Galapagos Travel Tips
The Galapagos Islands is one of the most spectacular destinations in the world. Composed of 18 major islands and other islets, this Pacific archipelago dazzles visitors with its volcanic landscapes, fearless wildlife, pristine beaches and fascinating underwater world. Therefore, it is no wonder the Galapagos is on many travelers’ bucket list. However, with so many ways to see this extraordinary place, it can be dizzying trying to decide what is best for each group of travelers. Here are some Galapagos travel tips to consider when planning your visit to Ecuador and the Galapagos, from our travel experts:
• Best time of the year to visit: the Galapagos is great to visit any time of the year, as the wildlife is the main attraction and there is always something interesting to see. Perhaps weather should be taken into consideration since during the cooler season water temperature may be cold for swimming, but wetsuits are always available for rental on many boats (and Latin Excursions provides them for our custom made land based programs as well). Sea conditions are more choppy in September, when water is murky and not good for snorkeling, so most boats go to dry dock during that month.
Waved albatrosses return to Espanola at the end of March and will remain until December, with April being the best time to see their massive arrival and mating dance. Humpback whales stay in Galapagos from June to September. So as you can see a visit to Galapagos can be done any month of the year. Also, good points:
• The hottest months are from December to May with temperatures ranging from the low 80s°F to the low 90s°C. The average water temperature is 75°F.
• The misty and cooler season is from June to September and the temperature ranges between the low 60s°F to high 70s°F, with the possibility of rain late in the afternoon or at night. The average water temperature is 69°F.
• From October to December, the temperature ranges from 70°F to 80°F. The average water temperature is 70°F / 20°C
• Land vs. Boat-Based and How to Choose
• The main advantage of a boat based cruise excursion is the variety of islands visited because boats do the long cruising at night and a short cruise to another site usually after lunch, giving passengers time to relax on board. Usually a cruise will visit at least two destinations each day, with snorkeling included most days. All boats have plenty of space to relax on a sun deck.
• Land-based trips offer more opportunity to relax, after coming off a boat excursion at a mountain or beach front hotel. Other advantages are having close contact with the local population and to experience the ambiance of Galapagos villages without sacrificing visits to great sites. It allows for the possibility of doing more flexible land tours on the same island, or full-day excursions to neighboring islands, about 2 hours away and reached by small vessels with a maximum capacity of 16 passengers. It is also the perfect alternative for families with small children or for visitors who tend to get seasick. It also gives the possibility of diving for some family members without affecting the others.
• Snorkeling vs. Diving
• Snorkeling: Since almost all islands have specific places with very calm waters, snorkeling is possible for anyone who can swim; it is practiced from the beach or from a dinghy, available during cruises or with land-based programs. Adult-sized snorkel equipment is available on cruises; for children it must be requested in advance to make sure they have the right size on board. During cold season, wetsuits are recommended (usually shorties). Snorkeling equipment is available for rental during land-based programs.
• Diving in the Galapagos is for experienced divers only. It is best from June to November, with more marine life to be seen, though divers have to suffer rougher and cooler sea conditions at this time of year. The huge whale sharks are found near Wolf and Darwin islands only from around June to November. However, there are more hammerhead sharks about in the warm season than the cool. A minimum number of certified dives (by PADI or similar) is requested depending on the destination. Regardless of the number of dives registered by a diver, the dive master on board has the final decision about the ability of the diver to participate. The best diving, around Wolf and Darwin islands, requires a long trip and no chance to land on the islands, only advanced diving cruises go to that destination and they don’t include land visits.
• Land Extension to Isabela Island and Best Time of Year to Visit Isabela: There are two ways to reach Isabela Island, by small plane, 30 min from Baltra airport (unreliable frequencies), or by shared public boat that takes about 2 hours from Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island. The best time to do the crossing by boat is from January to May, as the seas tend to be calmer. Other than this consideration, the same criteria as for Galapagos weather in general should apply. Plenty of wildlife can be seen all year round. Strong currents in November and December make for difficult boat rides from/to Puerto Ayora. It is also usually not possible to explore the Tunnels due to currents during these months.Volcan Sierra Negra is also difficult to reach from December to March due to rain and therefore muddy trail.
Easy daily diving tours from Isabela go to Isla Tortuga and Cuatro Hermanos (Four Brothers), with maximum depth of 20 meters, but it is not advisable in November and December due to strong currents.