Top Galapagos travel experience, Giant tortoise
Hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos

Galapagos Islands - Best Tours & Trips 2019

Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, where Charles Darwin formulated the ideas that led to his Theory of Evolution, lie nearly 800 miles out in the Pacific Ocean. Isolated for millennia, they serve as a living laboratory of wildlife, some found nowhere else on earth. Reptiles, birds, and marine mammals are all part of the show, and they're generally as tame as house cats. By taking a week-long small ship cruise tour, you can visit several islands and experience the Galapagos in all their diversity.
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Trip Type Trip Type Classic Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Guided Experiences Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ocean Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Tour Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Independent Package A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ocean Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Tour Styles

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

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$ 529 $ 10,000+

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Trip Length

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Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

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Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.

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Top Galapagos Islands Experiences and Attractions

Top Galapagos Islands Experiences

Getting closer to wildlife than at any other place on the planet, on islands where animals have no fear of humans.

 Viewing the mesmerizing courtship “dance” of the blue-footed booby, in which the two birds lift one foot, then the other, and peck at each other with their bills.

 Snorkeling among sea lions, sea turtles, barracuda, and (harmless) sharks in crystal-clear, warm waters.

 Spotting the world’s most northerly -- and some of the world’s smallest -- penguins, frolicking in the water.

 Marveling at sleek black frigate birds – known as the “pirates of the sea” – as they swoop down and steal food out of other birds’ mouths.

 Stepping carefully amid hundreds of marine iguanas as they emerge from the sea where they’ve been feeding, then scurry up on the rocks to dry out.

 Watching as colorful red-orange Sally Lightfoot crabs skitter across a shallow tide pool.

 Climbing a volcanic hill via boardwalk for a panoramic view, which astronaut Buzz Aldrin once compared to a moonscape.

 Sharing a field with dozens of giant tortoises as they inch along, looking like they just emerged from the dinosaur era.

Visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station and learning about his amazing discoveries.

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Galapagos Islands Trip Reviews

77 Galapagos Islands Tour Reviews - Summary 100% Recommend

4.8 out of 5
Excellent 64
Great 13
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 0
Value
4.8
Guide
4.8
Activities
4.8
Lodging
4.8
Transportation
4.8
Meals
4.8

Tour Reviews Write a Review

Great trip for 3 generations of family

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 5.0

Three genre rations of our family explored Quito and the Galapagos with Andean Discovery. The lodgings, food and guides exceeded our expectations. It was a very active trip for physically fit guests that included a tour of old city, hiking a volcano, a trip to the swim hole, 2 separate snorkeling trips, a bike ride and more animals than you can imagine. Our experienced and knowledable guides were able to adjust our tour to accommodate everyone from active 17 and 21 years old daughters, their parents, to their grandparents. Transportation around The islands is time consuming and difficult but our guides made everything’ feel seemless. The hotels were delightful, hospitable and accommodating, and we got the standard package. Our only regret is that we did not get to stay and extra night at Rincon de Pueblo, a hacienda in Quito at the end of the trip. It would have been a great place to relax and unwind. The food was delicious, fresh and plentiful and we had no problems meeting some specific dietary restrictions for our group because we let them know in advance. Still with all the food, we all lost a few pounds and added some muscle from all the fun activities. We will be touring with Andean Discovery again

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Operator Andean Discovery

TAKE THIS TRIP!!! Unbelievable!

5.0
Zegrahms Expeditions Company Reviews
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Sunday, 22 July... SVALBARD, Norway. Halfway between the top of continental Norway & the North Pole!

We disembarked & are now back to civilization! WOW!
What a FANTASTIC adventure on the ship Ocean Adventurer!

Once again, Zegrahm delivered! Cruise Director & Expedition Leader executed an unforgettable adventure! SUPERB lectures on ship & field trips from the guest experts in their fields... history of polar explorations... geology... birds... polar bears & other animals!

We saw several polar bears, groups of walrus, one very photogenic seal, reindeer, Arctic fox, a BLUE WHALE (largest of ALL whales!)... & a gazillion birds!

Our small ship was indeed able to circumnavigate the Svalbard (Spitsbergen) archipelago... 3 cheers to our Russian captain! The staff on board were FANTASTIC! And the best food I've had on any ship!

Mostly great weather... quite fortunate! Out on the Zodiacs (rubber rafts), I wore almost everything in my suitcase, in layers all at once, hoping to stay warm & dry... followed by VERY LONG hot showers once back on the ship, while I thawed out!

If you have an interest in polar adventure, TAKE THIS TRIP!!! Unbelievable!

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Operator Zegrahms Expeditions

It was INCREDIBLE!

5.0
Royal Galapagos Company Reviews
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

My family and I went on the Natural Paradise 8 Day B Cruise at the end of June-beginning of July 2017. It was INCREDIBLE! I cannot say enough good things about the entire trip. The boat was so nice with all of the amenities you could want. The food was so good too! The staff was so friendly and helpful. They went out of their way to make sure we had an excellent trip, and they made it really fun. Our naturalist was extremely knowledgeable and made sure he showed us and taught us as much as possible. The Galapagos is obviously amazing, and we saw incredible animals and nature. However, it truly was the staff on the Natural Paradise that made our trip. Thank you!!! I would highly recommend this trip, the Natural Paradise, and Royal Galapagos.

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Operator Royal Galapagos

Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

This truly was a holiday of a lifetime and we would have no hesitation in recommending anybody from 20's to resonably fit 70's to go on this holiday with Exodus. The age range of our group was 30 to 71 and we gelled together very well, p[robably partly because of the quality and variation of the tour, with many group activities but time for space if you needed it. Machu Picchu is amazing but then gets trumped by the Galapagos and being on the Cachalote, a schooner with only 16 births, was a huge bonus. Lovely crew, great boat and we went places that others sometimes didn't so had bays, snorkelling and some walks all to ourselves. The organisation was excellent, hotels comfortable with a good breakfast and the experience unforgetable. It was our first time with Exodus but hopefully not the last.
Impossible to say, there are too many, but our first glimpse of Machu Picchu, indescribable in its beauty, size and location surrounded by stunning mountains and deep valleys would be one. Isla Genovesa, with its frigate birds, boobies, short-eared owls and huge density of birds and other wildlife would be another, together with. swimming in various locations with turtles, sea lions and stunning fish. including three hammerhead sharks (optional!). Mention must also be made of the waved albatross on Espanola courting, sitting on nests or flying along the cliffs, amazing..

We had three, in Peru, Quito and the Galapagos. All did an excellent job. Wilmer was warm, welcoming, enthusiatic and helpful as well as patient. Gloria in Quito again welcomed us warmly, was very knowledgable on the excellent tour and terrific in helping when one of our party injured themselves. Similarly David in the Galapagos gave us a terrific tour. He is both very knowledgable and passionate about the islands and their unique wildlife. He ran efficiently to time without ever rushing us and worked well with the captain and crew of the Cahalote. When snorkelling, with the help of the Panga drivers, he guided us well and ensured our safety. Because we were with David for a week on the boat he wins the prize but we cannot find fault in any of our guides.

Don't be surpised by the altitude in Cusco. Just take things slowly.
If you don't do the one day Inca trail walk and the weather is O.K., go up to Macchu Picchu that afternoon. Expensive but well worth it. It is quieter in the afternoon and it then gives you two sessions to enjoy this astonishing place at your own pace. The morning tour is excellent but only covers a small area.
If you snorkel in a swimming costume (i.e. not wet suit) be sure to wear a tee shirt - I didn't the first day, big mistake!
Mastercard works at ATM's almost always, debit and visa cards often don't, especially in the Galapagos. Preferably make sure you have plenty of dlooars for tips, drinks and small souvenirs, cards etc. before you leave Quito or even better, Peru.

If you can, go. This tour is all you could hope for and more and the advantage of being a small group, even on the boat, massive.

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Operator Exodus Travels

It was the trip of my life

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

It was the trip of my life! It absolutely changed me in the best way possible. It made me more brave and excited to see more of the world, and with new friends from all over the world, that is now possible. Thank you G-adv for your great staff, my new family and for making it possible to feel like you contribute to keeping the local culture with tourisme rather than destroy it. This definatly won't be my last tour with you!

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Operator G Adventures

Trip was good also need some improvements

4.0
Royal Galapagos Company Reviews
  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0

A review my recent Galápagos adventure on the Natural Paradise..

The good: them setting up the hotel, flights and transportation in Ecuador. Smooth and professional. The food was great! Every meal was delicious. My room (cabin 7) was large with a big bathroom and a balcony. They crew was great and accommodating.

Needs improvement: 1) cleanliness of my room. My first night there it was clear that someone had departed that morning..and I noticed the cabin wasn't cleaned as thoroughly as I would like. The towels were clean but had some stains on them. 2) the ship is new but there are broken items everywhere. There was a gap between the roof frame and my balcony. No blinds on the balcony door (which was a major issue with ship lights and sun rises). Floors were scuffed, deck boards faded. Looks like a lot of routine maintenance hasn't been done. 3) some of the excursions. Many times I felt the naturalist was taking his time (over) explaining a lot of things to fill the time. I do appreciate you changing the last day to include the tortoises!

The bad: the SUPER loud engine and generator. There was never a moment of silence on the ship. And when the motor turned on or the anchor went up or down, everyone on the ship wakes up.

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Operator Royal Galapagos

Galapagos Islands Tours and Travel Guide

Galapagos Islands Attractions & Landmarks Guide

The Galapagos Islands, which lie more than 600 miles off the west coast of the Ecuadorian mainland, were formed by lava flows millions of years ago. Most of the animals and birds that call it home swam, flew or were swept here by “rafts” of vegetation floating on the ocean. The Galapagos ecosystem is probably the best preserved in the world, partly because of its remoteness.

Nowhere else is the evolution of species as clear as here; the Galapagos are a natural laboratory, as Charles Darwin quickly discovered during his 19th-century expedition aboard the Beagle. (Finches evolved from one species to 13 here, due to differing conditions for survival on each island.)

The islands’ animals and birds display little or no fear of humans, which means you can get very close to them on your Galapagos tour – as long as you don’t touch or disturb them or leave the designated paths.

The Legacy of Charles Darwin

Darwin’s name has become nearly synonymous with the history of the Galapagos islands, and rightly so. After all, it was his voyage here in 1835 which led him to many important conclusions about his theories of evolution and natural selection. To this day. Darwin’s writings on his findings remain the benchmark for scientific research in evolution and evolutionary anthropology.

In 1835, Darwin landed on the shores of Isla San Cristobal. His observations of the wildlife quickly made clear to him that something different was in fact going on in evolution. Something different than current scientific beliefs imagined, and certainly something different than the prevailing religious beliefs at the time allowed for.

Darwin spent nearly a month on the islands, between mid September and mid October, gathering specimens to bring back with him to England. His famous Theory of Evolution and ideas about natural selection emanated from his trip to the Galapagos, first became intrigued by observing the varying species of mockingbirds on the four islands that he visited.

Strict Enforcement

The Ecuadorian government enforces strict environmental codes on the Galapagos, a national park. Only a comparatively few visitors can go ashore on each island at one time.

With 140,000 total visitors per year, the Galapagos present a complex juggling act to tour operators, who must time their visits exactly or risk losing key stops on their itineraries. So you’re expected to rise early and be on time for excursions to shore.

Groups visiting any one site are limited to eight each, so even small ships carrying just 15 or 16 passengers must divide up and take separate trails. Of the eight most visited islands, just two – San Cristobal, site of the airport, and Santa Cruz, site of the largest town and Darwin Station -- are populated by humans, mostly island natives or long-term residents.

The rest of the islands are reserved for the wildlife: everything ranging from marine iguanas to sea lions, giant tortoises to sea turtles, penguins to albatrosses, red-throated frigate birds to blue-footed boobies (given to doing a courtship “booby” dance that entrances onlookers).

Small Ship Cruising

While some people visit the Galapagos by staying in one of the few towns and taking day trips by boat to other islands, the best method is to tour by a week-long small ship expedition-style cruise. (Large ships do cruise the Galapagos, but can’t visit as many sites, some of which are too fragile for large numbers of visitors.)

Taking a small ship allows you to visit up to two islands in a day as well as go snorkeling or diving for close-up views of sea turtles, tropical fish, and sea lions.

A number of tour operators run small ship cruises through the Galapagos, and, by government decree, they must hire local guides and ship captains. Staying on trails is paramount, so as not to disturb the fragile environments. Except for the tropical heat, most trails are easy for anyone to navigate, and being aboard a ship allows plenty of time to cool off between stops.

The Three Major Galapagos Islands

While most cruises to the Galapagos will visit multiple islands, some, depending on the duration of the itinerary and the focus, will stick to two or three. When that's the case, it's a good bet that one or more of these islands will feature. Their historical significance, the up close and personal abundance of wildlife, and the availability of multiple activities, day tours, accommodation and restaurants make them the perfect introduction to what the Galapagos are all about.

Santa Cruz Island

This is the most populous and commercially developed of all the Galapagos, and the best place for viewing giant tortoises. On Santa Cruz Island tours, you’re guaranteed to see tortoises when you visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, but even better is viewing these mammoth creatures in the wild, as they slowly migrate to find mates and lay their eggs.

Isabela Island

The largest of the Galapagos, Isabela Island is rich in many forms of wildlife. The island is home to thousands of giant tortoises, to the most northerly penguin colony on earth, and to the rare pink iguana, which inhabit the slopes of a volcano. Sea turtles, marine iguanas, offshore whales, and a number of bird species make this an island not to miss.

San Cristobal Island

This is the site of the Galapagos’ major international airport and second most populous in the chain, and where Charles Darwin first set foot in the islands in 1835. This is one of the prime birding areas of the Galapagos, with boobies –- Blue-footed, Red-footed, and Nazca – sharing the spotlight with finches and frigate birds. You can also snorkel amid sea turtles, sea lions, and tropical fish.

What to Expect From a Tour of the Galapagos

Most tours to the Galapagos are small-ship cruises that last about one week and visit between six and eight islands. Tourism is strictly regulated by the Ecuadorian government to protect the fragile environment and wildlife.

This is a wildlife viewing experience like no other in the world -- even the best Costa Rica jungle tours can't really compare. The animals have virtually no fear of humans since they have no reason to think any harm will come from them. In practical terms, this means you can get close to the wildlife but never touch or disturb the animals.

The government places a strict quota on which trails the highly trained guides can take groups each day and how many can be in each group. A particular trail may be closed one day and open the next. It’s imperative that you don’t stray off the trails.

Small-ship cruises – holding about 16 passengers -- are ideal because you can visit more islands and spend more time on each than if you’re based on one island and take day trips from there. You’ll also sleep and take all your meals onboard. Of course, you pay more for the privilege – but for most people travel to the Galapagos is a once in a lifetime trip, so you’ll want to make the most of it.

The Galapagos are hot, tropical and casual so you need only pack light, breathable clothing along with sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sandals, hats, and long sleeves and leg coverings for skin protection, as well as any swim and snorkel gear you wish to bring. Cameras and binoculars are a must. Don’t expect to find drugstores, ATMs or many conveniences on most island stops, so pack what you may need in the way of supplies.

What to Pack for the Galapagos

The Galapagos are remote, surrounded by beaches, waters, and lava rock. Your packing list should be light, but you definitely want to make sure you have all necessities with you. The benefit of going on a Galapagos cruise will be the ability to bring a little bit more, as you’ll only be unpacking once.

1. Bring multiple bathing suits. Though it’s generally warm, and clothing will dry quickly, you’ll definitely want more than one suit because you’ll be in and out of the water constantly. It will also be a good idea to bring water clothes, to protect from the sun. It’s easy to forget your exposed neck and arms when you’re floating on top of the water gazing through goggles at the incredibly world below!

2. Bring a pair of hiking boots or tennis shoes. You’ll do a lot of walking around on the Galapagos. Hikes range from strenuous to moderate, to easy, so if you think you’ll be interested in this activity, definitely use up some room in your suitcase for a pair of sturdy, comfortable, close-toed shoes.

3. Sunhat, sunglasses, and strong sunscreen. As you’ll be out on the water regularly, and enjoying time ashore along the coast where there’s little shade, definitely bring plenty of sunscreen, the stronger SPF the better.

4. A multi functional, small day pack. Because most shore excursions will typically last half day to a full day, you’ll want a small to medium sized day backpack for storing water, cameras, sunscreen, phones, and anything else you’ll need. Make sure this is something you don’t mind getting dirty or wet.

5. Rubber soled water shoes. Consider bringing a pair of water shoes to protect against sharp coral reefs and for walking around lava rocks. These can be very useful as well to avoid slipping on board the boats that take you around to the many beautiful snorkeling spots on the Galapagos.

6. Layers! Layers is key for most destinations around the world, but in the Galapagos you may need a light sweatshirt for at night, even though it won’t seem like it during the day. Also consider a pair of long hiking pants to avoid bug bites.

The Wildlife in the Galapagos

“Galapagos” means “islands of the giant tortoises.” Which is quite fitting, as the islands are home to 11 different populations dispersed among several islands. (There were originally 14 distinct populations, however due to extinction they have now dwindled to 11). Major conservation efforts have been in place since the 1950s, particularly on Santa Cruz Island, where they are a very popular tourist attraction.

Galapagos tortoises can weigh more than 600 pounds and live to age 150 or longer. (One that recently died was present when Darwin landed here.) Their top speed is about one fifth of a mile per hour, so they’re very easy to photograph. The late Lonesome George, the most famous giant tortoise, was the last of his subspecies when he died in 2012. He refused to mate, despite valiant efforts by naturalists to find him romantic pairings.

It is believed that the Galapagos Tortoises originally arrived on the Galapagos 2-3 million years ago, from the South American Coast. They developed several unique survival adaptations, including evolving to survive without food or water for up to a full year, a response to the lack of nutrient sources on the arid landscape.

They have also been subject to tremendously harmful human impact. Sailors, whalers, pirates, traders, and colonists who made their way through the Galapagos at various periods in history used the Giant Tortoises as food sources, oil sources, and trading fodder. This resulted in an estimated loss of between 100,000 and 200,000 tortoises over a period of two centuries.

Today it is estimated that between 20,000 and 25,000 wild tortoises live on the islands.

Galapagos wildlife is truly extraordinary. Each island has its own signature type of bird, reptile or other creature. For instance, Genovesa Island is home to red-footed boobies – it’s the only island where visitors can view them -- but lacks the land reptiles found on other islands.

These dinosaur like reptiles are another huge draw for visitors. Land iguanas and marine iguanas are found throughout the islands, sunning themselves on the volcanic rocks, perfectly still and stoic, almost appearing like extremely lifelike statues.

And some eluded scientists until 1986, such as the Pink Iguana, which only lives on Wolf Volcano at the north end of Isabela. Yet another example of the variety and extremely selective differentiation that exists between one Galapagos island and another.

When they say the Galapagos is nature’s laboratory, nothing could make that more clear than the fact of a species existing only mere miles away from another species with similar, but not exactly the same, environmental factors.

Iguanas used to be present on Isla Santiago, which we know from reading Darwin’s journals, but they somehow died out and are no longer found on that particular island. This could have had something to do with the number of domestic farm animals that were released on Santiago in the 1800s, wreaking havoc on the delicate ecobalance of the islands native and endemic species.

Marine Iguanas are rare, and only found on the Galapagos. Watching them swim is distinctly like watching a mythical creature. They look like a cross between a dragon, dinosaur, and other worldly mer-creature, like it came from the creative mind of Jim Henson. They spend quite a bit of time on land for mating and feeding, but if you get the chance to spot one on a snorkel adventure it is a sight to behold.

Other notable bird species include Darwin finches (whose beak variations and food-gathering sources from island to island also aroused Darwin’s interest), flamingoes, flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins – the world’s most northerly penguins, found here right on the Equator – storm petrels, frigatebirds, lava gulls, albatrosses, pelicans, swallow tailed gulls, owls, hawks, herons, and Nazca, blue- and red-footed boobies, among many others.

Sea lions and fur seals complete the “big three” that you will absolutely encounter on a trip through the Galapagos. These joyful, playful, absolutely adorable mammals number in the 50,000 range and it will take every ounce of your willpower not to pet them as them curiously rumble up to you on the beaches. But cute as they are, you definitely want to keep your hands to yourself as they are extremely territorial and tourists have been known to be bit for getting too close.

The chance to see them show off and fish under the water is not to be passed up. They will playfully display twirls, upside down swimming in a seemingly tireless routine as you snorkel above. Swimming among sea lions may seem a tourist trap kind of attraction, but it is well worth it.

Fur seals are quite similar to sea lions, though they are smaller and prefer less time on land, gravitating to cooler waters instead. Their coats are much thicker as well, contributing to their name, as well as their unfortunate history with fur traders.

James Bay and Darwin Bay are the best places to spot this animal, which has made a positive comeback after their numbers dwindled due to many years of poaching for their prized coats.

Photography tips for the Galapagos

Without a doubt, you will leave the Galapagos with thousands of pictures, mainly of the incredible wildlife. Here’s some tips to help you make sure you make the most of your trip and arrive home with some amazing shots.

1. Bring multiple lenses - Learning from a photography professional, you’re going to want to be able to commit to several different types of shot, and this means different lenses. For the Galapagos, try to bring a telephoto lens and a macro lens. These are going to be the best way to capture the unbelievable wildlife on the islands.

2. Don’t be afraid to get up close - The animals in the Galapagos are famously used to humans, and this makes it very easy to get up close for spectacular macro shots. The proximity means you have a greater ability to capturing the personality, expressions, and textures of the animals.  

3. Bring a lens cloth - the last thing you want is a foggy lens to muddy up your image. Make sure you have a high end lens cloth ready to keep dust and condensation off your camera. In warm tropical environments, lens fogging is common - one good tip is to take your camera out with lens cap off a good few minutes before you plan to start shooting. This will give enough time to let any fogging dissipate.

4. Go on a Photography tour - For serious amateurs and complete novices, photography tours are one of the best ways to learn and grow as a photographer. You’ll get to learn from a professional and get the best tips about how to best capture wildlife. When the wildlife is so entrancing, historic, and relatively easy to get close to, the thing that’s going to make your photos stand out is the composition and lighting - having an expert near to instruct you on angles, f-stops, shutter-speeds, and filters is an incredible asset. See all the Galapagos photography tours on Stride.

5. Get to know the animals - one of the key aspects to wildlife photography is knowing the best times to find them in action. Learn a bit about each major species to discover their habits. You may also learn when to best find them with the least amount of people around. Though sometimes you may want a human presence in your photograph - this can create a wonderful dynamic.

6. Get dirty! - Photography is about finding the best way to showcase your subject. In the case of wildlife, this often means getting down and dirty, wet and uncomfortable. To get the best angles, you will find yourself contorting on the ground on your stomach, or perhaps balancing as quietly as possible on a log or tree branch.

7. Bring underwater casing - A lot of your time in the Galapagos will be spent in the water. While over the counter underwater cameras actually do an impressive job, if you want sharper and higher resolution photos, invest in an underwater casing for your DSLR or other point and shoot. If you’re wary of getting your nice piece anywhere near the water (understandable) look into smart-phone accessories. There are many ways you can make your camera phone into the perfect underwater photography tool.

Before You Go

Visa

The Galapagos are technically part of Ecuador, so the same visa requirements apply. Citizens of the United States, Canada and most European countries do not require a visa to travel to Ecuador, unless you plan to stay past 90 days. You will generally receive a free visa upon entry into Ecuador.

Insurance

General travel insurance should suffice for a trip to the Galapagos. You will be spending a lot of time on the water with your tour, and any insurance specificities related to this can be answered by the tour company.

Vaccinations

You do need a Yellow Fever vaccine for traveling to Ecuador. Proof of vaccination is required upon entry into the country.

Besides that, no additional vaccinations are required for travel to the Galapagos, but make sure all your regular vaccinations are up to date.

Safety

Zika has been reported in some parts of Ecuador, so those traveling with young children or who are pregnant do so at your own risk.

Bring hats and sunscreen! You will be outside and on the water for a large part of your visit, and the sun can be intense.

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