Planning a trip to Ecuador and not sure if you should visit the Galapagos? Here are four reasons to travel to Galapagos Islands from Ecuador.
To begin, let's look at what makes the Galapagos Islands special. And then we'll talk about why you may be able to plan trips to the Galapagos Islands from Ecuador for less than you think.
But first, here's a quick look at part of our family trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Snorkeling With Galapagos Sea Lions Video
4 Reasons to Visit Galapagos Islands from Ecuador
There are many factors that make the Galapagos Islands unique. Let's talk about 4 things that make the Galapagos Islands unique:
- Remote Location
- Oceanic Currents and Unique Climate
- Endemic Species
- Beauty of the Islands
1. Remote Location of the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos islands are located over 600 miles (about 1000 km) from mainland Ecuador.
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Plant and animal life have developed in a unique way because of this geographic isolation. Mainly because they have been left alone.
The Galapagos Islands were formed by volcanic activity and were never attached to a large continental land mass.
The animals that found their way there had to arrive either by flying, swimming or floating atop vegetation (swept into the water from storms or floods on the mainland) or by being introduced by human visitors.
Large mammals (predators) could not survive the trip, so the animals of the Galapagos have not learned fear.
The remote location and inhospitable nature of the Galapagos Islands contributed to the number of endemic (found nowhere else in the world) animals found on the islands.
2. Oceanic Currents and Unique Climate
The abundance of underwater life makes the Galapagos Islands a bucket list destination for divers and snorkelers.
That famous diversity exists thanks to the 7 oceanic currents which pass through and around the archipelago.
The 3 major currents affecting the Galapagos Islands are:
- Panama (a warm current that encourages coral growth)
- Humboldt (a cold current loaded with nutrients)
- Cromwell (anther cold upwelling current)
These currents create the perfect conditions to support and attract marine life.
The number of oceanic currents influencing the archipelago, and the relatively shallow oceanic waters surrounding the islands, create an underwater environment unique in the world.
In this next video, you'll see some of the underwater (and other) animals we saw while visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Galapagos Animals Love My GoPro Video
The islands straddle the equator giving them a unique temperate climate which means they can be visited year-round.
The best diving happens June – December when the waters are cooler and diversity is at its max.
3. Endemic Species
There are a lot of animals on the Galapagos Islands that are found nowhere else on earth (in the wild).
Many people travel to the Galapagos for this reason alone. It's a thrill to see animals that you know are unique in the world.
Because the islands are so remote the animals have been without major predators (human or animal) and display little or no fear at all.
That makes it pretty easy to get great photos. Need some help choosing a camera? This post will help.
Endemic animals of the Galapagos Islands
- Galapagos Giant Tortoises
- Marine Iguanas
- Galapagos Hawks
- Flightless Cormorants
- Galapagos penguins
- Waved albatross
- Galapagos Fur Seals
- Galapagos Petrels
- Floreana Mockingbirds
- Galapagos Pink Iguanas (and 2 other species of iguana)
- Galapagos Sea Lions
- 13 species of Finch
- 86 endemic species of marine life
- 171 endemic plant species (including Galapagos Cotton)
- 27 varieties of birds (including the hawk and penguins mentioned above)
Amazing Frigatebird Video
The animals of the Galapagos certainly make it a worthy travel destination!
4. Beauty of The Galapagos Islands Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.
The dramatic contrast of the volcanic landscape with the turquoise waters is breathtaking.
There are 4 ecological zones on the larger islands: coastal, dry, humid, and transitional. In each zone, you'll find different plant life and a beauty all its own.
As we drove across Santa Cruz, we went from a beach to a shrubby desert-looking area, to a jungley forest (moss hanging from the trees) and back. All in less than an hour.
If you want to see some of the volcanic landscape, arrange a hike up Sierra Negra to see the world's second-largest caldera and continue on to Volcan Chico. It's like a trip to a different planet.
The following photo shows part of the Sierra Negra caldera.
Getting to The Galapagos Islands From Ecuador
Have you looked into taking a trip to the Galapagos Islands and decided against it because it seemed too expensive? If you go with a travel agency or book a cruise that may be true, but you don't have to do that.
You can book your own flight to the Galapagos from Ecuador, arrange your own transportation and accommodations for less.
The Galapagos airports don't receive international flights. You have to fly from mainland Ecuador.
The two major airports flying into the Galapagos are in
- Quito (Mariscal Sucre International Airport, code UIO)
- Guayaquil (Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport, code GYE).
The flight will cost around $325 to $430 depending on if it's high or low season and which airport you choose (flights from Guayaquil could be a little cheaper than from Quito). There is also a transit control card $10 and a park entrance fee $100.
You can choose from two Galapagos airports. One is on Baltra Island and the other on San Cristobal Island. If you land on Baltra you can arrange your own transport to Santa Cruz for under $5.
But if you fly into San Cristobal you can stay right on the island. Once you arrive you can plan excursions or head to the many areas where you don't need a Naturalist Guide.
For example on Santa Cruz in Puerto Ayora you can walk to the Charles Darwin Research Station from town. There you'll see the Giant Tortoises and Land Iguanas.
You can also walk to the local fish market where you can see Galapagos Sea Lions up close.
Taxi rides around town only cost around $1.
Here is a shot of my daughter with a sea lion at the fish market.
And then there's Tortuga Bay where you can see marine iguanas.
You can also hire a water taxi and head to Las Grietas to go swimming in an earth fracture.
Don't forget to bring a waterproof bag for your Galapagos trip. Here are some of the best dry bags we've found.
There are affordable hotels in the Galapagos. Head over to TripAdvisor and search Puerto Ayora or San Cristobal to see some options.
Hungry for more? Learn about all 35 National Parks, Reserves and Refuges in Ecuador.
Will You Visit The Galapagos?
Will you be including a trip to the Galapagos Islands in your travel plans? If you do please tell us about it.
Have you already been there? Let us know if you planned your own trip or used a travel company. Please share by commenting on this post.