Getting around the Galapagos Islands
Having escaped the human touch, the remote collection of volcanic islands showcases an incredible biodiversity and is home to largely endemic wildlife, that can be found nowhere else on earth. The Galapagos Islands are far removed from the common conception of a tropical paradise, in fact most islands may be devoid of vegetation and others may look more like the moon than Hawaii. However, the ecological wonderland has reached an almost mythological status for the observation and discovery of wildlife. Among its famous visitors is Charles Darwin, who studied the fragile ecosystem of the islands and was inspired to publish On the Origin of Species, subsequently introducing the theory of evolution to the world. Although human involvement is an increasing threat, the blue-footed booby still performs his mating dance right before your eyes and sea lions will twirl around you as you snorkel past. Leave nothing but footprints at this precious World Heritage Site!
Now a little more familiar with the awe-inspiring Galapagos Islands, what is the best way to visit them?
Two obvious options arise: to remain land-based and hop from one stunning island to the next or, to sail boat-based through the volcanic archipelago on a cruise. Here is an outline of the best of both options and some guidelines to ensure an unforgettable trip with whichever option you choose.
Hotel-based Island Hopping
Most of the islands in the Galapagos archipelago are uninhabited. However, a wide range of luxury and more affordable hotels are sprawled across the main islands. Small boats operate between harbors on the main islands and, a hotel by the sea guarantees splendid views of the sparkling water and a front row seat watching sea-lions cavort on colossal stones and small beaches. Some hotels may also have their own boat services, which may have the most practical and convenient itineraries. Island-hopping, unlike cruising, will allow for much easier access to a wide range of activities such as scuba diving, kayaking, hiking volcanoes or simply strolling through the alien-esque scenery. Don’t miss out on one of the best land-based activities, visiting the highlands of Santa Cruz and its Tortoise Reserve.
Cruising through the Islands
Most live-aboard boats offer five- to eight- day itineraries, with set departure dates and a set course. Routes are dictated by the Galapagos National Park officials to mitigate crowding and environmental stress. Cruises are the best option for a big-picture panoramic view of the Galapagos Islands, as you will visit many different islands and witness a larger proportion of the Galapagos’ extremely varied flora and fauna than by sticking to the main islands. Indeed, cruises allow access to remote visitor sites on uninhabited islands such as Fernandina in the far west, that are unreachable otherwise. Finally, a cruise is definitely preferable if you are looking to sit back, relax and gaze at the astounding wildlife around you. On a ship, the itinerary is set, meals are taken care of and best of all, your suitcase only needs unpacking once.
Both cruising and island hopping provide excellent opportunities to discover the world’s most marvelous and unique set of islands. Whether you are soaring through the waters on a relaxing cruise or hiking to the tip of a volcano, your trip to the Galapagos Islands is bound to be unforgettable.
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