Born of volcanic fires deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands are unique. This uniqueness is largely a result of the way the islands came in to being, and their isolated location.
All living things are intimately related to a dependent on each other and the physical environment in which plants and animals are living is essential to an understanding of their natural history. Much of the extraordinary nature of the plants and animals of the Galapagos results from their unique physical environment.
Visiting the Galapagos Islands you can enjoy the amazing sights of these incredible Islands.
Explore the Galapagos in one of its spectacular cruises. Over 1900 species of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Giant tortoises, marine iguanas, penguins. This is a journey unlike any other.
For the people with varying budgets and varying interests, there are many ways to visit the Galapagos. These range from three to four days aboard a luxury liner, to two weeks aboard a comfortable yacht, to a week or so on small converted fishing boats.
First class cruises
Dry landing, trail to submit (114 m), pioneer plants, Tiquilia, Chamaesyce, Scalesia steweartii, spatter cones, lava tubes, Brachycereus.
Wet landing, trail to south beach through mangroves and dune vegetation, turtles and sharks, herons, north beach, swimming and snorkelling, Pinnacle Rock, penguins often presents
Dry landing, lava flow from turn of this century, still virtually uneroded, covers large area, pahoehoe or rope lava, hornitos, Mollugo, Brachycereus, lava colonisers.
Wet landing, long white sand beach, swimming mockingbirds, sea lions.
Wet landing, sea lion colonies, colourful subspecies of marine iguana, Hood mockingbird, endemic lava lizard, large cactus finch, blue-footed booby colonies, masked booby colonies, swallod-tailed gulls, waved albatross colony, red-billed tropicbirds, oystercatchers, blowhole, low scrub, vegetation.
Dry landing, marine iguanas, flightless cormorant, sea lions, penguins, Galapagos hawk, Brachycereus cactus.
Dinghy ride around half-submerged crater, red-billed tropicbirds, herons, snorkelling in and around crates is excellent.
Post Office Bay
Wet landing, site of whalers' post office barrel and early settlement, lava tunnel
Wet landing on brown beach with greenish olivine crystals, flamingo lagoons, wading birds, Lecocarpus pinnatidifus and Scalesia villosa. Walk along lagoon fine white sand beach, sting rays, turtles, sea grape and Nolana shrubs.
Wet landing: coral beach, swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions, red-footed booby, masked booby, large ground finch, large cactus finch, sharp-billed ground finch, no lizards, no snakes, small marine iguanas, great frigatebird, Galapagos dove.
Prince Phillip's Step
Dry landing, cliff, fur seals, tropicbirds, storm petrels, great frigatebird, reed-footed booby, doves, finches.
Wet landing, long hike (overnight), giant tortoises, hawks, caldera views, fumarole, vegetation zones.
Dinghy ride, turtle lagoons, penguins, large mangroves, views of Sierra Negra Volcano.
Dry landing, small town, long beach, trip to highlands and Sierra Negra volcano. Lagoons with flamingos and wading birds.
Dinghy ride, flightless cormorant, pelicans, lava landscapes.
Dry landing, lava fields, pioneer plants, occasionally flamingos in oasis-like green lagoons, flightless cormorant, marine iguana.
Dinghy ride along cliffs, Dry landing, tuff cone formations, ash deposits, salt lake crater, historical graffiti, view of Darwin Volcano, Arid zone vegetation, flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguins, finches.
Wet landing, uplifted corals from 1954, marine iguanas, flightless cormorant, dramatic landscapes.
Wet landing, red sand beach, sea lions, flamingos and pelican colony, snorkelling.
San Cristobal Island
Wet landing with sea lions, trail climbs up stream bed to plateau. Nolana Sesuvium, red-footed, masked and blue footed boobies.
Dry landing, capital of Galapagos province, Frigate bird Hill, trip to highlands, El Junco lake.
Santa Cruz Island
Charles Darwin Research Station: Dry landing, Van Straelen Exhibition Hall, giant tortoise pens, tortoise raising house, Arid zone vegetation many Darwin's finches.
Puerto Ayora: Shops, post office, refreshments, souvenirs.
From Puerto Ayora, drive up through Transition zone vegetation, agricultural area in humid zone, Bellavista, Santa Rosa, Scalesia forest, pit craters, Tortoise Reserve/Caseta, Media Luna and Pampa vegetation, lava tubes, Darwin's finches, vermilion flycatchers, rain gear often required.
Dinghy ride, mangrove lagoons, turtles, pelicans, herons, rays, sharks.
Santa Fe Island
Wet landing, sea lion beaches, cactus forest with giant Opuntia, Arid zone vegetation, walk to escarpment, Scalesia helleri, land iguanas.
Cruise along cliffs, interesting rock formations, are for protection of plants from goats.
Espumilla Beach: Wet landing, flamingo lagoon, ducks, stilts, some waders, mangroves, turtle nesting beach, walk inland to Transition zone vegetation.
Puerto Egas: Wet landing, walk along coast to fur seal grotto, intertidal life, shore birds, marine iguanas, sea lions, snorkelling, swimming.
Walk to salt mine, Arid zone vegetation, Darwin's finches, hawks, feral goats.
Walk to spring and to Sugarloaf Volcano (395 m), goats, Galapagos hawks, Galapagos doves and finches at seepage, savannah vegetation as result goats, land iguanas extinct because of pigs and goats. Remains of building from saltworks
Dry landing, uplifted island, loop trail, magnificent frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, marine iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, snakes, endemic Palo santo, low shrubby-type Opuntia.
South Plaza Islet
Dry landing, uplifted, sea lion colony, land iguanas and cactus forest, Sesuvium-Portulaca vegetation, cliffs with swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropicbirds, Audubon shearwaters, sea lion bachelor colony.
The Charles Darwin Research Station is a primarily a center for evolutionary and ecological research since 1959, but also plays a strong role in conservation and management of species found in the Galapagos Islands. It is located at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island.
As part of a formal agreement with the Government of Ecuador, Charles Darwin Research Station conducts and facilitates research in Galapagos to supply information and technical assistance to the Galapagos National Park Service and other branches of the government. Also provides environmental education to island communities and schools and to the visitors that come to Galapagos each year. Ecuadorian university students receive hands-on training in science, education, and conservation through volunteer and scholarship programs.
The principal focus of Charles Darwin Research Station is scientific research. Research by staff scientists and consultants is directed mainly toward the conservation and management of Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Marine Resources Reserve. Visiting scientists from all over the world come to Galapagos to perform research on a wide variety of topics, such as evolutionary biology, geology, eco-tourism, climatology, and population genetics.
CDRS promotes research tables and cooperative research agreements with both national and international scientific research institutions. The information generated by this research is provided to decision makers of the Government of Ecuador, published in refereed scientific journals and internal reports, and interpreted for visitors and environmental education programs in the Islands.
The park was established on 14 May 1936 by Executive Decree No. 31 and ratified on 4 July 1959 by Decree No. 17. At that time the boundary of the national park was fixed to include all Galapagos Islands, except those which had already been colonised as of 20 July 1959. After final establishment of the boundaries in 1968, 96% of the land area of the archipelago was included in the park.
The Galapagos Islands remain well preserved as a natural environment in part due to the National Park Rules. These rules are established by the Galapagos National Park Service, and enforced by park wardens and trained guides. The following rules are excerpted from a National Park Service brochure.
National Park, The Galapagos National Park thanks you for respecting these rules:
NO PLANTS, ANIMALS, OR REMAINS OF THEM SUCH AS BONES,
PIECES OF WOOD OR OTHER NATURAL. OBJECTS SHOULD BE REMOVED OR DISTURBED. Such
actions are illegal and may cause serious harm to the island's ecological
BE CAREFUL NOT TO TRANSPORT ANY LIVE MATERIAL TO THE
ISLANDS, OR FROM ISLAND. Before landing on any of the islands, check your
clothing for seed or insects and destroy them or keep them on your vessel for
disposal later on. Check your boots or shoe soles for dried mud before leaving
the boat. This material will frequently contain seeds and spores of plants and
animals. Inadvertent transport of these materials represents a special danger
Each island has its own unique fauna and flora, and other plants and animals can quickly destroy this uniqueness. These rules apply to pets as well as other animals and plants. DO NOT BRING THEM TO THE ISLANDS. One aft he most destructive forces in Galapagos are feral organisms (domesticated species gone wild) which have been brought to the Galapagos by man.
For the same reasons expressed in rule No.2 DO NOT TAKE ANY
FOOD TO THE UNINHABITED ISLANDS. It is easy to introduce, together with food,
insects or other organisms which might be dangerous to the fragile island
ecosystems. Fresh fruits and vegetables are especially dangerous. The orange
seed you drop may become a tree.
ANIMALS MAY NOT BE TOUCHED OR HANDLED. All wild animals
dislike this and will quickly lose their remarkable tameness if thus treated
by human beings.
ANIMALS MAY NOT BE FED. Not only can it be dangerous to
your own person, but in the long run it can destroy the animal's social
structure and affect its reproduction. You came here to see a completely
natural situation. Do not interfere with it.
DO NOT DISTURB OR CHASE ANY ANIMAL FROM ITS RESTING OR
NESTING SPOT. Be very careful with breeding colonies of seabirds. Don't drive
boobies, cormorants, gulls or frigatebirds from their nests. These birds will
fly from their nests if startled, often knocking the egg or chick to the
ground, leaving it exposed to the sun. (A newly hatched booby chick will die
in 20 to 30 minutes if exposed to the sun; frigatebirds will also eat any
LITTER OF ALL TYPES MUST BE KEPT OFF THE ISLANDS. DISPOSAL
AT SEA MUST BE LIMITED TO CERTAIN TYPES OF GARBAGE, ONLY TO BE THROWN
OVERBOARD IN SELECTED AREAS. Keep all rubbish (film wrappers, cigarette butts,
chewing gum, tin cans, bottles, etc.) in a bag, to be disposed of on your
boat. The crew of the vessel is responsible to the National Park for proper
trash disposal. You should never throw anything overboard. A few examples of
the damage that can be caused:
* sea lions will pick a tin can off the bottom and play with it, cutting their highly sensitive muzzles.
* sea turtles will eat plastic thrown overboard and die, for it blocks their digestive tract.
* rubbish thrown overboard near an island will usually be carried to shore where, as it accumulates, it will convert a once beautiful area into a rubbish pile, in addition to causing problems for the plants and animals.
DO NOT BUY SOUVENIRS OR OBJECTS MADE FROM PLANTS OR ANIMALS
OF THE ISLANDS, with the exception of articles made from wood. The best way to
discourage this trade is simply not buying any of these articles. If anyone
offers you any of these souvenirs, please advise the National Park
DO NOT PAINT NAMES OR GRAFFITI ON ROCKS. It is against the
law and is extremely ugly to look at. Immortality can't be more important than
the Islands' natural beauty.
ALL GROUPS WHICH VISIT THE NATIONAL PARK MUST BE
ACCOMPANIED BY A QUALIFIED GUIDE APPROVED BY THE NATIONAL PARK. The visitor
must follow the instructions of the guide.
THE NATIONAL PARK IS DIVIDED INTO DIFFERENT ZONES TO
FACILITATE ITS MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION. There are certain sites where
tourist activities are permitted, and others where the public is restricted or
prohibited. The boat captains and guides know which are the visitors sites and
will be responsible for obtaining the proper permits. Nevertheless, the
personnel in the office of the National Park is available to answer any
questions you might have.
DO NOT HESITATE TO SHOW YOUR CONSERVATIONIST ATTITUDE. Explain these rules to others, and help to enforce them. Notify the National Park if you see any serious damage being done.
The Galapagos were named one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World by CEDAM International. Diving in the Galapagos can often be challenging. Strong currents, low visibility and deep and cold waters make it a physically demanding diving destination for even the most experienced, and not a place for novices. Conditions can change very quickly and often during the dive itself. Because of the ’97/’98 El Nintildeo, conditions in the Galapagos have been dramatically altered. Water temperatures throughout the archipelago are much higher than normal, reaching up to 26°C. Many fish which are usually found in cold, shallow waters are now in deeper areas where thermoclines supply the temperature they are used to. Most sharks have also retreated to these deeper, cooler waters.
In addition to the diving the magnificent underwater sites of the Galapagos Islands your days are filled with island exploration and discovery. See fur seals and sea lions playing on the sand, marine iguanas swimming to group gatherings, giant land turtles feeding, penguins diving from rocks, booby birds performing mating dances, flightless cormorants courting and scores of other species of flora & fauna catching your eye during surface intervals.
The agencies have specialized guides that will take you to the adequate places to dive. This guides know the attractions and dangers of each site.
The best places to dive are Cousin Rock, Roca Redonda and Wolf Island.
Snorkeling in the Galapagos islands is an amazing adventure activity. Playfull Sea Lions, Penguins, marine iguanas, colorful fish, marine turtles, rays, and even sharks are just part of the underwater life you will see while snorkeling. If you are not a diver, snorkeling is what comes closer to being underwater.
The opportunity to go snorkeling or diving in Galapagos should definitely not be missed. The main concentration of fish species occurs between the surface and 60 feet and even snorkeling around you may find baby sea lions approaching to stare at you through your mask.
Most arrivals to the islands
are by plane, and upon landing you will be met by your guide from the pre-booked
ship or yacht. Some of the islands have docks or dry landing areas while others
have “wet landings” that require wading through the shallows to land. All dive
programs in the Galapagos are customized around scheduled or chartered
dive operations from 7 to 14 nights which must be arranged well in advance.
As an average the ships or yachts have room for 15-20 persons. Both types of vessel have a reputation for luxury and providing everything imaginable for comfortable cruising; standards varies little. All dives in the Galapagos are made from a dinghy or panga going out from the vessels.
Snorkelers should be good swimmers and know basic snorkeling techniques. Divers should be in excellent physical condition, have recent experience in open-ocean diving, excellent buoyancy control, be totally sufficient to handle all gear and like adventurous vacations. Both snorkelers and divers are to bring their own gear apart from items for general travelling.
The park is protected by strict limits on where visitors are allowed to go. As a diver or snorkeler you are therefore obliged to be accompanied by a Galapagos naturalist guide. He is also certified by the Ecuadorian Navy to lead dive groups and a qualified diver with essential knowledge of specific diving locations with their respective interest and dangers.
A maximum of two dives is done a day alternating with shore excursions, snorkeling and other activities. Night diving is also an option. Shore diving is virtually impossible as most dives are drift dives along the cliff faces of offshore racks and pinnacles. Itinerary is subject to National Park Regulations, sea and weather conditions and may change without notice. Due to the remoteness of the islands, there are no facilities for hyperbaric treatment of diving injuries. Therefore, there will be no decompression dives.
The flight time to the Galapagos Islands is approx. 1 1/2 hours from Guayaquil and 2 1/2 hours (incl. stop in Guayaquil) from Quito. The flights are operated by TAME and AeroGal.
Airticket Quito- Galapagos - Quito $ 385 for high season and $ 327 for low season
Airticket Guayaquil- Galapagos - Guayaquil $ 338 for high season and $295 for low season.
Low season period: From May 1 to June 14 and Sept. 15 to Oct. 31
High season period: From June 15 to Sept. 14 and Nov. 01 to April 30