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GALAPAGOS ISLANDS ULTIMATE GUIDE: LOCATION, TIPS & MORE
The Galapagos Islands, better known as the Enchanted Islands, get their nickname thanks to all the scenic wonder and animal diversity that surrounds this world. Imagine having the opportunity to see the famous giant tortoises up close. Being able to photograph the most exotic animals of the islands, swim in crystal clear waters, walk along volcanic trails and more. In other words, you are going to make the trip of your dreams!.
In this video you can admire a little of what the islands have prepared for you!
Without a doubt the Galapagos Islands is a destination that everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime!. Continue reading this Galapagos Islands ultimate guide and discover everything you need to know to pack your bags and visit this wonderful place.
WHERE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS ARE LOCATED?
The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador in South America. They are located 1,000 km west of the Ecuadorian coast, in the Pacific Ocean. The continuous seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands. This in turn led to the development of unusual plants and animal life.
The Galapagos Marine Reserve covers an area the size of half of the land area of Ecuador, and is one of the largest in the world. Its strategic location allows the arrival of three ocean currents. As a result, the mixture of these cold and warm waters has given way to the establishment of a diversity of species.
WHY ARE THEY SO SPECIAL?
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most impressive biodiversity hotspots in the world. Reason why in 1978 UNESCO declared them a World Heritage Site. Despite problems due to species introductions, the archipelago is one of the best conserved and a world leader in the management of fragile ecosystems.
Galapagos includes two protected areas: the Galapagos National Park, covering 97% of the land area of the archipelago. And the Galapagos Marine Reserve, which protects the marine environment.
All the natural wealth and diversity of fauna has made the archipelago and its marine reserve a living laboratory of unique species. In 2015, the Galapagos Islands won the Best Place for Wildlife on the Planet contest, organized by USA Today.
HISTORY ABOUT THE ISLANDS
The history of the Galapagos Islands dates back millions of years with the volcanic formation of the archipelago. It is home of thousands of species, is full of mysteries and incredible natural beauty.
The first person to set foot on the enchanted Galapagos Islands was the Dominican friar Fray Tomas de Berlanga, bishop of Panama, more than 470 years ago. The story goes that the Dominican friar left Panama for Peru, but the ocean currents dragged him to Galapagos. His arrival on the island was on March 10, 1535.
But the islands became widely known in 1835. The British natural scientist Charles Darwin arrived for the first time in the Galapagos aboard a ship called HMS Beagle. On that visit he managed to distinguish their particular richness, resulting in the development of the Theory of Evolution by natural selection.
Today the Galapagos Islands are a living sanctuary, full of dazzling species and a unique natural environment. Scientists, naturalists and biologists from all over the world are still investigating the islands in order to learn about the magical world that surrounds them.
EXOTIC ANIMALS OF GALAPAGOS
The Galapagos Islands are one of the best places to see endemic wildlife. In other words some of these animals only exist in the archipelago and nowhere else in the world.
Here is a list of some of the animals you will find during your visit to the islands:
- Blue-Footed Booby
Blue-footed boobies are the most common ones to find and a favorite of many travelers. These birds have a particular characteristic. During their mating season, the males dance an elegant courtship with many cries and a pose known as “punta de cielo”.
It is common to find boobies on most of the islands throughout the year. But the best time to find a large number of them is in March. The chicks hatch in June and need five to six months of development before they can fly.
Interesting facts: The bluer the legs of the males, the more attractive they are for mating.
- Waved Albatross
It is the turn of one of the rarest birds in the world, the elegant albatross. You can only found them in one place: Española Island. Albatrosses are one of the most beautiful birds of the islands, thanks to their mix of brown, yellow and white with a bright yellow beak. The best time to see them is from April onwards as in January they leave to raise their young.
Interesting facts: These broad-winged birds, which are also the largest bird species in the Galapagos, have only one mate throughout their lives.
- Galapagos Flightless Cormorant
The flightless cormorant is the only cormorant in the world that has lost the ability to fly. This is because its wings are too small to support it in the air. However, they are useful for stability when jumping over coastal rocks. Mating between flightless cormorants involves an elaborated courtship ritual in which two cormorants intertwine their necks and move in a circle.
Isabela and Fernandina islands are home to this species. They nest between May and October. Their appearance is characterized by their black and brown plumage, turquoise eyes, burnished voices and especially by their small wings.
Interesting facts: The flightless cormorant is one of the rarest bird species in the world, with fewer than 1,000 left in the Galapagos Islands. Therefore, they are the subject of an active conservation program.
- Darwin’s Finch
There are 13 different species of finches on the different islands of the archipelago, some are very similar and others look like a different species. In general, Galapagos finches are small birds with pointed beaks. Charles Darwin, the great naturalist, used these particular birds to illustrate his theory of evolution. For instance, they are one of the most amazing animals of Galapagos.
Interesting facts: These birds have evolved over time to adapt to their environment and not compete with each other.
- Galapagos penguin
The Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is a truly extraordinary bird. Designed for the frigid arctic conditions, it has somehow adapted to live on the islands. So, it is an endangered species and is very rare to see, as there are only about 1,500 penguins on the Galapagos Islands.They can be seen mainly in Fernandina and the west coast of Isabela Island.
Interesting facts: It is the only penguin found naturally to the north of the equator.
- Giant Tortoises
Giant tortoises are, without a doubt, one of the most amazing animals in Galapagos. Likewise, one of the main motivations for tourists to visit the islands. The prehistoric-looking Galapagos tortoises can live more than 150 years and were a major influence on Darwin’s theory of evolution. You can learn much more about the history and characteristics of these tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station and see them at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Isabela Island.
Interesting facts: In the 1970s, due to hunting, the species almost became extinct. Of 25,000 species, approximately 3,000 remained.
HOW DO YOU GET TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS?
To get to Galapagos, the first step is to enter Ecuador. There are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands. In Ecuador you can arrive at Mariscal Sucre Airport in Quito or José Joaquín de Olmedo Airport in Guayaquil. From here flights depart daily to the islands.
Flight time is around 2 hours from Quito, or 1 to 1/2 hours from Guayaquil. Flights from Quito usually have a short stop-over in Guayaquil on route. There is a one hour time difference between Ecuador mainland and the Galapagos Islands.
Currently, two different airlines have regular flights to Galapagos: Avianca and Latam. Both operate out of the two main airports serving the islands: San Cristobal and Baltra
REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTRY
All travelers over three years of age must present one of these options:
- Vaccination certificate with QR code or Covid-19 vaccination card, being valid with at least 14 days of validity after completing the scheme.
- PCR test or antigen test with negative result. This test must be performed up to 72 hours prior to shipment to Ecuador.
Note: Children under three years of age should not present any of these documents.
Any person entering Ecuador by air must present the Traveler’s Health Declaration in digital form.
Here you can find the health declaration form. Important: This document must be shown to the airline before boarding.
In order to enter to the Galapagos Islands, all travelers need to present a valid passport. It’s also necessary to ask for the INGALA transit card at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil before entering the islands.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TRAVEL TO GALAPAGOS?
The price of travel to the Galapagos Islands varies depending on the type and duration of the trip, as well as the level of comfort and luxury. Either land tours or cruises.
Here you can find various tours, activities and prices.
ACTIVITIES YOU CAN DO AT ISLANDS
The Galapagos Islands offers everyone the possibility to enjoy a great variety of activities. In everything you do you will experience the best of the wildlife and nature.
Trekking in the Galapagos brings the best opportunity to take some amazing pictures of the wildlife and landscapes. In Galapagos there are a lot of places for doing this activity.
Most tours include snorkeling, the easiest and most practical way to experience the amazing underwater world of Galapagos. For example, from the dinghy, you can already see some curious sea lions and penguins watching you coming closer.
Paddling alongside the island’s shore and observing many birds, as well as other marine life enjoying the tranquil turquoise waters of Galapagos. Discover the hidden beauty of lagoons surrounded by mangrove forest while kayaking at leisure.
Scuba diving is, without a doubt, the best and most rewarding underwater experience available. Just picture yourself swimming along schools of rays, and sea lions wanting to play with the calm turtles who are trying to eat some algae off the rocks.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BRING?
Here is a list of the things you should not forget to bring in your suitcase:
- Sport shoes
- Lightweight long and short sleeve shirts
- Bathing suit
- Wide-brimmed hat
- Long pants
- Light jacket for the evenings.
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and an excellent camera.
Now you can pack your bags! This Galapagos Islands ultimate guide will help you make your trip unique and special, so don’t think twice and enjoy the trip.