Galapagos for Beginners: What You Need to Know Before You Go!

The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador are a dream holiday destination for many. The unique wildlife, varied environment and unconventional history make this place incredibly unique and memorable. Naomi recently visited the Galapagos and has a few tips for first-time visitors.

 What exactly are the Galapagos?

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador in South America. The terrain varies island to island – some are rocky and barren and others are luscious and green; some have fine white sand and others have red or even light green sand. This is thanks to the six active volcanoes located on the islands. The lack of a human presence for most of history has allowed a wide variety of birds, animals and sea life to call this unique environment home. The cold Humboldt Current from the south, the warm Panama Current from the north and the deep sea Cromwell Current from the west all mix together in and around the Galapagos Islands which also contributes to the varied land and aquatic fauna.

What’s the weather like?

Being close to the equator means the weather on the Galapagos is much the same all year round, although there are slight changes. The “cool and dry” period runs from June to November, and the “warm and wet” period runs from December to June. Even in the middle of the cool period, the days sit around 21-23C during the day and 16-17 at night. You can see most of the wildlife year-round.

What animals will I get to see?

The Galapagos is combined of 18 main islands, and which islands you should visit depends on what wildlife you really want to see. Isabela and Floreana have a wide variety of wildlife, including Galapagos Penguins, Giant Tortoises, Land and Marine Iguanas, and the red and blue footed Boobys. However, if you’re desperate to Galapagos Sea Lions can be found on all the islands – they are everywhere and pose beautifully for photos. Galapagos Fur Seals are harder to glimpse and usually found on only Isabela and Fernandina.

As there has never been an indigenous population of humans on Galapagos, many of the animals don’t see humans as a threat, giving you a great opportunity to get up close for that perfect photo.

So what should I pack?

The trip notes for your holiday will recommend you pack light, so follow those guidelines. Don’t forget swimwear! After all, swimming is the best part of the trip and you’ll have the opportunity to swim every day you’re on the boat. As with all holidays where you’ll be spending lots of time in the sunshine, a hat, sunscreen, and sunnies are highly recommended. Bug spray is also highly recommended. You’ll need both sneakers and thongs as you’ll be walking on different islands with different terrain. A GoPro or similar will come in handy for capturing underwater shots. Binoculars are also worth packing.

However, most tours will start on mainland Ecuador and Quito can get cold during the winter months. Don’t forget to pack something warmer for this weather too!

Anything else I should know about the Galapagos?

It is a very long way to go for 8-10 days, so we recommend combining it with another tour or trip in South America to make the most of your trip. Flights to and within South America are notorious for changing at the last minute, so make sure you are in Quito or Guayaquil at least two days before your tour departs. Most tours will include one night on the mainland (either Quito or Guayaquil) on either side of the tour. Therefore, a ten-day trip of the Galapagos will be 7 nights aboard the boat and two on land.

Have you been to the Galapagos Islands? What would be your advice to first-time visitors?