Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands: part 1

the Galapagos by land and sea

One of our favorite features of the Galapagos Islands is how close we can get to these special creatures.  Not only are there animals found nowhere else on the planet, but we can also experience them out in the open, just steps away.  As part of Ideal South America’s goal to provide the best possible tour operations to its passengers, our General Manager, Donovan Hervig, recently traveled to Ecuador and the Galapagos.  Experiencing many of the land and cruise-based services again first-hand gave him further insight into the best options for times of year, ships, tours, guides, excursions and accommodation. 

March is a relatively warm month, with calmer seas, especially near the central, southern and eastern islands he explored.  If his itinerary included the colder western islands (Fernandina and Isabela), and was from choppier July to September, a more stable ship (larger or catamaran) would have been preferred, along with a wetsuit for snorkeling.  As it was, the smaller 16-20 passenger yachts did the trick. 

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands: part 1 Ideal South America

When thinking about where to visit, each island does have its own special flora and fauna to appreciate, therefore it’s difficult to say one is better than another. The Tortoise Breeding Center at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island makes that visit all the more interesting, even if you might enjoy seeing them more in “the wild”, at Primicias or El Chato Ranch, up in the Highlands.  Unless you are land-based, on this ships there aren’t many swimming only opportunities, but you can definitely snorkel – and should do at least once a day.  This was fantastic just off North Seymour Island, as well as Santiago, where we saw a wide variety of colorful fish, sea turtles, rays, sharks, marine iguanas … even penguins! 

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands: part 1 Ideal South America

For those looking to visit more hotel-based, the quality of the boats transferring passengers from one island to another has improved significantly over the years.  This helps tremendously in avoiding sea-sickness and should motivate one further to explore multiple islands as such.  Although in the end, one does see more in a shorter space of time with a cruise.  The ubiquitous frigate birds, males seen easily on land with their inflated red pouches, even fly above and along side the ships!  Even though on a cruise, one takes pangas (zodiacs) and walks on the Islands, near land iguanas, blue and Nazca boobies, red sally lightfoot crabs, avoiding the young playful sea lions, and sees otherworldly plants. 

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands: part 1 Ideal South America

And if you’re lucky, and the captain and crew of your ship are keeping watchful, on the way to Chinese Hat Island, they’ll manage to steer her and sail alongside the largest pod of dolphins you’ve ever seen, for 15-20 minutes!  

Stayed tuned for part 2, where we will learn more about mainland Ecuador and the places to experience before and after your tour in the Galapagos.

Read more about our Galapagos tours here