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A Complete Guide To Galápagos Island Travel

The Galápagos Islands are located roughly 1,000 miles off the West coast of Ecuador. Home to an abundance of wildlife both above and below the surface, this is a true nature lover’s paradise. Here’s everything you need to know about Galápagos Island travel.

Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands in 1835, and his observation of the species that he found there later inspired his theory of evolution. Species including the giant Galápagos tortoise, blue-footed booby and sea lion continue to thrive here today. These are just a few of the reasons why Galapagos tours are on every wildlife lover, nature photographer, and conservationists bucket list

humpback whale's nose poking out of the water, seen during Galápagos island travel
close up of a land iguana in Galápagos island
view of an island from the sea during Galápagos island travel

Add a Galápagos Holiday To Your Bucket List

If you like to scuba dive or snorkel, Galápagos Island travel is perfect for you

The surrounding waters are incredibly abundant in marine life, and you don’t have to go far from the shore to experience some of the best sites. Wildlife highlights include:

• Large schools of hammerhead sharks
• Blue whales
• Humpback whales
• Playful sea lions
• Fur seals
• Marine iguana
• Penguins
• Tuna
• Spotted eagle rays
• Golden rays

mass of iguana stood all over one another in the Galápagos islands
waves crash against the rocks in Galápagos islands
blue footed booby stands on a rock beside the sea in Galápagos islands
whale jumps out of the water, seen during a Galápagos island travel tour

Planning For Galápagos Island Travel

Getting to the Galápogas Islands

Galapagos is a prehistoric chain of 21 islands that are best reached by plane. Most depart from Guayaquil or Quito in Ecuador, and land on the islands of Baltra or San Cristobal.

Choosing the right tour for you

There are a number of ways to explore the Galápogas islands, from day trips on land to fortnight long excursions at sea. Look for tours that will combine the best of both, like a multi-day sailing trip that visits the best snorkelling and diving sites, and stops at a selection of the most beautiful and interesting islands along the way. Plenty of options are available, so take your time to  do your research and choose the one that best fits your interests. If you’re planning to scuba-dive (which is highly recommended) book yourself on a liveaboard to maximise your time in the water. To really make the most of the scuba diving in the Galápagos islands, ensure you’ve got your Advanced Open Water certificate before you visit. Due to the exciting nature of diving here, this level of training is often required to dive a lot of the sites.

Galápagos Tortoise
Galápagos Brown Pelican
Sea Turtle
Sea Lion

Best Time to Visit The Galápagos Islands

There really is no bad time for a  Galápagos Island trip. With such an abundance of wildlife these islands can be enjoyed year-round. However, there are certain times of the year that will better your chances of seeing particular animal behaviours.

Warm & Rainy Season
(December to May)

Clear skies and calm waters, with temperatures around 27°C. Rain showers are heavy but short, with the sun coming back soon after.

On land

Giant tortoise eggs begin to hatch in December, and green sea turtles can often be seen mating in shallow waters. Marine iguana mating season begins, so you can see the males competing for dominance by butting heads. The start of the year is mating season for sea turtles, sea lions, and tortoises. March and April are best for seeing new born wildlife across the islands. Wildflowers also blossom between February and April. 

Underwater

Waters are warmer and calmer, and visibility is excellent for diving and snorkelling. You may see slightly less marine life, but conditions are more relaxed.

Cooler Dry Season
(June to November)

Expect slightly cooler days and overcast skies, with temperatures around 21°C. Waters are cooler and rougher, but there’s a lot more marine life.

On land

This is the best time to witness the courtship displays of flamingos, blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. Giant Galápagos tortoises migrate back to the highlands in August, and can be seen in abundance until March. September is mating season for penguins, and a good time to spot new born sea lion pups. 

Underwater

Lower water temperatures attract an abundance of fish and large schools of hammerhead sharks. Whales and dolphins can be seen throughout the archipelago from June to November. The best time for whale watching is from June through September when you have your best change to spot a few humpbacks. 

Humpback Whales

Visit the islands to feed in the dry season

Sally Lightfoot Crabs

Known for their incredibly bright colour and remarkable agility

 

Galápagos Tortoises

Have a lifespan in the wild of over 100 years

Land Iguanas

Charles Darwin reported that they were everywhere when he visited in 1835.

Sadly now they are a threatened species.

hiker walks on dry dirt at sunrise, a great activity for Galápagos island travel

Hike a Volcano

The Sierra Negra Volcano is one of five active volcanoes in the Galápagos Archipelago. Located on Isabela Island, this hike can only be done with an experienced guide. It’s a 17 kilometre trek and takes 5-6 hours to complete.

Snorkel The Reefs

You can’t possibly visit the Galápagos islands without putting on a snorkel and mask and discovering the world below the surface. Devil’s Crown off Floreana Island, and Pinnacle Rock off Bartolome Island are typically teeming with a wide variety of fish.

seal pup on the rocks in the Galápagos islands
hammerhead shark in the deep water around Galápagos islands

Dive With Hammerhead Sharks

A huge school of hammerhead sharks are often found around Wolf and Darwin Island, where you can look up at them from below. Join a live-aboard dive cruise to optimise your chance of seeing the school, as day trips can be hit or miss.