July 15, 2024


The Galapagos – Know Before You Go!

Galapagos Travel is a remarkable experience. The Galapagos Islands are distributed on either side of the equater in the Pacific Ocean. Part of Ecuador, they lie 500 nautical miles west of the mainland. They were discovered in 1535 by Fray Tom de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama. But the name that most people associate with The Galapagos is Charles Darwin, a member of the four year surveying mission on H.M.S. Beagle which set sail in 1831. The Beagle arrived in The Galapagos in September of 1835 and spent 5 weeks surveying and charting the archipelago. Darwin spent those 5 weeks carefully observing and recording the geology and biology of the islands. He was a keen observerer and was struck by the variety and diversity of the wildlife and fauna. He wrote a number of books and scientific papers on his experience in the Galapagos, the most famous being The Origin of Species, published in 1859, in which he presented his theory and views on the evolution of life. The remote and isolated location of the Galapagos Islands helped them avoid many of the negative side effects of modern society such as polution, over farming, and hunting. In 1959 Ecuador established the islands as Galapagos National Park to protect the area’s biodiversity. In 1979 UNESCO declared the Galapagos Island a National Heritage Site.

Bust of Charles Darwin


Today, the Galapagos provide an exceptional and unique refugee for wildlife and fauna. Galapagos Travel is equally exceptional and unique. If ever there were a destination that calls for good planning and preparation – that’s the Galapagos. With that in mind, here are some helpful ideas and observations to help you –


Getting There:

For the American Traveler, a visit to the Galapagos involves only a minimum of governmental hassle and paper work. You will, of course need your passport but no visa is required. On entry The National Park Service gives each visitor a brochure of rules which you are expected to follow to help keep the islands as pristine as possible. And by the way, in an effort to minimize and balance tourist impact, The Park Service will also determine what islands you will visit during your stay. This applies to tour groups as well as independent travelers. But look on the bright side. While you might not get to see each island on your first visit, you now have a great reason to return again! A special $10.00 fee is charged to enter the Galapagos and you fill out a brief form, part of which you keep and return as you exit. It is suggested you keep the return portion with your passport. No special vaccinations are required. Given their rather remote location, part of the challenge of travel to The Galapagos is getting there. You can travel in by boat, but most visitors choose to fly in from Quito, Ecuador. Quito is about a 4 hour flight from Miami or 3 1/2 hours from Houston. Time you can use for some last minute reading – perhaps one of Darwin’s books? From Quito your flight to the islands might be routed through Guayaquil, Ecuador which serves as the primary “jumping off point” for The Galapagos. Your plane will refuel there and be fumigated both inside and out to help the islands avoid contamination from outside sources. Your flight from Quito to Guayaquil takes only 50 minutes and the second leg from Guayaquil to the islands takes about two hours which will give you a chance to adjust your mindset and prepare yourself for your upcoming “back to nature” adventure.

What To Take- Here’s a list -( I love lists for travel stuff )

Sun block, sun hat, jacket or wind breaker, swim suit, sun glasses, regular camera & batteries & memory cards, underwater camera, flashlight, binoculars, walking stick with a rubber tip, walking shoes / boots for wet landings, walking shoes / boots for dry landings, flip flops or sandals, bug spray, Dramamine. You might bring along your smartphone or iPad. But you won’t find much in the way of wi fi or internet access, especially on boats and cruises – hotels vary in terms of wifi access. So just in case, download what you want before your trip so you can use, read, etc offline. Power in Ecuador is 110 volts, just like the United States. Don’t forget your chargers for your devices and cameras – or extra batteries if that’s your deal. You might also want to bring some money? Yep – you are going to need money. Ecuador uses American Currency and you will need cash because that’s they way they like it. In fact, they really prefer crisp, clean, new bills. Very few places will accept credit cards in the islands and no one wants travelers checks. Bring $1, $5, $10, and $20 bills to pay for various daily expenses. Locals love the $2 bill so bring a few for that “special tip.” A wet suit helps with wet landings in cold water as well as snorkeling for the more adventurous– but you can rent those when you arrive. Leave your fancy clothes, jewelry, etc at home and of course, no high heels please. And of course – be sure to take your sense of adventure as well as an openness to experiences in a natural environment. Things can be rustic at times. Connections to the “outside world” can be limited. But that’s part of the adventure of it all. You are clearly a guest of nature in The Galapagos – Travel Lightly.

Where To Stay-

The Galapagos Islands have a variety of hotels and accommodations available providing various grades of service with, of course, various prices to match. High end resorts exist as do budget hotels. And for the truly budget conscious, camping is an option as long as you stay in designated camping sites. Many tour grips travel between islands on small ships or boats and travelers have accommodations on board.


What You’ll Be Doing-

This is an outdoor adventure. You will have lots of opportunities to walk and hike. Best to get in shape before arriving. Swimming and snorkeling will give you a look at the undersea aspect of the Galapagos. (As mentioned, renting a wet suit in the islands might not be a bad idea – the water can be a bit chilly.) Boating between islands affords a chance to relax and get a view of the islands from a distance. And then of course, there is the photography. Lots, and lots of photography. In future articles a Guest Writer will offer insights and tales from her own personal Galapagos Adventure. Be sure to visit again.

Be Prepared ……. And Enjoy The Adventure!

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