Galápagos Islands - a destination focus
Updated: Oct 17, 2020
The Galápagos Islands is a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. A province of Ecuador, the group of islands lies just 975 kilometres (600 miles) off its coast and is considered to be one of the world’s principal destinations for wildlife viewing.
The Galápagos’ isolated terrain shelters a diversity of plant and animal species unique to the region. Charles Darwin’s visit to the Galápagos in 1835 and his observation of native species, inspired his famous theory of evolution.
SAN CRISTOBAL TO BALTRA
The island of Bartolome has some of the most magnificent island attractions, including the famous Pinnacle Rock. Guests can witness the Galápagos Penguins playing or dive into the underwater world at one of the many snorkelling spots on the island.
Five majestic volcanoes pierce the arid landscape of the largest and youngest island in the Galápagos. Punta Vicente Roca, at the base of the collapsed Ecuador Volcano, offers the best snorkelling in the Galápagos where guests can get a spectacular view of the caldera.
The largest colony of marine iguanas in the Galápagos can be seen sunning on the black lava shores of Punta Espinoza. One of the most pristine islands in the world, Fernandina hosts an impressive array of wildlife including sea lions, colourful Sally Lightfoot crabs and the rare Flightless Cormorant.
Beautiful Espumilla Beach, on the island of Santiago, is an important nesting site for the East Pacific green sea turtle. Santiago’s arid vegetation zone is home to Darwin’s finches which live amongst the largest Palo Santo trees in the Galápagos.
Floreana has been enticing visitors for over 200 years. In the 18th century, pirates sought shelter in Floreana’s magnificent caves. Sailors established a unique mailing system that consisted of a barrel nailed to a post to hold the letters left for other mariners to deliver on their way home.
BALTRA TO SAN CRISTOBAL
At Punta Suárez, sheer cliffs provide a great view of majestic seabirds like Swallow-tailed Gulls, Nazca, and Blue-footed Boobies, as well as the largest seabird to nest in the islands, the Waved Albatross. Mockingbirds, doves, and Galápagos Hawks also inhabit the island, along with sea lions and marine iguanas.
Dubbed Bird Island for the abundance and variety of bird species, Genovesa is a birder’s paradise. Guests can take a stroll on the sandy beach amidst Swallow-tailed Gulls, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, and the largest nesting colony of Red-footed Boobies. At the top of Prince Philip’s Steps, named after the Duke of Edinburgh after his visit in 1965, guests can observe the vast colony of Great Frigate birds and Nazca Boobies.
The Galápagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station are located in the small town of Puerto Ayora. Their flagship program is the Galápagos giant tortoise restoration initiative. At the Santa Cruz Centre guests can see both dome-shaped and saddle-backed tortoises and their young.
Though North Seymour is only 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) in length, this island boasts a spectacular profusion of wildlife in and out of the sea. The Magnificent Frigate bird is an opportunistic breeder which means courting males can be seen displaying their bright-red gular sac at any time of the year. Marine iguanas and Galápagos land iguanas patrol the beach, while Galápagos sea lions snooze in the sand and Brown Noddy Terns scan the shallows for food.
Punta Pitt in San Cristóbal features a rare olivine beach with sea lions dozing on the green sands. Guests can climb up the cliffs of a ravine and admire one of the most magnificent panoramas in the archipelago. San Cristobal is full of colourful bird species such as the Red-footed and Blue-footed Boobies, in addition to the ruby-throated frigate birds.
The Galápagos Islands are rich in Biodiversity
When to travel to the Galápagos Islands
Since the islands virtually straddle the equator, the Galápagos is a fascinating destination, no matter when you plan to go. The ideal time to visit depends on what you would like to see and do.
The archipelago experiences only two seasons. The seasons are divided into cool and dry (June – November) and hot and rainy (December – June). While the warmer season offers calmer seas with good underwater visibility, in the cooler season you can witness native wildlife mating as well as sea turtle egg hatching. The islands are inhabited by few migratory species, therefore, most animals can be seen year-round.
THE HOT AND RAINY SEASON — JANUARY THROUGH JUNE
January through June is the sunniest time of the year with short periods of daily rainfall. The warmer water temperatures offer perfect conditions for snorkelers and swimmers. This is also the breeding season for land birds, which increases chances for you to witness some unusual mating rituals. You may also find Galápagos green turtles nesting on the beach.
THE COOL AND DRY SEASON — JULY THROUGH DECEMBER
From July to December, the Humboldt Current brings colder water and weather to the islands. The current also enriches the sea with nutrients and plankton which attracts birds and fish such as the albatross. These months are the mating season for Blue-footed Boobies and Short-eared Owls. You can witness their dramatic courtships on Genovese Island. In December, the hatching season begins for giant tortoises.
What to pack for your Galápagos Island Expedition
Daytime attire is always casual both on and off the ship and consists of standard sportswear such as non-skid, flat or low-heeled shoes for deck activities. Evening attire is also casual: open-neck shirts, trousers and sports outfits are appropriate. In the evening, more formal attire is recommended since jeans and shorts are not permitted in The Restaurant.