How to explore the remote Galapagos Islands in style

How to explore the remote Galapagos Islands in style

Charles Darwin described the Galapagos as ‘a little world in itself’. When you consider the unique plants and animals that call it home, not to mention the alien landscape of jagged hills leading to orange sands and waters of emerald green and blue, you can see why.

To visit the archipelago is to explore a remote outpost that has developed with almost no human interaction – a natural secret some 1,400 km off the coast of Ecuador. Even getting there today is a major undertaking, especially for Australians.

The Galapagos have been protected by UNESCO since 1978.

Although direct flights would be nice, the simplest option is to fly from Sydney to Santiago de Chile (Qantas and LATAM both offer regular services), before continuing to Quito or Guayaquil in Ecuador, and then on a flight to San Cristobal or Baltra jumps.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to tackle the Galapagos on a longer Ecuador trip. The narrow streets and Spanish colonial architecture of Quito’s old town are worth checking out, while the locals will also leave a lasting impression.

Quito was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of a former Inca city.

Regular flights to San Cristobal and Baltra are offered by LATAM and Avianca, and it takes less than an hour to reach them. You are also treated to some pretty impressive views along the way.

Once you touch down, the type of holiday you’re looking for – whether it’s a bespoke superyacht cruise, guided tour or simply each day as it comes without a set itinerary – determines your next step.

Galapagos sea lions are playful and curious, when they’re not slumbering, that is.
Aqua Expeditions

Here are some of the best ways to explore the Galapagos Islands.

Sail around the islands

With 13 main islands and numerous islets to discover, it makes sense to cruise around the Galapagos. Rather than taking a creaking sailing ship as Darwin and his companions did in 1835, there are some infinitely more indulgent options to choose from.

Among the more premium offerings is Aqua Expeditions, which makes island hopping a breeze on its stunning 50-metre ‘Aqua Mare’ super-yacht (also home to one of the most luxurious suites at sea).

More than just sailing, there are plenty of opportunities to get your land legs on hiking expeditions too, not to mention exploring by kayak, stand-up paddleboard or private tender.

The seven-suite Aqua Mare has been finished to an exceptional level of detail.
Aqua Expeditions

No detail is overlooked on board, with seven immaculate cabins adorned with rich walnut veneer panels, luxurious linens and beautiful 17th century prints of local wildlife.

One of the Aqua Mare’s luxury suites.
Aqua Expeditions

A 1:1 crew to guest ratio and two naturalist guides ensure you get the best experience, not to mention some sensational cuisine.

A cruise around the islands gives you a front row seat to nature’s show.
Aqua Expeditions

Silversea also offers a dedicated ship in the Galapagos, the Silver Origin, which caters for a maximum of 100 guests and boasts eight zodiacs for daily wildlife viewing. Shore excursions and excellent food and drink are all included – all you have to do is relax.

Silver Origin boasts several dining options, in addition to 24-hour room service.

If you’re in the mood for a dive-oriented lifeboat cruise, consider Galapagos Sky – which easily holds its own among the most luxurious cruises in the region – or the mid-range Humboldt Explorer, which unlocks up to 15 dives across its popular seven. -night itinerary.

And what is there to see? Think schools of majestic hammerheads, encounters with whale sharks and mantas, plus more penguins and sea lions than you’ve ever seen in one place.

Clear waters and playful locals await on a Galapagos diving trip.

Follow the (tour) leader

Whether you’re hoping to find blue-footed boobies or marine iguanas, delve into the history of Darwin’s expedition, or traverse the volcanic landscape of Punta Espinosa, a Galapagos guided tour helps bring destinations to life.

Intrepid operates several itineraries from Quito, including its 10-day ‘Classic Galapagos: Central Southern Islands’ on the custom-built Grand Queen Beatriz, and the 10-day ‘Ultimate Galapagos: Central Islands’ on the Grand Daphne, launching in 2021 is.

Intrepid’s tours are designed to immerse you in the destinations visited.

Also worth checking out is G Adventures, which sees travelers embark aboard its boats Reina Silvia Voyager or the Yolita, with naturalist guides on hand to help you discover rare animals, along with landscapes that, in a word, is captivating.

During their trips, you’ll have a chance to see iguanas and flamingos on the green and white sand beaches of Punta Cormorant, snorkel amidst a rainbow of marine life in Punta Vicente Roca, and much more.

Slow and steady wins the race

Although tours and cruises are the most popular ways to see the Galapagos, it comes as a surprise to many to learn that you don’t have to join one – tourists are free to visit Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana- exploring islands at their islands. own pace

With that in mind, you’ll need a place to stay…and eat. Santa Cruz and San Cristobal are the most populated islands, with plenty of accommodation options to go around, ranging from hotels to guesthouses and five-star lodges.

The marine iguana is one of the Galapagos’ most iconic species.
Aqua Expeditions

Restaurants are also plentiful, while day tours are easy to arrange, either from hotels or through the likes of Viator. Essential attractions include the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerta Ayora on Santa Cruz, and the sea lion colony Punta Carola Beach on San Cristobal.

However you decide to travel – by land or sea – it’s important to do it lightly. The Galapagos is a fragile ecosystem, home to many species that are simply not found anywhere else. Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

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