Of all the destinations, we get more requests for small ship cruises to the Galapagos than anywhere else. The island’s popularity and fame derives from the work of Charles Darwin. The evolution of Darwin’s Finches on the islands, proved the author’s assumptions about natural selection. Galapagos has been featured extensively on TV. Here is our brief travel guide so we can help you get started with your travel plans.
- The Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador and are reached via flights from Quito or Guayaquil;
- Peak tourism visitation is June to early September and December to mid-January. Trips during these dates often fill up months in advance.
- Wildlife activity is consistent year-round, with little seasonal variation. Any time of year is good to go but if you're there for one of a few seasonal highlights, you may need to consider your travel dates.
- There are two seasons. It's wettest in the warmer months Dec-May with most rain falling in Oct-Mar.
Galapagos comprises 21 volcanic islands of which some are being constantly being reformed by lava flows. The largest islands are: Isabela, San Salvador, San Cristobel, Santa Cruz, Fernandina and Floreana and the total human population is only 25,000 people - local population growth has been driven by tourism. The resident population was only 4,000 in the 1970s.
The archipelago belongs to Ecuador and is located on the equator about 1,000 miles off its west coast.
Getting there generally involves flying into either Ecuador’s capital Quito or Guayaquil (which is closer), then transferring by charter flight to the islands.
From Australian and New Zealand, there are a range of carriers flying via North America (connecting in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York) or South America (Santiago, Chile). Many of the trips incorporate the charter flight onto the islands.
Since 1970, the number of tourists visiting the Galapagos has steadily climbed to over 200,000 per year. Peak visitation is mid-June to early September and mid-December to mid-January.
There are essentially two seasons, influenced by the activity of the cool water Humboldt current that sweeps up the west coast of South America. Regular readers of Wildiaries will be familiar with the concept that cool water brings nutrients to otherwise barren tropical oceans. The current is the reason why Galapagos has the only tropical penguin species in the world.
- June to November: air temperatures are 21-27 °C (70-80 °F) and sea temperatures 18-24 °C (65-75 °F)and the Humboldt current generates a steady cool south and southeast wind.
- December to May: air temperatures are 27-32 °C (80-90 °F) and sea temperatures 21-26 °C (70-80 °F), the winds drop and rainfall becomes more sporadic and it rains more frequently and heavily.
The driest months are Jun-Aug and the wettest are Oct - Mar: http://www.galapagosisland.net/galapagos_islands/climate.html
http://www.surf-forecast.com/breaks/Cerro-Gallina/reliability_by_month (to read wind roses, look at the left column. The direction of the wind is shown by the coloured areas. The lighter blue is light wind and the percentage of the time is shown below the graph).
When to Visit
Climate shouldn’t be the principle factor in determining when to visit. Being on the equator and having mostly resident wildlife, Galapagos has year-round attraction.
Some say the best time to experience wildlife (and let’s face it, this is why you go to Galapagos) is during the transition months (May / June and Dec / Jan) as this is when the migratory species come through.
One of the questions we always ask people is, what have you seen or been told, that you particularly want to experience? If the answer is “courting Waved Albatross”, then we would recommend visiting at only a certain times of year.
How to Plan Your Trip
Factors to consider when planning a trip are many and varied. They depend on your particular interests and needs.
- What wildlife do you really want to see?
- Are you a snorkeller or prefer more land-based visits?
- Are you interested in cultural aspects as well as wildlife?
- Do you prefer luxury or comfort over expedition-style travel?
- Do you prefer to be on a larger or smaller vessel?
- Do you get seasick easily?
- Would you want to visit outside peak season?
- What have you previously seen and learnt about that ?
Our team have personal experience of all these tours, so we're in a great position to help you understand the nuances of each option.
When to book
We still get requests from travellers who want to book last minute deals or wait until a few weeks before a trip. This is rarely the case these days.
There is a physical limit to the number of tourists who can visit destinations. When we’re dealing with one of the most popular travel locations on Earth, you must plan early.
Earlybird specials apply only to products or seasons where there is limited capacity to fill spots. Very few if any operators these days offer last minute concessions.
This means you need to start planning a year or so in advance. Not only does this guarantee you the best trip and price, you’ll also benefit from the best priced flights, which are released about 11 months before travel.
In general, any last minute benefits will be wiped away by the additional costs of booking late.
Where from here?
STEP 2 STAY INFORMED about travel offers and deals - let us put you on a WATCHLIST
We’ll ask you a few questions and send you some ideas. The choice of trip can be bewildering and it comes down to what you expect or want. Once we understand that, we can point you in the direction.
If we know early enough, we may even be able to find you a good earlybird offer!