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Galapagos Islands

Galápagos Islands


Our flight from Quito, Ecuador takes only takes us about two hours to arrive at Baltra Island in the Galápagos Islands archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. The Galápagos Islands are part of Ecuador and the only way to reach them is by daily flights from Guyagil or by boat. We are greeted at the airport by our naturalist guide, Harry from Galapagos Eco Friendly, who directs us and the other 13  passengers who will be joining us for the week to small busses that will take us to the wharf where we will board the boat.


Our home for the next week will be a 125 ft, luxury cruise catamaran named Camila which sells charters through several Galapagos tour operators. The boat was built in 2017 and carries 16 passengers in 8 staterooms along with a crew of 12 which includes sailors, stewards, housekeeping, one guest manager and one contracted naturalist. On our cruise, only the guest manager and the naturalist spoke English. Our fellow travelers are from the US, the UK, and Australia and a mix of couples and families with adult children.


It is important to note when booking a cruise, in July 2019 there were 86 cruise boats operating in the Galápagos Islands that range from smaller, more intimate cruises like our 16 passenger catamaran to larger 100 passenger ships operated by global cruise ship operators. All of these ships are strictly regulated to a 15 day rotation through the islands. You only get to see the islands that are on your boat's rotation during your dates. It is also important to note that land tour boats are not permitted to offer scuba dive excursions and scuba dive boats are not permitted to offer land excursions. While land packages tend to be limited to just the larger islands of Isabela or Santa Maria, they also offer the ability to both Dive and Hike through daily excursions. We elected to do a week-long cruise boat exploration of several islands and then extend our trip by three days with a hotel stay on Isabela Island to scuba dive and to spend a day at the Darwin Research Facility.


Once on the boat, we will typically rise at 7:00am for breakfast; take an hour-long nature walk on one of the islands; followed by an hour-long snorkel exploration of the island; before moving the boat to another location for a longer nature walk before dinner. The nature walks are generally flat and less than three miles over well defined trails. Our naturalist was a native of the Galápagos Islands and had personal stories of all of the islands that we visited as well as an in-depth knowledge of the geologic history of the islands and the biological diversity of each island. The Galapagos National Park requires all tourists to be accompanied by one of the 1,200 certified naturalist guides when venturing into the park and landing on the islands. The Galápagos Islands see around 100,000 visitors annually. On our nature walks, we saw Blue Footed Boobies, Red Footed Boobies, Nasac Boobies, Frigate Birds, and xxx Owls as well as both Sea Lions, Black Marine Iguanas and Green Land Iguanas. Notably, there are no indigenous land mammals on any of the Galápagos Islands. To see Giant Tortoises, we had to go to a private farm on Isabela Island.


The diving around Isabela and Santa Maria Islands is fabulous but cold. With the Antarctica Humbolt Current keeping the July water temperatures in the low 60’s Fahrenheit, divers use 6 mm wetsuits and hoods. Once geared up for the cold water diving and in the water, divers are greeted with a rich biodiversity of marine species like sting rays, turtles, sea lions, eels, reef sharks, and yes - hammer heads. Seasonally, Whale Sharks and Hump Back Whales also pass through the Galápagos Islands. Diehard scuba divers should check for the best seasons to catch these amazing creatures and then head to one of the live-aboard dive boat operations at Darwin and Wolf Islands in the North East corner of the archipelago for the largest resident population of Hammer Head Sharks in the world and a seasonal breeding grounds for Whale Sharks.




1)            If you want to see the Giant Tortoises in a natural habitat, you need to make sure that your dates and your cruise go to one of the islands that still have giant tortoises. But don’t worry, if your boat isn’t stopping at a tortoise island, you can plan a side trip to Isabela island where the Tortoises are thriving and migrate through a private farm that will let you see them up close and personal.


2)            Many people elect to combine a Galápagos Islands holiday with a Machu Picchu holiday since they are relatively close to each other. Still even more people elect to extend their holiday with a few days int he Ecuador capital of Quito.


3)            DON’T DRINK THE WATER!


4)            Larger cruises are more economical, but smaller cruises are more intimate.




Phil and Diane



[Note: We received no goods or services for publication of this article. We have withheld the names of the cruise operator and the dive operator due to an unresolved dispute.]






Arrive on Baltra Island

86 Cruise Boats on 15 day rotation through islands Dive Boat or Land Boat, Land Packages Blue Footed Boobies, Red Footed Boobies, Nazac Boobies Frigate Birds Owls Black, Marine Iguanas and Green Land Iguanas The Camilla operated by Haugen Cruises Giant Tortoises Darwin Research Center National Park and Marine Sanctuary

1,200 guides

Locals restricted

Darwin and xxxx Islands

100,000 visitors annually