A Galapagos tour can be the highlight of any visit to Latin America. Lying just off the coast of Ecuador these fascinating islands are a unique place in the world and a must see for many on vacation. We explain below what is it that makes the Galapagos such an popular feature of tours to Latin America.
Why not contact one of our travel consultants to plan your tour now,maybe even combine it with a visit to Machu Picchu.
1. The Galapagos are a biological and geological paradise
The Galapagos is a group of islands (archipelago) formed by 13 major islands, 48 islets and 250 rocks. The land area of 8,000 km2 (5,000 square miles) is spread over 45,000 km2 (28,125 square miles) on the Pacific Ocean, at the equator. Therefore, the islands are distant from one another. The diagonal axis from Darwin Island in the northwest to Española in the southeast is 430 km long. The diagonal axis from Isabela Island in the southwest to Tower Island in the northeast is 220 km long.
The geological/volcanic origin has resulted in islands with different ages and elevations (altitude). Different ages and elevations result in different ecosystems (different altitudes result in different precipitation)
Different ecosystems, and sometimes their specific isolation, are the forces that develop unique species (species found only in a specific place are called endemic). Endemic species to Galapagos resulted from isolation from the mainland (1,000 km or 625 miles); isolation is therefore geographical and genetical.
There’s enough inter-island isolation so that endemic species develop in specific islands (island endemism).
A complex system of ocean currents bathes the islands in different ways: South Equatorial Current (SEC) in the eastern and central islands; the North Equatorial Current (NEC) in the northern islands and the upwelling Cromwell Current (CC) in some western and central islands.
Different water temperatures result in different levels of productivity. This is called feeding fixation. This factor is crucial for all sea-depending species (seabirds, marine iguanas, cetaceans, and marine vertebrates).
Different species of seabirds nest throughout the entire archipelago (north-south-east- west). Theres no “better” place for nesting. The word “better” is defined by the availability of a combination of feeding and nesting needs.
Wild (natural-pristine-unaltered-untouched) environments behave differently every day. The more you visit, the greater the chances of seeing different events happening.
2. The Galapagos is a once in a lifetime experience for most
Most travelers come to Galapagos only once in their lifetime. However, repeaters should be suggested to visit the islands at a different time of the year from their previous visit. This will allow them to experience the islands on a totally different setup.
The full week trip eliminates the feeling of “being rushed” in nature and the reality of “incompleteness” of a trip.
As more environmentally-diverse islands are visited, the more diverse wildlife participants will see.
The more diversity, the more quality. This is why it is so important to understand that every island is quite diverse and quite different from the surrounding islands.
More sailing in a seven-night trip, thus more chances of observing marine life (whales, dolphins and sea birds).
The full week journey covers a more diverse geographical area (northern-southern- central-eastern-western islands). A four day trip covers only southern-central-eastern islands. A five day trip covers only northern-central-western islands.
Seven nights give guests a comprehensive understanding of Galapagos. Shorter options force to leave out certain topics. If younger islands are not visited, there will be no chance of seeing the results of such volcanic activity; or if Hood Island is not visited, guests will not learn about the Waved Albatrosses (which nest on this island alone).
Interpretation of the Galapagos National Park could not be complete if the shorter itinerary does not cover the places that it is famous for.
A seven night trip brings a destination closer to a guest. Guests can relate much more to the country visited, meet people, live different experiences. Relaxation is more likely to occur.
3. A Galapagos vacation will introduce you to unique flora and fauna that you can only see here
North Seymour: magnificent frigate birds, land iguanas (present but seldom seen).
Hood Island: waved albatrosses, red-black-green marine iguanas, Hood-island mockingbirds, Hood-island lava lizards, big nesting colony of blue-footed boobies.
Floreana: greater flamingos, Galapagos penguins, medium-tree finch, Floreana-island mockingbird, best snorkeling with Galapagos sea lions.
Santa Cruz: giant tortoises in the wild, 9 species of Darwins finches, Highlands Visit, Pit Craters (Los Gemelos), vermillion flycatcher.
Tower: red-footed boobies, great frigate birds, Nazca (masked) boobies, short-eared owl, warmest waters in Galapagos, and snorkeling with hammerhead sharks.
Isabela and Fernandina: Nesting colonies of Galapagos penguins, largest marine iguanas, land iguanas, giant tortoises in the wild (at Urbina Bay), flightless cormorants, youngest volcanoes, the coolest waters, highest chances of seeing cetaceans (whales and dolphins).
James: shorebirds and migrants, colony of Fur Sea Lions.
Bartolome: view of Pinnacle Rock, snorkeling with Galapagos penguins.