The Galapagos Islands lie 600 miles off the coast of Equador and are reached by a short flight from Quito to either the Island of Baltra or San Cristobal. A Galapagos Islands Cruise is probably up there in the top ten places to visit for both animal lovers and divers but with so many options available how do you choose what’s right?
Thankfully the weather in the Galapagos is generally good all year round, the temperatures don’t vary too much but there are two distinct seasons considered to be the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ seasons. The ‘wet’ season is also the ‘hot’ season usually running from January to May, and although classed as wet the average rainfall per month is only around 8cm with the showers closely followed by sunshine. This is also when the waters are warmer, great for snorkelling and diving, and the sea is also less rough, good if you are prone to sea sickness. The ‘Dry’ season runs from May to December and is also when the temperatures are lower, the daily temperature averaging around 19ºC (66.2ºF). This is the time the birds and mammals are most active and also a good time to witness courtship rituals, the downside is that the water is a lot cooler so for divers and snorkeller’s a wetsuit or shortie wetsuit is recommended. For those of us who want the best of both worlds the best time to visit is during April and May, the rain and temperature are getting less but the sea is still warm and the many of the islands will be lush and green. The other added benefit is that there will also be less tourists as these months are still considered to be low season.
Galapagos Cruise Options
Galapagos cruises vary in length from 3/4/7 nights up to three weeks. For most visitors cost is a consideration and travelling in this area is not cheap, but remember that on a three night cruise the first day will be spent embarking; so it is really only a two and a half day experience. If it’s affordable always go for a least seven nights, you will have the opportunity to see a lot more and as all the islands are different you will have a better overall experience. Each day you will visit at least one if not two islands, some good for getting up close to the animals and birds, others for their sandy beaches or volcanic landscapes. Some of the landings will be straight onto the beach, sometimes from small pilot boats, so even if you don’t intend on swimming be prepared to get wet. During the evening after dinner there will usually be an opportunity to listen to the naturalist guide onboard giving details of what tomorrow will bring.
Cruise vessels range from the small motor yachts, sometimes with sails, to the large cruise liners and depending on which kind of vessel you choose you will either have your own private facilities or you will be sharing the shower with your fellow guests; not literally! Space for clothes and large suitcases will be tight which ever vessel you choose so pack light bringing with you only what is absolutely necessary. If you come especially for diving or snorkelling most boats will carry masks, flippers and snorkels in the most popular sizes but if you have particularly large or small feet you may want to bring your own equipment.
There are many more considerations and choices to be made but its nice to know that one very important point, the impact to the environment, is taken care of in the form of a park entrance fee which is paid by every visitor to maintain one of the most important sanctuaries in the world.