Rebecca Adventure Travel offers authentic, affordable, and incredible Galapagos Islands tours. You can make a choice between cruises, island hopping (land-based) tours, and diving tours. Find here some general information about traveling to the Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos Islands General Information
The Galapagos Archipelago consists of 19 Islands, which are all located in the Pacific Ocean, about 1.000 kilometers away from the South American coast. On the Galapagos and the surrounding marine reserve, you can find plenty of special and unique animal species. This is due to the unique natural processes, such as the ongoing seismic and volcanic activity and the extremely isolated location of the islands. Together, this resulted in the development of extraordinary animal life on the Galapagos. For this reason, this marine reserve has been called a ‘living museum and showcase of evolution. In 1835 Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos, which contributed to the development of his theory of evolution.
Every month has its own perks at the Galapagos. 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, the island hopping tour is the more economic option. Find more information about the Galapagos Islands tours below:
Island Hopping Tours- Land-Based
With an island hopping/land-based tour you stay on the three main islands on the Galapagos Archipelago; Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. Here you go on (guided) excursions during the day and at night you stay at a comfortable hotel. Excursions are for example; snorkeling, diving, hiking (volcanoes), visiting interpretation centers, and visiting historical sites. Transportation by water and overland is included. Please visit this page to see all the different types of island hopping tours.
If you like diving you can find the best diving packages. The Galapagos Islands is one of the best spots in the world for diving, 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: 7 Day Galapagos Diving.
Pros of Island Hopping Tours
- Boats work on specific scheduled departure dates. If you have a very tight vacation schedule, these dates may not work for you, but you should be able to make a trip work with land-based island hopping travel. Do keep in mind that hotels and day tours do book up ahead of time for the high season in the Galapagos.
- In general, it is more economical than the Galapagos cruise.
- A land-based itinerary allows you the freedom to go at your own pace and visit the places of your choice. Need a day off? Need to plan around toddler naps? No problem, this can easily work.
- This is a much better option for people who suffer terribly from seasickness.
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.
Pros of Cruise based tours
- Galapagos cruises provide the most efficient itinerary to see the islands. You don’t need to go back to your hotel every time.
- The important pro: as one of the most unique things to experience in the Galapagos is the ecological diversity between the islands, the ability to see more islands (for example cruise-only access Fernandina and Genovesa islands) allows you to experience the Galapagos complete!
- 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.
- Because the cruise boats have a long-standing relationship with their naturalists and guides, you will have an amazing guide for sure.
- A cruise provides a great way to get unplugged and spend quality time with loved ones as there is very little cell coverage and internet connectivity out on the water (except at a few islands stops along the way).
Where to find wildlife in the Galapagos Islands?
The Galapagos archipelago is composed of 127 islands, islets, and rocks, of which 4 are inhabited and 19 are large. The species that inhabit the islands have so many different physical variations unique to different islands, as they adapted to their specific environments. This is one of the principal reasons that led to Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Additionally, creating some of the highest levels of endemism and biodiversity.
All of this causes a great variety of species in all the islands and islets. Discover here, where you can find all the unique animals that reside in the Galapagos Islands.
What To See in The Galapagos Islands
Due to its wealth of wildlife, the Galapagos Islands are the perfect destination for animal lovers. The great thing about the animals on the Galapagos Islands is that they are very well receptive to your presence, so there are big chances to see several animal species 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 come from elsewhere. Regardless of being separate thousand kilometers from the mainland, most of its species were originally from North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. Land birds and California Sea lions arrived from North America, 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. Animals that were not suitable to the ocean, think of land mammals, reached the islands later by passage provided by the humans.
Around the year 1600’s humans started visiting the island bringing plants and animals that otherwise never would have reached the Galapagos. Later around the 1800s people who settled at 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 a lot of species can be found in the Galapagos. Of course, due to the wealth of species on the Galapagos Islands, it is too much to show them all. But what are the unique animals that can be found with our Galapagos Islands tours and where? Here, you will find out:
The Giant Tortoises on the Galapagos are one of the most famous and unique species on the Archipel. The giant tortoises are so one of a kind that the Island was named after them (Galapago means tortoise in Spanish). They are the largest tortoises in the world and they live the longest with an approximate lifespan of 170 years. An estimation of more than 250.000 giant tortoises once lived in the Galapagos 200 years ago. Nowadays, you can find around 25.000 giant tortoises on the Islands. You can find giant tortoises on Santa Cruz (Charles Darwin Station), San Cristobal (Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado), Floreana (Asilo de la Paz) and Isabela (Arnaldo Tupiza).
On the Galapagos Islands, three land iguanas can be found. These are the well-known yellow-colored iguanas called Conolophus subcristatus (Isabela Island, Fernandina Island, Santa Cruz Island, and South Plaza Island), Conolophus pallidus (Santa Fe Island), and the Conolophus Marthae (Wolf Volcano at the Northern end of Isabela Island). They live in drier places on the islands. Land iguanas can become more than 1 meter long and can weigh above 13 kilograms. They reach maturity when they are between 8 and 15 years.
As one of the most abundant reptiles throughout the Galapagos Islands. They look a lot like the smaller version of the iguanas. You can find the lava lizards normally in large groups atop lava, where they got their name from. Males lava lizards tend to be brighter colors with yellow specks or gold stripes. Whereas females have a red throat or head. In addition, males are larger than females and have rougher skin. The lava lizards can be found on every island except Genovesa, Darwin, and Wolf.
The flightless cormorant, which is also known as the Galapagos cormorant, is a large blackish-colored bird. As the name indicate 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 itself on octopuses, eels, and bottom-dwelling fishes by making dives. You can find the flightless cormorant just at two islands on the Galapagos. You can find them on Fernandina as well as on the northern and western coast of Isabela.
The Galapagos Hawk is a large, dark-colored hawk with wide wings and tail. The hawk feeds itself by invertebrates, small lizards, snakes, rodents, hatchling tortoises, and sea turtles as well as the marine iguanas found on the Galapagos. There are no natural predators of the hawks on the islands. They have just a little fear for humans. The Galapagos hawks are endemic to the Galapagos Archipelago and it was common throughout the islands. Unfortunately, there has been a population decline and some species have become extinct on five islands. The Galapagos hawk can be found in several habitats on the islands including lava fields, shorelines, forests, and mountains. The Galapagos hawks occupied all the main islands but, as mentioned before, are believed to be extinct on five islands.
In Galapagos Islands Tour we find out about the waved albatross is unique because it is the largest bird on the Galapagos Islands and the only albatross species to be found in the tropics. The waved albatross has a white head, a bit of yellow on its crown and neck. The feathers are brown with white breasts and underwing. The waved albatross is feeding itself at night by squid that comes closest to the surface or it steals food from other birds like blue-footed boobies. You can spot the waved albatross on Española Island.
Magnificent Frigate birds
The magnificent frigate bird has a large wing with a deeply forked tail and is hard to miss due to this. 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 birds 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. You can find these species on North Seymour, Floreana, San Cristobal, and Genovesa. However, you can find them throughout the archipelago in mangroves, deciduous trees, and as well as searching for food over the coral reefs.
The Galapagos Mockingbird might not be the most famous but it was the one that had the greatest early influence on the theory of Natural Selection. There are four species of mockingbirds on this Archipelago and the Galapagos mockingbird is the most spread. 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. The Galapagos mockingbirds feed themselves by fruits, nectars from cacti, small vertebrates, sea bird eggs, and carrion. When you want to see the Galapagos mockingbirds then you have to go to Santa Fe, Genovesa, Santa Cruz, Isabela, North Seymour, and Daphne Island.
On the Galapagos Archipelago, you can spot 14 different species of Darwin’s Finches. As the name indicates, they are called after the biologist Charles Darwin. The Finches are fearless and very noisy. All of Darwin’s Finches have a similar size as a sparrow and they have a similar appearance with grey, brown, black, or olive feathers. Even though the 14 different Finches have the same appearance they do differ in size and habitat. The 14 different species of Darwin Finches on the island vary in what they eat. Some eat seeds whereas the 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. The penguin on the Galapagos is also the most distinctive as it lives further north than any other penguin species. The Galapagos penguin is a carnivorous animal that feeds itself with 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. On land, they have to watch out for crabs, snakes, owls, and hawks. Whereas, in the water, they have to keep an eye out for sharks, seals, and sea lions. You can find 90 percent of the Galapagos penguins in the western islands of Fernandina and Isabela. They can also be seen in Santiago, Bartolome, northern Santa Cruz, and Floreana.
The blue-footed booby is one of the 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. 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 can be distinguished by their dark inner iris in the eye, making their pupils larger. In addition, the females tend to be a bit larger than the male but have a shorter tail. You can spot blue-footed boobies at the Galapagos at North Seymour, Isabela, Genovesa, and especially at Floreana Island.
Galapagos Fur Seals
The Galapagos fur seal looks with its short, pointed, muzzle, small, button-like nose, and fairly large eyes like his land carnivores ancestor. The coat of the Galapagos fur seal varies from dark brown to dark grey with light-tipped, longer guard hairs that give a grizzled appearance. Mostly the fur seals rest on the rocky shores of the Galapagos. When doing so six to ten Galapagos fur seals can occupy a space of 100 square meters. They group together mostly because of the scarcity of suitable rocks, as well for the benefit of making the females less vulnerable. The Galapagos fur seal is endemic to this Archipelago, where you can find them mostly on the island of Santa Cruz, but also on the western island, like Fernandina and Isabela Island.
On every shore zone of the Galapagos Islands, you will see marine iguanas. At 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 on the Galapagos are large and dark with variable coloration. You can distinguish the marine iguanas from the land iguanas by their flat and square nose and flatter tail. Their flatter nose is an adaption to make it easier to eat algae. Whereas their flatter tail helps them to swim. They feed themselves by 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.