Imagine swimming with sea lions and being surrounded by magnificent sharks as you snorkel in pristine waters. Or witness a marine iguana feeding on a corral reef while sea turtles float lazily by. The Galapagos Islands are one of the most unique ecosystems in the entire world. When visiting this remote destination off the coast of Ecuador, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the thrill of a lifetime.
Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands have 2 seasons that are governed by the strong and cold Humboldt Current: the cool-dry season (July – December) and the warm-wet season (January – June). Coming up from the Antarctic and aided by strong southeast breezes, this nutrient-rich current predominates in the cool-dry season. In the warm-wet season, the winds drop and the warmer Panama Current from the north replaces the cold Humboldt Current. Since this current has lower levels of nutrients, the waters are clearer, making for better viewing while snorkelling or diving.
In the Galápagos Islands, you can either take a cruise or do day trips from one of the inhabited islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, or Isabela) - sometimes referred to as “island-hopping.” A few notes about the day trip option - you can only get to the islands that are closest to the inhabited areas (such as Bartolomé, a small island with some of the most impressive volcanic scenery and moon-like landscapes in the archipelago, North Seymour Island, a small uplifted lava flow island with abundant bird life, land iguanas, lava lizard and sea lions, and Floreana, site of the famous Post Office Barrel, an informal post box for sailors). You can’t make reservations more than a day ahead of time, so you have to go with whatever tours are available when you’re there - and the best ones tend to sell out quickly during high season. The landings are often at less desirable times - primarily mid-day, when the light is harsher for photography and the wildlife are less active due to higher temperatures. And you can only visit one island a day with day trips, just because getting there and back takes so long. You probably get a better sense of what life on the Galápagos Islands is like for the human inhabitants if you stay in hotels and book day trips but is this really why you’re going to the Galápagos Islands?
With a naturalist cruise you can get to the least visited islands such as Fernandina, one of the most pristine in the group with an active volcano and a profusion of marine iguanas, sea lions, green sea turtles and flightless cormorants, the western shore of Isabela, Genovesa, and Española, the most southerly island with a beautiful white coral beach and excellent snorkelling. You meander, at times literally eye-to-eye, very close to the wildlife on these islands. The boat travels during down times such as lunch, overnight, so that you get the best landing times which are early in the morning and late in the afternoon, when the wildlife are most active. And you get two landings as well as one or two snorkelling opportunities most days.
There are a range of cruise options from an expedition style 100-passenger ship to first class motor yachts with a capacity of only 20-36 guests, all offering suites with private facilities, sun decks, restaurants, bar, library and on some, a pool. Itineraries range from three nights through to seven and start from NZ$2175.00 per person share twin for a three-night cruise. Call us for full itineraries and options for viewing the most spectacular show on earth.