Galapagos a Bucket List Trip

Why go to the Galapagos?

Galapagos Lava and Ocean with wildlife

Lava and Ocean with wildlife

In the Galapagos, it’s all about the animals, the many volcanic islands, and how the wildlife live.

Arriving on an uninhabited island in Galapagos, our first sight was ...

Arriving on an uninhabited island, this was our first sight

The Galapagos is a national park and has specific regulations and rules.  Personally, I loved watching the animals.

Galapagos Baby Sea Lion

Baby Sea Lion

galapagos penguins

Galapagos Penguins

The sea lion pups were adorable, and I loved snorkeling with the penguins – they are fast and so are the sea lions once they are in the water. I chose the boat tour based on the boat going to islands where we would see penguins. It is very unusual to see penguins in warm climates. However, since the Humboldt current makes the sea water cold, the penguins reside there.

Galapagos hawk

Many of the birds are unique – the blue-footed boobies, nasca boobies, penguins, Darwin finches, Galapagos hawk, and many more.

We were there in early December and it was mating season for the turtles. The males were aggressive, and generally we watched two taking turns mating with one female. At times, we saw a female resting on shore; she escaped the males to take a break! There was just 1 nest that we saw on all the islands we visited, as early December is generally too early for turtle nesting. We snorkeled in a bay off of Isabella Island that had many turtles; it is likely that the sea grasses in that bay drew them for feeding.

There are many places to snorkel, but don’t forget that it can be dark due to the volcanic rock. There are no coral reefs that we saw. While there were fish everywhere, we are spoiled by the clear views in the Caribbean.

If you are a diver, there are spots that we heard are great. We had head colds so had to relinquish our dive trips. Bear in mind that the Galapagos businesses never refund your fees, so make sure you have trip insurance!  Additionally, you must be a certified advanced diver (which we are), and have completed hundreds of dives before the operations will take you to the better spots which are more difficult dives.

Galapagos Marine Iguanas are everywhere

Galapagos Marine Iguanas are everywhere

Iguanas are plentiful, especially the marine iguanas. After years of seeing land iguanas in the Caribbean, it seemed quite unusual to see iguanas swimming. Marine iguanas are unique to the Galapagos, living on the lava rocks at the edge of an island, and they swim to get their food. The males and females look different.

Galapagos Land Iguana

Land Iguana

Of course there are land iguanas, but again they look so different from anything we have ever seen. Land iguanas in Galapagos are very large – up to 5 feet – and they live on the lava in the foliage.

Galapagos tortoise

I can’t forget to mention all the different types of tortoises – huge tortoises. The physical appearance of the tortoises differ because they adapted to their environments. Based on the island foliage, the tortoises’ shells changed shape to give them the ability to eat it.

Galapagos Land Tortoises are huge!

Land Tortoises are huge!

If you are interested in animals, it is fascinating to see how they have adapted. If you like geology, the islands will be of interest. Galapagos is an experience in nature.

What to expect from a Galapagos trip?

Galagagos islandGalapagos is interesting  and mostly barren. Only 3% of the islands are occupied based on the regulations set by the Galapagos National Park, which includes all of the Galapagos islands.

We liked Galapagos – the unique and remote nature experiences, and being 600 miles off the coast of the Pacific. We loved seeing the wildlife and snorkeling. It was exhilarating to be so far out in the Pacific on a boat with only the volcanic islands and wildlife.


Group hike across the Lava

However, we did not like it as much as we expected. It was built up too much based on all of the hype. My take is that it is a bit overrated, and very very expensive. You can only look at so much lava, and 8 days of it is a bit much. You will also see the same animals on many of the islands.

If you are interested in the unique nature and the remote lava islands, then put it on your list. I think 5 days on a boat is enough; if you are doing a land-only excursion, then 6 days should be enough. We did 8 days on a boat and 4 days on land – too much unless you are diving on those land days.

My next post will cover more on Choosing Galapagos Excursions, including:

  • How to decide – a cruise, a land package, diving?
  • When to go?
  • Getting there
  • Choosing which islands you want to see

Be sure to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss this information or future posts with more details on each island in the Galapagos as well as accommodations. When you sign up you are entitled to a complimentary spreadsheet detailing all of the boats (100) to choose from for a Galapagos cruise. Use the contact form below to request my spreadsheet. Please be specific as to what you are looking for and be sure to include your email address.

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10 thoughts on “Galapagos a Bucket List Trip

  1. Here is a comment from one of our readers:

    “I did this in about 2004 with celebrity. It was one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve ever had.

    I’ve traveled to over 60 countries, And I will finish off the seventh content (Antartica) in January 2017.

    When I went on celebrity it was about $2500 a person – the first year of the trip they ran to the Galapagos. Now it’s up to about 6000 per person. I was pretty fortunate to catch at the right time.

    But, it still remains one of the top sites that I’ve seen –please don’t discourage people from going there. I actually swim with the sea lions as a they nibbled at my flippers. Also, I had the opportunity to have four killer whales spend about two hours with us running around our zodiac. One even brushed by my hand, I can still feel it!

    Looking forward to new adventures,

    All my best, Steven”

  2. I thank Steven for his comments and sharing his experience. Please know that I am not discouraging anyone from going to the Galapagos. We are quite happy that we went to Galapagos; none of what I said would have discouraged me. I am simply attempting to set expectations.

    I am open to your questions and input.

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  4. Wow, swimming with penguins sounds amazing. I’d love to visit Galapagos with my grandkids. What an education!

    • Yes, swimming with the penguins in the Galapagos was a highlight. As well swimming with the sea lions all around us and fishing was also cool! If you goon a cruise with kids, some boats cater cater to children more than others. Look for those.

  5. We were in Ecuador and thought of traveling to Galapagos, too. As we are traveling on a budget, we decided not to go with a heavy heart as we love nature and wildlife sightings. It consoles me that I didn’t miss as much as I reckoned.

    • We are happy to have gone, and you can do less costly day trips staying on Santa Cruz or Isabela. If you go back on a budget, staying on 1 or 2 islands, and shopping and booking day trips while there will make it less costly and give you a flavor of Galapagos.

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