The Galapagos are cool. What could be cooler than waking up to a giant tortoise, lava lizard or iguana outside your window?
Wait, don’t answer that just yet. That experience is a highlight of Galapagos on land. But the individual Galapagos islands are so different they each have their own wildlife species. To experience the Galapagos you need to explore on the water.
And you need to do it soon. Tourism hasn’t fully recovered in the Galapagos. Now is the time to explore, while it’s still super quiet. Summer 2022 is perfect to do the Galapagos in style.
Making Galapagos Cruising Cool
You will see different animals and have different experiences around different islands. However, only four of the islands have fresh water and hotels. So to explore you need to cruise. Luckily, this is cruising for people who don’t usually like cruising. It’s small-scale, low-key, and gives you the freedom to go on a nature safari.
Tortoises and lava lizards are cool. Now imagine kayaking with sea lions at sunrise. Or watching a blue-footed booby mating dance. Perhaps swimming with rays and turtles, or diving with hammerhead sharks. How about admiring 35,000 waved albatross pairs in courtship?
Cruising can be cool, even if Galapagos boats would stand out as the ugly sister in a superyacht harbour. These boats won’t win any interior design contests either. But hey, it’s the natural world that’s amazing here, not the boat. These are your key cruising considerations.
The problem with every boat ever built is that there are only limited places to get off. Unless you capsize of course. Everyone gets off in the same place and this bottleneck is a waste of your time. On big boats it means you spend more time waiting and less time at the wildlife sites. 32 passengers is the maximum we’d recommend.
Want to Explore Galapagos?
Just about every Galapagos vessel is described as “luxurious” in the brochures. None of them are really that luxurious. So think of yourself as Charles Darwin in HMS Beagle, on a wildlife expedition rather than Instagramming a bikini photo from the deck (most boats don’t have Wi-Fi anyway). It’s not about you, it’s about what you will see.
So leave your expectations at a comfortable and clean suite, good outside space on deck, and pleasant places to relax. The key luxury is the quality of the service you get on the best boats. Having the best guides makes all the difference when it comes to wildlife.
Every Galapagos boat has its own itineraries and will visit a predetermined series of sites. For conservation reasons the authorities carefully control the number of people at each site. There is no typical route and you should always be the only group at the wildlife location. The most fragile sites may only allow one group of 16 passengers per day. There are less regulated and more crowded places close to hotels on the bigger islands – cruises don’t usually visit them.
Itineraries are created in negotiation with the national park authorities and this is great for both conservation and exclusivity. Cheaper boats with low budgets prefer simple routes to easy-to-access, cheaper sites. The best boats support the authorities more and have the most premium itineraries. When you cruise on the best boats you go to better wildlife sites and experience more Galapagos diversity.
Typical cruise itineraries are three to seven nights. We recommend thinking about the key experiences and wildlife you want to have on your trip. Then we can find you an itinerary that brings these together.
Your Summer 2022 Guide to the Different Galapagos Islands
There are 13 islands and there are 13 different species of Galapagos tortoise. Just think about that. Nine of those islands don’t even have fresh water. Every species has a differently shaped shell. We’re talking about uber-evolution going on here. Neighbouring islands are absolutely distinct and you can’t fit 13 islands into a single week of cruising. Then there are all the small islets as well!
Baltra – This island is ugly, but it only has an airport and military base, so let’s move on!
Bartolome – Covered in lava tubes that feel like you’re walking on Mars. Amazing snorkeling, often with reef sharks and rays, very occasionally with penguins.
Daphne Major & Daphne Minor – Extremely fragile and protected tuff cones that look great on photos. Dive with a few hammerheads here.
Darwin – Dive with massive schools of hammerheads and manta rays here, in the far north. No land access.
Espanola – Oldest and most diverse island. Marine iguanas, mockingbirds, sea lions, waved albatross, plus mating sites for Nazca and blue-footed boobies. And white-sand beaches. Lots of wildlife sites.
Floreana – Flamingos, sea turtle nests, endemic plants and perfect for either snorkelling or a glass-bottomed boat excursion.
Genovesa – Home to over 1 million birds! Storm petrels, red-footed boobies, frigates, mockingbirds, herons, gulls and much more.
Isabela – Largest island that’s still erupting (you can hike to the crater rim). Dozens of great places to explore and a full range of activities: dive sites, bird sites, penguins, iguanas, endemic birds. Has hotels but not crowded like Santa Cruz.
Marchena – Diving destination in the north – eels, rays, sharks and more.
North Seymour – Famous for its huge concentration of bird nesting sites – you get remarkably close to mating dances and colourful feathers.
Rabida – Distinctively red volcanic island. Swim with sea lions, walk with nesting birds like pelicans, admire incredible iguanas.
San Cristobal – Has an airport plus hotels, along with a wide array of wildlife sites. Great introduction to Galapagos diversity, above and below the water.
Santa Cruz – Second largest island with most human development and majority of the hotels. Covered in tortoises and iguanas! Lots of things to do but the sites can be crowded.
Santa Fe – So many sea lions it’s hard not to step on one. Plus a really cool endemic iguana.
Santiago – Spectacular lava flows, huge iguanas and a stunning underwater world.
South Plaza – Seabirds, sea lions, plus an amazing hiking trail past different birds – this is a small islet with a lot on offer.
Your Galapagos Cruise
There are over 100 Galapagos boats and hundreds of itineraries. Doing the Galapagos in style is about experiencing the most unique nature on our planet. So speak to us about what you want to experience and we’ll do the heavy lifting. We’ll find a cruise that’s good for you, from our trusted partners in Ecuador and Galapagos.