Galapagos Islands (UNESCO World Heritage)

Ecuador - Galapagos - Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)

In terms of flora and fauna, the Galápagos Islands are definitely unique. Due to its remote location, animals, which can be found nowhere else in the world, have managed to survive here. Those visitors who make their way to this far-out location will not be disappointed. Once landed, it is as if one has travelled back in time. Prehistoric land iguanas, giant turtles, sea lions and other creatures walk or flop around as if they were on a movie set. Add that to strange and unearthly vegetation, and you know you’ve arrived on the Galápagos Islands.

Ecuador - Galapagos - Sally lightfoot crab (Grapsus grapsus)Ecuador claimed the archipelago in 1832, three years before Darwin arrived on his famous ship, the Bounty. Studying many of the species he found on the islands he was able to evolve his Theory of Evolution. In 1959 the Islands were declared a National Park, Ecuador’s first, in fact. Ever since, Ecuador has aimed to maintain a balance between cashing in on tourism and protecting the fragile environment on the islands. They are located right on the equator in the Pacific Ocean, almost 1000 km west of Ecuador’s mainland. The archipelago is composed of 13 larger and six smaller islands, the furthest ones being 220 km apart from one another.

Ecuador - Galapagos - Blue-Footed BoobyTo visit the islands, the most common way is by booking a tour, either as a live-aboard trip, or a land-based one. Most live-aboard trips last between four and eight days. Since half a day is ‘lost’ on the days of arrival and departure, one should try and plan at five six days, to make it worth the trip. Tours usually leave from Puerto Ayora on the biggest Island, Isla Santa Cruz. Flying in from either Quito or Guanaquil, one arrives at the main airport on Isla Baltra or the smaller one on Isla San Cristobál (home to the islands’ capital Puerto Baquerizo Moreno). On the islands one can expect to see the unique and terrifying-looking prehistoric land iguanas. But don’t worry, they’re vegetarians. Other animals to look out for are galápagos penguins, the famous blue-footed boobies, the giant waved albatross, sea lions and the galápagos hawks.

Many tourists come to the Galápagos Islands mainly for one reason: diving! The islands are home to some of the world’s greatest dive spots, featuring an underwater world as spectacular as it comes. From schools of hammerhead sharks to marine iguanas, dolphins and whales, when diving at the Galápagos Islands, you’re sure to be in for a surprise. Some of the best dive sites include Gordon’s Rocks, Punto Espejo, Leon Dormido, as well as Darwin and Wolf Islands. For those who wish to snorkel or swim, Gardner Bay on Isla Española is the perfect place, also offering a beautiful beach.

High season is from December to January, during Easter and from June to August.  During these periods the temperatures are nice and warm, but prices sky-rocket and one should take into consideration that space is very limited. During the cooler, rainy season, known as ‘Garua’ (from June to November), there can be quite strong winds and/or fog. Due to the Humbolt Current coming in from the South, the average water temperature is about 18°C. During the warmer months, from December to March it can warm up to 23°C, lows can dip down to chilly 13°!

© Salsa-Trips, Rico Jochen Anderer