Travel Guide to the Galapagos Islands

…Step back in time and experience Charles Darwin’s Galapagos Islands…

The Galapagos islands are an archipelago of 19 islands and smaller islets 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador.  They have seemed to remain untouched by time for a few reasons: their remoteness, the lack of natural predators, and because they are a double World Unesco Heritage site that protects both land and sea.  Because there are no predators visitors can get up close and personal with playful sea lions and gigantic sea tortoises.  Also, no island is identical to the others, they all have their own unique landscape ranging from barren rock, volcanic rock to miles of white sand beaches.  
A general rule to know while there is that you cannot tour and explore the islands on your own.  You have book tours that are led by park guides – that is just one way they have preserved the natural environment. 

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Where are they and how do I get there ?!??

The Galapagos are located off the mainland of Ecuador so first you must fly into either Quito or Guayaquil (I suggest Guayaquil because the islands are closer).  Most major airlines like American, Continental, Copa and Delta all fly to Ecuador from the United States and if you will probably have to schedule over night accommodations on the mainland because most flights to the islands are in the morning or evening.  Then, from Guayaquil fly into Baltra Island where you will have to take a bus and ferry ride to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island (the most popular island).  Or you could fly into the capital of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island.  In order to travel between islands you will either need to book a boat or domestic airfare with TAME, LAN, or Aerogal.
United States > Guayaquil
Guayaquil > Baltra Island
Guayaquil > Puerto Ayora

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When Should I Go?

The islands offer a plethora of activities that range from season to season so depending on what you want to do will determine the best time for you visit.  High tourist season in general for the islands is June, July and August as well as mid-December to mid-January.  
There is a rainy and dry season: 
*Rainy/Hot – December-May
This is when the ocean is the calmest and daily rains cool off the land leaving you with temps in the 80s.
*Cooler/Dryer – June-November
Cooler air temps being in the 70’s and water temps cooler because the Humboldt Current comes in and also brings rougher water.  This time is great for experienced divers because it brings in much more sea life like schools of hammerheads and whale sharks.

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As I mentioned earlier in the post, visits to most islands are not permitted unless you are with a licensed guide of the Galapagos National Park.  The best way to see the more remote islands is by taking a cruise on a small yacht but you can also book day trips from Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz.  Also, you can choose to cruise with a large group of about a 100 or a more private trip consisting of 15-30 – all depends on how intimate you want to get with the islands.  Regardless of the season you will want to book your tour at least a few months in advance but if you find yourself making a sporadic trip there no worries, you maybe can find discounted tours at travel agencies in Puerto Ayora or Quito.  

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Where To Stay

When booking your accommodations keep in mind that most tours begin and end in Santa Cruz so you may want to spend an extra night in either Finch Bay Eco Hotel or Angermeyer Waterfront Inn. These are the top rated hotels on Tripadvisor.  

Angermeyer Waterfront Inn

Finch Bay Eco Lodge
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What To Do and Must See Animals

Wildlife watching is a MUST!!! 
You can observe:
 Blue-footed boobies
Giant Tortoise
Whale Sharks
Marine Iguanas
 *just to name a few of the locals*

And obviously diving and snorkeling are one of the main attractions to the islands, the underwater life is one to be reckoned with!  Then my favorite activities would be hiking, kayaking, taking photos and surfing.  You can also spend your time volunteering – check out the Galapagos Conservancy website for a list of organizations to put your skills to work with.  

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And just a small suggestion of mine on the most valuable personal items to bring are:
Reusable water bottle 
 A camera that preferably can photograph underwater.  

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To book your trip to Galapagos call United Military Travel for your pre-approval!

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