Galapagos , with their dreamy name, are a small archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean more than 1000 kilometers west of the continent. They are made up of around twenty islands and around forty islets , all of volcanic origin. The Galápagos were only discovered in 1535 and it was above all Darwin who made them famous with his famous “Theory on the evolution of species”. In order to preserve this unique ecosystem, the Ecuadorian government decided to create a national park in 1959 as well as the Charles Darwin Foundation on the island of Santa Cruz. And as proof of this exceptional richness, it is thefirst site to be classified as World Heritage by UNESCO in 1978 .
Tourists come from all over the world to Galapagos to observe its animals, most of which are endemic to the archipelago. For example, there are 58 species of birds, 28 of which are found only in the Galapagos. Some of the best-known and most prized animals include giant tortoises, iguanas (terrestrial and marine), sea lions, albatrosses, frigatebirds (with the evil that puff out its red neck to attract females ) or even the blue and red footed boobies parading in front of visitors.
In addition to the three largest (and most populated) islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela, it is also interesting to visit the islands of Seymour Norte, Plaza Sur, Espanola, Floreana, Genovesa, Fernandina, Bartolome or even Santa Fe. Each island has its specificity , its own landscapes (they can vary greatly from one island to another) and sometimes certain animals are endemic to a single island.
The Galápagos can be visited in different ways, the best known and most interesting being by cruise and Island Hopping . In any case, it is necessary to go there by plane round trip from Quito or Guayaquil. It is necessary to fill in a “transit card” (10 USD) and you will also have to pay the entrance fee to the national park of 100 USD. It is important to know that, whatever your way of discovering the Galápagos, it is the national park that sets the routes and no one can deviate from it (you must therefore choose an already established route).
Cruising is the most popular mode of discovery. You can indeed see more distant islands, the navigation being done mainly at night.
There are cruises of 4, 5, 8 or 15 days, the 5 day one being a good compromise between the price and the time spent on site. For those who have more means, it is of course advisable to stay there for a week. In this area, there are boats of all categories, ranging from wrecks (or almost) to luxury liners! Here are the classification categories for boats in Galapagos: tourist (not recommended because miniature cabin and bad service), superior tourist (most requested category, even if the cabins are still very small), first class (sometimes catamarans) and luxury (often ocean liners).
In any case, a Spanish-English-speaking naturalist guide is on board to accompany you during the visits (only luxury liners have French-speaking guides) and this is a full-board service.
The principle of “Island Hopping” is to sleep in hotels (generally on the islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela and/or San Cristobal) and take day trips by boat. This option is especially interesting for those who are seasick (!) and who prefer to sleep on land. However, you won’t be able to see as much variety of animals and scenery as on a cruise (you only go to the islands near your hotels). In addition, navigations are longer during the day than on a cruise (in the latter case, you sail during meals or at night).
The Galápagos are not strictly speaking a seaside destination, its main interest residing above all in visiting the islands and discovering the animals. However, some travelers like to end their stay with a few days of freedom to enjoy the place and the sea. There are hotels of all categories offering a variety of services. It should be noted that the ideal season for this type of stay is rather from December to May. Indeed, despite frequent showers, the air temperature is 22-30°C and that of the water around 24°C. Otherwise, from November to April, the temperatures are lower and you sometimes have to use a shorty to swim.
For the more adventurous, it is possible to discover the Galápagos in a slightly different way with mountain biking, kayaking, trekking or even snorkeling.
Santa Cruz Island is the second largest island in the Galapagos, it is also the most populated because volcanic activity has long ceased. Colonized since the 1920s, the island is now the most important tourist center of the Galapagos thanks to the Baltra airport in the north of the island. On site, you will be able to appreciate the giant land turtles before diving in Punta Carrion to discover its seabed.
NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND
North Seymour is a very small island located north of Santa Cruz Island and Baltra in the Galapagos archipelago. It is renowned for its many animal species, true symbols of the Galapagos: it is in North Seympour that you will see the largest colony of blue-footed boobies, a real pleasure for wildlife enthusiasts. Other residents call the site home like land iguanas, marine iguanas and the famous Galapagos sea lions.
The landscapes of Bartholomé Island are certainly the most famous of all the islands, and yet it is certainly the driest island with very few living species. By the rock Pinnacle Rock largely compensates for this lack of life: formed by the lava of a volcano, it is the most photogenic of the archipelago. Note however the presence of a beautiful colony of Galapagos penguins, among the smallest penguins in the world!
Isabela is the largest of the islands in the Galapagos archipelago, its area is simply larger than all the other islands combined! The fauna on Isabela Island is particularly rich, thanks in particular to the 6 different volcanoes which have allowed endemic species to thrive. It is also the best place for whale watching.
SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND
Located east of the Galapagos archipelago, San Cristobal Island is home to the city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which is the official capital of the Galapagos. Many birds have taken up residence on this island, as well as sea lions who particularly appreciate long naps on the rocks heated by the sun.
Española Island is the oldest of all the islands in the Galapagos archipelago, its formation dates back more than 4 million years! It is home to many endemic, unique species, such as the mockingbird, the lava lizard and of course the Galapagos albatross.