For the most discerning travelers, Surtrek’s travel experts have handpicked a selection of the supremely luxurious Galapagos.
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GALAPAGOS DIVING CRUISES
There are diving vacations …and there are DIVING VACATIONS! One of the most special underwater adventures can be found in the legendary Galapagos Islands. Touted as one of the top 10 diving spots in the world, the Galapagos has earned a title as the “Mecca for divers.” Where else can you discover massive whale sharks patrolling the deep blue while schools of manta rays shark block out the sun?In this archipelago, each dive promises extraordinary sightings, making it nothing short of a “must-do once-in-a-lifetime experience” – whether you’re a beginning diver seeking to swim alongside playful sea lions or an advanced frogman comfortable with being surrounded by a squadron of hammerhead sharks.
Liveaboard Diving Cruises
Galapagos Islands, Lobos (1 dive), Santa Cruz (Carrion Point-1 dive), Darwin (8 dives), Wolf (4 dives), Isabela (Punta Vicente Roca-4 dives), Cousin’s Rock (2 dives)
Galapagos Islands, Lobos, Punta Carrion (2 dives), Wolf (7 dives), Darwin (5 dives), Cousin’s Rock (1 dive)
Before traveling to the Galapagos islands, you’ll need to consider which type of vacation works best for you – a cruise or a land-based vacation.Cruise-based tours of the Galapagos Islands allow greater wildlife coverage, as you’ll be able to explore different areas of the archipelago and reach the more remote islands. On a liveaboard cruise, you’ll enjoy guided activities, including snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and “panga” boat rides, which are included in the cruise packages. In addition, all meals are served on board and are also included. However, cruises lack flexibility in that they operate based on set departure dates and fixed itineraries. These types of tours are also usually more expensive.Land-based tours of the Galapagos archipelago are great for those who might feel too cooped up on a boat after several days, and for people who lack the “sea legs” (meaning those prone to seasickness) when on board a constantly rocking ship. Being more flexible, a land-based tour’s exploring activities and times for relaxing can be set as you see fit, and daytime “island-hopping” tours can be taken to selected islands by traveling for short times on speed boats. Nonetheless, land-based tours allow for visits to fewer islands and afford less exposure to the archipelago’s wildlife. Also, expedition activities are usually not included, nor are meals (except for breakfast).In either case, you and your tour operator can work together to address the issues that need to be dealt with to make your dream Galapagos vacation experience come true.
The Galapagos Islands is one of those rare destinations that offer sights, sounds, and activities that can be experienced in few if any other places on earth. But what makes any visit here truly exceptional are the many opportunities for close encounters with the extraordinary and exotic wildlife. These remote islands are home to uncounted endemic animal and plant species that exist nowhere else on the planet. From 500-pound Giant tortoises to the only species of penguin that lives north of the equator, not to mention sea lion pups who greet travelers’ toes when landing on whatever island.Avid birders and even curious bird watchers should note that the archipelago is home to 45 species of birds that you won’t see anywhere else …picture tiny Galapagos penguins and Darwin’s finches. Then too, intrepid hikers and casual walkers alike will find their jaws dropping when peering across a 6-mile wide volcanic crater, hiking over a lava field that blankets an entire island, or exploring subterranean lava tubes …flashlight in hand. Not to be ignored, aquatic enthusiasts of all types will revel in sharing the ocean’s waters with vibrantly colored tropical fish, miniature Godzilla-lie Marine iguanas, and ridiculously playful sea lions. Whether snorkeling or scuba diving, sea kayaking or “panga” (dingy) riding, you’ll discover for yourself a stunning underwater world like no other.Even for those travelers who are content with lounging on their yacht’s outdoor deck or spending quality time sunbathing on a beach next to a Land iguana, the activities in the Galapagos are never-ending (Oh, did we mention horseback riding along a desolate shore or mountain biking down the slope of some extinct volcano?). Whatever pursuits pique your interest, you’re sure to sate your cravings by exploring the Galapagos’ pristine landscapes and interacting with its magnificent creatures.
When traveling through the Galapagos islands, safety should not be a major area of concern, as the vast majority of trips occur with no problems whatsoever. In fact, most safety issues are those related to protection from sunburns, the need for common-sense precautions around animals (e.g. male sea lions), universal swimming and diving safeguards, and perhaps overdoing it at the ship’s bar.One should know that the cruise yachts and ships sailing the waters of the Galapagos are operated by trained and experienced professionals, teams of highly-skilled crew members and guides with first-aid and CPR training; and, as you’ll see, each cruise begins with a comprehensive safety briefing to familiarize you with all of the ship’s safety equipment and protocols.Concerning crime, the few towns and villages in the Galapagos are known to be safer than those on mainland Ecuador. Still, to prevent opportunistic wrongdoing, levelheaded measures should be taken, such as keeping an eye on your belongings, not flaunting valuables, etc. – just like anywhere else in the world.As for the big cities of mainland Ecuador, you’ll be accompanied by experienced local guides during any time spent here. In any case, travelers should avoid going out alone at night, take registered taxis, and walk in groups – just to be sure.All of this being said, Ecuador is a relatively safe country overall, especially the Galapagos Islands. Therefore, travelers shouldn’t let the negligible potential for crime keep them from all that this amazing county has to offer.
For most travelers, there really is no better or worse time to visit the islands. For a cruise, the archipelago is a great year-round destination, with no “off-season” stemming from weather conditions. Being situated right on the equator, the air temperatures vary little, ranging between 70°F and 85°F throughout the year, with a light but cooling mist (garua) experienced between January and April.Note, though, that water temperatures can, in fact, vary significantly, dropping as low as the 60s from May-November, which is why most yachts provide wetsuits.The island’s “high seasons” are during the Christmas-to-New Year’s holidays and the June-to-August summer vacation. If you can only travel during these sometimes crowded vacation periods, be sure to book your trip at least six months prior to your desired travel date, or earlier if at all possible to ensure a spot.As for the wildlife, don’t worry about missing out on them during any given month. Except for the Waved Albatross, almost no species in the islands migrate, meaning they’ll be there in this otherworldly destination, full of life and waiting to be explored.
When packing for a trip to the Galapagos Islands, keep in mind that you’ll be visiting not just those tropical and semi-arid islands, but also continental South America. With no direct flights to the archipelago, you’ll touch down first on the much cooler Ecuadorian mainland, where most travelers choose to spend at least a day or two in Quito so as to arrive in the Galapagos fresh and ready to hit the ground running. Dressing for the high-mountain Andean city of Quito means you’ll need to pack a few warm and water-resistant items (e.g. a jacket, long-sleeve fleece or sweater, and long pants, as well as bring along a travel umbrella).Later, when landing in the Galapagos Islands, you’ll have to dress for warmer weather and geographies that range from sandy palm-tree-backed beaches to cactus-dotted deserts and volcanic-rock fields. In any case, for your daily land expeditions, pack a wide-brimmed sun hat or a cap with a strap, short-sleeve breathable T-shirts, long-sleeve expedition-style shirts, convertible cargo pants, comfortable walking shoes and open-toe sports sandals with non-slippery soles (these are great for “wet landings,” where you’ll have to step directly out of from your dingy into angle-deep water and sand on the beach). Don’t forget shorts, swimwear, and some reef-friendly sunscreen for your ship’s sundeck and the shore.For the cool evenings on the water, some of the warmer clothes that you packed for the mainland will serve you well. Also, note that most yachts don’t have a formal dress code, so casual clothes are fine, even at dinner time.Since you’ll be traveling to uninhabited (i.e. store-less) islands at times, be sure to pack plenty of memory cards or film, recharging cords, batteries, and personal toiletries. Then too, though most ships provide wetsuits and snorkeling gear, you may want to bring along your own equipment if these are special-sized items or simply preferable.Worried about leaving anything out? Don’t fret – after you book your tour, you’ll receive a detailed packing list from Surtrek as a part of your information packet.
As there are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands (which is an Ecuadorian province), you’ll fly into mainland Ecuador*, choosing to land either in Quito (which is the county’s capital and located in the Andes) or in the coastal Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil.In either city, you’ll be welcomed at the airport by Surtrek representatives, who will assist you with your luggage and privately drive you to your upscale hotel.Be aware that from the moment you touch down, throughout your stay in Ecuador and its Galapagos Islands, and until it’s time to leave, you will be accompanied by experienced bilingual Surtrek staff and representatives who will accompany all along the way. In addition, you will be provided with ground transportation throughout your stay (and accompanied during the few instances that shared transport is required), assisted with your luggage and checking in at all domestic and international airports, welcomed upon your arrival at such airports, and finally, you’ll be seen off on your flight home or onward.So don’t worry – Surtrek’s soup-to-nuts service makes travel here a breeze.(*) Note: Direct non-stop flights fly to both Quito and Guayaquil from several US cities, including Houston, New York, and Miami. Likewise, such flights arrive from European cities such as Madrid.
Surtrek has over 25 years of experience helping travelers find the best cruise for their particular needs. Based here in Ecuador, we personally inspect the quality of each and every yacht, cruise ship, lodge and hotel, in addition to confirming these facilities meet our environmentally friendly Green Philosophy standards. We sleep in the beds, rate the coffee and cuisine, get to know the guides, and yes, even do the “dirty job” of testing the cocktails onboard before we give a boat or hotel the thumbs up.Contact one of our expert Galapagos trip planners for help planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Galapagos.