The Galapagos Islands are fascinating volcanic islands that form part of Ecuador in South America. They are the host of unique species of wildlife resides. The home of Darwin’s theories and the site of hundreds of unique indigenous flora and fauna, it’s a nature lover’s paradise.
Galapagos travelers are obviously focused on interacting with the stunning natural environment, but there are several ways for vacationers to obtain a fully rewarding Galapagos experience. Here are five things travelers can do in the Galapagos:
Witness the incredible biodiversity:
The volcanic islands are part of Ecuador’s national park system and the surrounding waters constitute a marine biological reserve. The Galapagos was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The islands are a fauna and flora paradise and home to amazing wildlife! In other words, every sight could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
For Instance, you can observe the giant tortoises. Reaching weights of almost 500 pounds (230 kilos), they can live for more than 150 years. These are truly magnificent creatures and witnessing them in their own habitat is a must if you are going to the Galapagos. The Giant Galapagos Tortoise is unique to the islands and can live for at least 100 years.
One of the better spots for observing these shelled reptiles is the Charles Darwin Research Station.
If seeing sea lions is something that interests you, you might want to include Las Loberias on your tour itinerary. Las Tintoreras, located on Puerto Villamil, is home to hundreds if not thousands of marine iguanas. Also living here are thousands of sharks, often sleeping, and on occasion, stingrays, seals, seahorses, and even penguins. This beautifully pristine environment gives the illusion that man never existed. It’s a quick and easy stop, only about a ten-minute boat ride from the Island of Isabella, and an absolute must-do.
Snorkel/Dive in idyllic waters
The Galapagos Islands have as much life beneath the waves as on land. The Galapagos snorkeling experience is inherently one-of-a-kind because of the countrís many endemic animals (creatures that occur in only one geographical location and evolved to fit the unique specifications of that habitat). Hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, and the Galapagos shark, not to mention countless sting rays call these waters home. The water in this almost untouched part of the world is clear to a depth of 24 meters in some places, so you can enjoy excellent views.
The marine reserve stretches out all the way around the archipelago, protecting more than 130,000 square kilometers of water. You can find exceptional snorkeling sites all around the marine reserve, but keep in mind that you’ll need a permit and a guide for almost every site. This is all a part of the conservation efforts: restricting access in order to maximize the authenticity of the marine world.
Tour companies and guides are given specific times for when their guests can snorkel at a particular site. This restriction enhances the experience, as your view of a shark won’t be interrupted by another group’s flippers.
Ride the Waves
Surfing in Galápagos is a great option not only for its year-round world-class waves but its privileged warm weather and marine life. Also, it’s uniqueness makes it a really attractive spot for your surf trip, as there are the only places where you can enjoy the waves along with sea lions and marine iguanas. The most recommended season to surf in Ecuador is between November and March being the primary swell season. Also, during those times the wind is mostly offshore which creates even better conditions to surf.
For those travelers seeking a more active Galapagos adventure, the islands offer some truly remarkable hiking excursions. It should be noted, however, that hiking within the national park is strictly regulated and requires permits in order to minimize environmental damage and ensure guest safety. Some of the best hiking opportunities in the islands can be found in the highlands of Santa Cruz, where guests can roam the lush Scalesia forests in search of wild tortoises and a variety of birdlife, and the Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela Island, where a challenging seven-mile hike offers avid hikers the opportunity to peer into the depths of one of the world’s greatest volcanic calderas.
The Enchanted Islands are a paradise for those who look for breathtaking landscapes and crystal clear beaches to relax.
Santa Cruz Island: Tortuga Bay is a beautiful beach with white sand. It is called with this name due to the important presence of the black turtle population in this area. You can enjoy “playa mansa”, a special zone of the beach that is very good for tanning and sunbathing. It is also a great place for surfing and snorkeling.
San Cristobal Island: Punta Carola is a marvelous beach in San Cristobal, famous around the world, especially for surfing. It is also a great beach for walking on sunshine, with the marine iguanas lying on rocks and sea lions resting on the sand.
Another breathtaking spot is Puerto Chino, with incredible wildlife to enjoy the sight while relaxing and swimming.
Bartolomé Island has a volcanic cone that provides great views of the other islands. For travelers who look for total relaxation and a peaceful seaside, this island has two wonderful beaches. The North Beach has quiet water to swim and dive, perfect for enjoying the sight of colorful fishes and penguins. The other beach, in the South, is not for swimming, as it is not allowed, but it has an emblematic rock called Pinnacle Rock, formed by lava many years ago, and a symbol of Galapagos Islands.