The Galapagos Islands are situated about 970 kilometres (600 miles) west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. They include 13 main islands and six smaller islands and surprisingly to most people they have a population of approximately 30,000 people. Tourism and development continue at a brisk pace although increasingly there are concerns about environmental sustainability.
The Galapagos Islands are very different from anywhere else on this planet. Up close and personal encounters on a daily basis with the local wildlife is an extraordinary experience. Combine that with interesting scenery, generally great weather, year round snorkeling and time for rest and relaxation for an unforgettable vacation.
Initially these barren and rocky islands were used as a base successively by buccaneers, sealers and whalers. The giant Galapagos tortoises provided them with abundant food and could be brought on board ships to provide fresh meat since they could survive for up to a year on board. I highly recommend the book A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier, one of the first to make observations about the Galapagos.
A trip to the Galapagos can be paired with a broader trip to the country of Ecuador. There are daily flights departing from Quito and Guayaquil. If you’re on a boat trip many of the boat operators will book a flight for you to coincide with your boat’s departure. If you are responsible for your own booking then try and book early especially if your trip is in high season around Christmas.
There are two operating airlines, TAME and Aerogal. The flights usually leave in the morning. Quito flights take about three hours as they stop in Guayaquil. The flight from Guayaquil to the islands is about 1½ hours. Fares for non Galapagos residents from Quito are in the range of $US400 return.
Why you should do a Galapagos Island Boat Trip
Although it is possible to see one or two of the Galapagos Islands without getting on a boat you will miss a lot of the highlights and unique experiences as they’re on the remotest of the Galapagos Islands or in the waters off of these islands
The majority of people that visit the Galapagos plan on a four to ten day itinerary on board a boat. Unequivocally I would recommend this type of trip. In fact I would suggest trying to be out for a week. You’ve likely flown a long distance so you might as well take advantage of everything the islands have to offer. If you book a very short tour you must take into consideration the fact that the first and last days are just half days because of plane arrival and departure times. If you are out on a longer tour then you will have the chance to get to the more remote and less visited islands. Divers especially will appreciate a longer tour as the diving is some of the best in the world. Spend the money on a longer trip – you won’t likely be back.