Rebecca Adventure Travel offers authentic, affordable, and incredible Galapagos Islands tours. You can make a choice between cruises, island hopping or land-based tours, and diving tours. Below you will find general information about traveling to the Galapagos Islands to help you make the best choice for your Galapagos adventure.
Galapagos Islands General Information
The Galapagos Islands and tours consist of visiting 13 larger islands and many other small coves and islets. All of these Galapagos Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean, about 600 miles away from the Ecuadorian coast. In the Galapagos and the surrounding marine reserve, you can find plenty of special and unique animal species. That is because the unique natural processes of the ongoing seismic and volcanic activity, paired with the extreme isolation of the islands, have resulted in the development of extraordinary animal life in the Galapagos. Many of these wildlife species are endemic. This means they cannot be found anywhere else in the world! This marine reserve is a living museum and showcase of evolution. Also, in 1835, Charles Darwin was one of the first of many who visited the Galapagos, which contributed to the famous development of his theory of evolution.
Interestingly, every month has its own perks in the Galapagos. There are many Galapagos species that mate and reproduce at different times. During the entire year, there is something to see. Yet, even though the weather in Galapagos seems to be tropical, it can affect animal behaviors. With this calendar, you can see the highlights per month:
Galapagos Islands Tours: By Cruise or By Land
There are two ways to discover the Galapagos Islands; by boat on a cruise or on a land-based, island-hopping tour. Usually, island hopping tours are the more economical option. Find more information about the Galapagos Islands tours below:
Galapagos Island Hopping Tours – Land-Based
With an island hopping or land-based tour you will stay on one of the three main islands in the Galapagos Archipelago; Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, or Isabela, or all three! Guided excursions are available each day. In the evenings, you can stay at a comfortable hotel. A few examples of daily excursions are snorkeling, diving, hiking volcanoes, interpretation centers, and historical site visits. Transportation by water and on land is included. You can visit this page to see the different types of island hopping tours.
If you like diving the Galapagos Islands is one of the best spots in the world for diving, as stated by the PADI community. You can even take your whole PADI course at the Galapagos Islands. Check out one of our best-selling diving tours: the 7-Day Galapagos Diving.
Pros of Island Hopping Tours
- Cruises work on specific departure dates. If you have a tight vacation schedule, you can make a trip work with a land-based island-hopping plan. Keep in mind that hotels and day tours fill up ahead of time for the high season in the Galapagos.
- In general, an island hopping tour is more economical than a Galapagos cruise.
- A land-based itinerary allows you the freedom to go at your own pace and visit the places of your choice. Plan a free day or plan around toddler naps!
- This is a great option for those who suffer from seasickness.
- You can fly between the three main islands for an exclusive aerial perspective of the islands.
Cruise Based Tours
At Rebecca Adventure Travel, you can find the best Galapagos Islands cruise tours. From tourist class to tourist superior, luxe, and first-class, you find all the boats for the best price. The main advantage of taking a cruise is that you travel at night and during the day you have the entire day to explore the most remote spots of the Galapagos Archipelago. A disadvantage is the limited space that you have on board (especially tourist and tourist superior class boats). The boats have a limited number of cabins (usually around 10). The cruises take from 4 up to 15 days and the starting points are either at Baltra or at San Cristobal airport.
Check out our last-minute cruise deals on the Galapagos Islands. Please contact us for more information and include the date range, preferred service level, and the number of passengers.
Pros of Galapagos Cruises
- Galapagos cruises provide the most efficient itinerary to see the most islands possible. You don’t need to return to a hotel each night.
- The most unique things to experience in the Galapagos are the ecological diversity between each island and the ability to see more islands.
- Fernandina and Genovesa Islands can only be visited by cruise due to their isolated location.
- You only need to unpack once, you are not hopping between hotels.
- There is no need to search for restaurants as meals on cruises are included.
- Cruises have a long-standing relationship with their naturalist guides, ensuring a knowledgeable guided experience.
- A cruise provides a great way to unplug and spend quality time with loved ones as there is little cellphone coverage and internet connectivity once you leave the main ports.
Where to find wildlife in the Galapagos Islands?
The Galapagos archipelago is composed of 13 main islands and islets, of which 4 are inhabited and all others are pristine and wild. Interestingly, the species that inhabit these islands have many different physical variations, each unique to the island they reside on. Over millions of years, they adapted to their specific environments. Therefore, resulting in various species of Galapagos tortoises, finches, iguanas, and even birds that cannot fly. This is one of the principal reasons that led to Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Likewise, these same amazing animals have created the highest levels of endemism and biodiversity.
Discover here, where you can find all the unique animals that reside in the Galapagos Islands. Some are reached by island hopping or land-based tours, while others can only be reached by cruise.
What To See of the Galapagos Islands Wildlife
Due to its wealth of wildlife, the Galapagos Islands are the perfect destination for animal lovers. The great thing about the animals in the Galapagos Islands is that they are receptive to your presence and have no fear. Therefore, your chances to see several animal species up close are high during our Galapagos Islands tours.
According to several scientists, the Galapagos Islands were never connected to the mainland. Therefore, the ancestors of every plant and animal species on the islands have come from somewhere else. Regardless of being separated by thousands of kilometers from the mainland, most of the Galapagos species were originally from North, Central, and South America, including the Caribbean. Land birds and California sea lions arrived from North America, and pink flamingos, and Darwin’s finches from the Caribbean. Whereas, land iguanas, pelicans, cormorants, and blue-footed boobies arrived from South America. As a result of the Humboldt Current, fur sea lions, and penguins were able to reach the Galapagos Islands as well.
Around the 1600s, humans started visiting the islands bringing plants and animals that otherwise never would have reached the Galapagos. In the 1800s people who settled in the Galapagos brought animals such as horses, cattle, donkeys, goats, pigs, dogs, and cats. Present-day only two of the nineteen islands remained untouched by introduced mammals. However, the introduction of new animals is still happening.
It is not a surprise that many species can be found in the Galapagos. Of course, due to the wealth of wildlife in the Galapagos Islands, it can be overwhelming trying to see them all. However, we can tell you what unique animals can be found with our Galapagos Islands tours and where. Keep reading below to find out!
The Giant Tortoise in the Galapagos is one of the most famous and unique species in the entire archipelago. Actually, the giant tortoises are so one of a kind that the group of islands was named after them. Galapagos means tortoise in Spanish, named so by Spaniards. They are the largest tortoises in the world and they are the longest-living species with an approximate lifespan of 170 years. An estimated 250,000 Giant tortoises once lived in the Galapagos just 200 years ago. Nowadays, you can find around 25,000 Giant tortoises on various islands. Additionally, you can find Giant tortoises in Santa Cruz at the Charles Darwin Research Station or the Santa Cruz Highlands. You can also see them on the island of San Cristobal at the Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado Breeding Center or in the wild on Floreana Island at Asilo de la Paz. Not to mention, as well as Isabela Island at the Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center or in the wild in the highlands.
In the Galapagos Islands, there are three land iguanas that can be found. Interestingly, these iguanas are well-known yellow-colored iguanas called Conolophus subcristatus. Indeed, they can be found on Isabela Island, Fernandina Island, Santa Cruz Island, and South Plaza Island. The Conolophus pallidus is found on Santa Fe Island. Finally, the Conolophus Marthae is found at Wolf Volcano at the Northern end of Isabela Island. Curiously, they live in drier places on the islands. Land iguanas can grow to be more than 1 meter long and can weigh above 13 kilos. They reach maturity when they are between 8 and 15 years.
As one of the most abundant reptiles throughout the Galapagos Islands, lava lizards are small reptiles important to the Galapagos ecosystem. Normally, you can find lava lizards skirting across lava rocks. Coincidentally, the same place they got their name from. Male lava lizards tend to be brighter colors with yellow specks or gold stripes. On the other hand, females have a red throat or head. In addition, males are larger than females and have rougher skin. The lava lizards are found on every island except Genovesa, Darwin, and Wolf.
The flightless cormorant, or Galapagos cormorant, is a large blackish-colored bird that lost the ability to fly thanks to evolution. As the name indicates, this bird cannot fly due to its tiny wings. This makes them the only species in the cormorant family that does not fly. When it comes to appearance males and females are similar. However, males are bigger than females. The flightless cormorant feeds on octopus, eels, and bottom-dwelling fish as expert divers. You can find the flightless cormorant on only two islands in the Galapagos. You can find them at Fernandina and on the western coast of Isabela Island.
The Galapagos Hawk is a large, dark-colored hawk with wide wings and tail. The hawk will feed on invertebrates, small lizards, snakes, rodents, hatchling tortoises, and sea turtles. The Galapagos hawk has no natural predator on the islands. The hawk has little to no fear of humans. The Galapagos hawks are endemic to the Galapagos. Actually, it was once common throughout the islands. Unfortunately, the population has declined and has become extinct on five islands. The Galapagos hawk lives in several habitats on the islands including lava fields, shorelines, forests, and highlands.
During a Galapagos Islands tour, you can learn about the waved albatross. Amazingly, it is the largest bird in the Galapagos Islands and the only albatross species found in the tropics. To further describe, the waved albatross has a white head and a bit of yellow on its crown and neck. The feathers are brown with white breasts and underwings. The waved albatross feeds itself at night on squid and spends the majority of its life at sea. Furthermore, this bird lands only to mate and reproduce. You can spot the waved albatross only on Española Island.
Magnificent Frigate birds
The magnificent frigate bird is known as the pirate of the Galapagos skies. These birds have large wings with deeply forked tails and are hard to miss. The large wings enable the magnificent frigate birds to fly and soar effortlessly that Charles Darwin called this bird ‘the condor of the ocean’. This species of magnificent frigate bird use thermals to reach heights of 2.500 meters with less need for wing flapping. This allows the species to cover long distances with minimal energy to survive over tropical water where food is scarce. The magnificent frigate birds feed themselves with airborne flying fish, squid, jellyfish, and scraps discarded by boats. They also steal prey from other birds. You can find these species on the islands of North Seymour, Floreana, San Cristobal, and Genovesa. However, you can also find them throughout the archipelago in mangroves, deciduous trees, and searching for food over coral reefs.
The Galapagos Mockingbird might not be the most famous but it has had the greatest early influence on the theory of Natural Selection. There are four species of mockingbirds in the archipelago and the Galapagos mockingbird is the most widespread. The crown, nape, and tail are black and brown, and the wings are tipped with white. Whereas, the throat, chest, and belly are mostly white with flecks of brown. Galapagos mockingbirds feed themselves on fruits, nectars from cacti, small vertebrates, seabird eggs, and carrion. When you want to see the Galapagos mockingbird then you need to go to Santa Fe, Genovesa, Santa Cruz, Isabela, North Seymour, and Daphne Islands.
In the Galapagos Archipelago, you can spot 14 different species of Darwin’s Finches. As the name indicates, they are called so after the biologist Charles Darwin. The Finches are fearless and very noisy. All of Darwin’s finches have a similar size to a sparrow and they have a similar appearance with grey, brown, black, or olive-colored feathers. Even though the 14 different finches have the same appearance, they differ in size and habitat. The 14 different species of Darwin finches on the island also vary in their diet. Some will eat seeds whereas others eat insects. You can find Darwin’s finches throughout the Galapagos Archipelago.
The Galapagos penguin is the third smallest species of penguin in the world. This penguin is also the most distinctive as it is the only penguin to live this far north, more than any other penguin species. The Galapagos penguin is a carnivorous animal that feeds itself on marine animals. Krill and small crustaceans make up the bulk of the Galapagos penguin’s diet along with larger organisms including squid and various species of fish. Because of the smaller size of the Galapagos penguins, they have many predators both on land and in the water. These penguins are also endemic to Galapagos, they cannot be found anywhere else in the world. On land, their predators are crabs, snakes, owls, and hawks. Whereas, in the water, they have to keep an eye out for sharks and fur seals, and even sea lions. You can find 90 percent of the Galapagos penguins near the western islands of Fernandina and Isabela. They can also be seen near Santiago, Bartolome, northern Santa Cruz, and Floreana Islands.
The blue-footed booby is one of the most famous animals in the Galapagos. The name ‘Booby’ comes from the Spanish word bobo, meaning fool. This refers to the fact that the blue-footed boobies are a bit clumsy on land. Or, perhaps their awkward mating dance ritual! This seabird is large, comical-looking, and recognizable by its blue feet. Even though male and female boobies look similar, there are some differences. Females have a dark inner iris in the eye, which makes their pupils larger. In addition, the females tend to be a bit larger than the male but have shorter tails. You can spot blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos at North Seymour, Isabela, Genovesa, San Cristobal, and Floreana Island.
Galapagos Fur Seals
The Galapagos fur seal looks different than a sea lion with its short and small, button-like nose, while it has fairly large eyes and the coat of the Galapagos fur seal varies from dark brown to dark grey with light-tipped, longer hairs that give a grizzly appearance. Fur seals like to rest and sunbathe on the rocky shores of the Galapagos near Santiago Island. When doing so six to ten Galapagos fur seals can occupy a space of 100 square meters. They group up mostly because of the scarcity of suitable rocks, as well as for the benefit of making the females less vulnerable. The Galapagos fur seal is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. You can see them at Santiago Island.
On every shore zone of the Galapagos Islands, you will see marine iguanas. In the archipelago, there are seven marine iguanas, Albermalensis (Isabela Island, Cristatus (Fernandina Island), Hassi (Santa Cruz Island), Mertensi (San Cristobal Island and Santiago Island), Nanus (Tower Island), Sielmanni (Pinta Island) and Venustissimus (Hood Island). The marine iguanas in the Galapagos are large and dark with variable coloration. You can distinguish marine iguanas from land iguanas by their flat and square nose and flatter tail. The biggest difference, marine iguanas live in and out of the water, feeding on submerged algae and spraying salt through their noses! Their flatter nose is an adaption to make it easier to eat algae. Whereas their flatter tail helps them to swim. They feed themselves from marine algae obtained from the splash zone or by diving near the shore. Interestingly, they can spend up to 1 hour underwater. Marine iguanas take up to eight years to reach maturity.