety reasons you cannot go diving the day before or after your flight (or the day of).
#7: Sea sickness
There are going to be a lot of waves even during the Galapagos’ calm season, which is between January and June. Taking medication to combat sea sickness is a wise move even if you are not prone to suffering from motion sickness. There’s going to be a lot of time on water ferries – don’t take the chance so make sure you take some with you just in case.
#8: Underwater camera
No other place on earth will showcase such a diversity of marine wildlife so it would be crazy not to equip yourself with a decent underwater camera. You don’t want to miss photographing your encounter with a fur seal or hammerhead shark. So, whether you are an expert diver or a beginner snorkeller, go and buy or borrow a decent underwater camera for your trip to the Galapagos and preserve those amazing memories. There will be plenty of chances to get underwater pictures that will make your friends and family back home jealous!
#9: Don’t skip Puerto Ayora
One of the favourite experiences of anyone visiting the Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos is watching the sea lions and pelicans line up at the fish market waiting for scraps or occasionally stealing fish from the sellers. This spectacle takes place in Puerto Ayora and shows a unique relationship between the locals and the environment and is a nice place for bird and people watching.
#10: Visit Tortuga Bay
While Puerto Ayora is known for its busy and vibrant fish market mornings, it is hard to argue with an afternoon in Tortuga Bay with its white sand beaches, turquoise ocean waters and plenty of amazing animals to look at. Bring water, bring sandals, and prepare to be amazed.