Galapagos Experience Guide

Formed by a volcanic hotspot millions of years ago, the Galápagos Islands didn’t find their way onto the map until 1535 when the Bishop of Panama accidentally drifted into them on his way to Peru.

After that accidental discovery, the islands became a favorite hideout to pirates; a rest stop for whalers and explorers; and the renowned location of Darwin’s 1830s expedition that resulted in his theory of evolution. And while efforts to establish settlements were thwarted by lack of fresh water and other challenges, the influence of human contact has been profound.

Lucky for us, Ecuador signed a decree in the 1930s to protect the islands, designated as a National Park in 1959, and in the late 1970s, further protection when UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve.


Wildlife Guide


With so much diversity, who and what should be on your Galápagos must-see list? The Big 15 includes the most iconic wildlife in the archipelago. And, on our itinerary, there are opportunities to see a whopping 12 of them!

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Land Animals

Perhaps the most celebrated archipelago animal is the tortoise, of which there are 14 species. Galápagos comes from the Spanish word “saddle-back,” which was used to describe the shape of the massive tortoises’ shells in the 1500s and for which the islands became named shortly after.

  • Giant tortoises
  • Land iguanas
  • Marine iguanas
  • Lava lizards
  • Hoary bats
  • Geckos



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Marine Animals

Urchins, brightly-colored Sally Lightfoot crabs, sparkling bioluminescence, stunning whales…from the smallest to the largest marine creatures, the Galápagos draw an incredible number of marine species to its nutrient-rich waters.

  • Green sea turtles
  • Sperm, pilot, humpback, and Brydes whales
  • Spinner, striped, and bottlenose dolphins
  • Sea lions and fur seals
  • Angelfish, butterflyfish, damselfish
  • White-tipped reef shark
  • Manta, spotted eagle, and golden rays
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Birds

Of the many bird species native or migratory to the islands, a whopping 45 are endemic, meaning they are found only in the Galápagos. They are separated into three categories: sea birds, land birds, and shore and water birds.

  • Blue-footed and Nazca boobies
  • 13 species of Darwin’s finches
  • Short-eared owl
  • Galápagos hawk
  • Galápagos petral
  • Magnificent and Great frigatebirds
  • Galápagos penguins



Seasonal Variations

The Galapagos Islands are scattered north and south across the equator. Due to this middle-of-the-earth location, temperatures are very consistent month-to-month making this a great destination at any time.

There is some variation in the two seasons experienced in the archipelago. December to June is warmest and when the most rainfall occurs with short, daily showers concentrated in upper elevations. July to November is the Garua season. Garua is a mist that forms in the highlands, providing moisture but not much rain.

When to Visit Galapagos
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Galapagos Slideshow

What does this famed archipelago look like? Get a glimpse outside of your imagination—from wildlife and the varied landscape, to Guayquil's expansive boardwalk. Click the slideshow image at left for a look at what’s in store.

What to See & Do on Our Galapagos Land and Sea Adventure

 

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On Board

  • Enjoy unencumbered, spectacular sunset views of these iconic islands from the yacht’s bow
  • Share the day’s wildlife learnings with your fellow shipmates and relax the Natural History Library
  • Enjoy a handmade cocktail and refreshing ocean breeze under the shade of the covered Sky Lounge
  • Hear tales of Darwin’s explorations from your English-speaking guides during onboard presentations
  • Relax at the end of an adventure-filled day with a soak in the on-deck hot tub

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In the Water

  • From the glass-bottom boat, watch sea lions, green sea turtles, and colorful fish
  • Ride in the panga investigating towering shoreline cliffs and the birds nesting among them
  • Snorkel from a white sandy beach among bright parrotfish, spotted pufferfish, and damselfish
  • Kayak along volcanic channels and sunken cinder cones abundant with colorful marine life
  • Swim from an idyllic sunbathing beach into a marine menagerie keeping watch for Galapagos penguins
     
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On Land

  • Climb to high overlooks for stunning panoramas and ideal photo ops
  • Stroll through Quayquil's Malecon 2000 boardwalk and historic Santa Ana Hill and its famous lighthouse
  • Comb white, red, or green sand beaches observing nesting boobies, frigatebirds, and noisy bachelor sea lions
  • Tour the Charles Darwin Research Center and see giant tortoises in their natural habitat on an upland-forest hike
  • Hike among lava tubes, fields and craters exploring the islands’ volcanic heritage

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