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Holidays to the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands holidays from the experts at Exodus. View list of Galapagos Island trips

Charles Darwin found inspiration for his ground-breaking book ‘The Origin of Species’ in the Galapagos Islands. On this isolated tropical archipelago almost 1000km off mainland Ecuador, he discovered wildlife present nowhere else on Earth.  The volcanic islands are considered to be a living laboratory by scientists and represent one of the most pristine yet fragile areas in the world. This enchanted world is characterised by stark lava fields, cactus forests, volcanic craters, mangrove lagoons and turquoise waters.  

Without a doubt the biggest highlight of the islands is the incredible wildlife. With very few external predators and limited human interference, the species that inhabit the Galapagos have always shown a near fearless attitude to man. Close encounters are assured and we may find ourselves stepping over snoozing sea lions and iguanas or watching up close the courting rituals of Blue-footed boobies, albatross or frigatebirds. A mask and snorkel reveals an exciting underworld; turtles, sharks, rays and colourful reef fish are abundant and sea lions love to come and play!

Exodus staff report on an Exodus trip for the Extracts Magazine

 Extracts Magazine - Vicky Boughton, Exodus' Americas Trip Manager, writes about Turtle Recall (April 2013).

 

Below you'll find some more information on the individual islands, their main sights and fauna.

Bartolomé: One of the most photographed of all the islands! Bartolomé is an extinct volcano with many interesting geological features and a semi-lunar landscape. The famous Pinnacle Rock, seen in countless photos, is actually a tuff cone - a column of hardened volcanic ash formed when molten rock fused together after coming into contact with seawater. It's possible to swim with Galápagos Penguins here, and the island is home to sea lions, nesting marine turtles and White-tipped Reef Sharks.

View of Bartolomé Island

Española: The southernmost island of the chain, Española is also the oldest. As it is relatively isolated from the other islands, it has developed its own endemic fauna, including the only marine iguanas which change colour in order to attract mates during the breeding season. The island is the favoured breeding ground for almost the entire world population of waved albatross due to its easy access to prime fishing grounds and the steep cliffs which provide an ideal place for the large birds to take off. There are also large colonies of mockingbirds, boobies, Darwin Finches and doves, as well as the sea lions which surf the breaking waves.

Cacti on Española Island, Galapagos Islands

Fernandina: The third-largest island, Fernandina is an active shield volcano which is noted for its fine examples of Aa and Pahoehoe lava flows. The ecosystem on Fernandina is remarkably untouched, and the island has never been invaded by foreign species and predators. As a result, the cormorants here had no real need to fly in order to find ample fish stocks, and gradually evolved into flightless birds with small wings and feet which are extremely well adapted to swimming. Land iguanas have also flourished due to the lack of predators, and the island is home to the largest colony in the Galapagos.

Blue footed boobies on Fernandina

Floreana: One of the first islands to be inhabited, the human history of Floreana is as interesting as its natural history. At Post Office Bay, 18th century sailors (and now tourists) left mail in a wooden barrel so it could be picked up by other ships and delivered to its final destination. It's still common practice for visitors to see if there are postcards or letters from their home town and deliver them on their return from the Galapagos. Notable wildlife on the island includes large flamingo colonies, the Galapagos Petrel and, between December and May, nesting Green Turtles. Just off Floreana's coast is the Devil's Crown, an underwater coral-filled crater which offers some of the best snorkelling on the islands.

Tortoise, Galapagos Islands

Genovesa: Renowned for the sheer number of birds living on its volcanic cliffs, Genovesa is a true paradise for bird watchers. There are large populations of Red-footed Boobies, Storm Petrels, frigatebirds, tropic birds and nocturnal Swallow-tailed Gulls. Prince Philip's Steps lead to a plateau where the visitor is almost totally surrounded by different species of birds. It's not just the land that provides a great natural habitat - the nutrient rich waters make for great snorkelling.

Galapagos marine Iguana

Isabela: One of the youngest and most volcanically active islands with stark lava fields blackening the landscape, Isabela is larger in size than all of the other islands put together! Isabela was formed when six volcanoes merged together. The lunar landscape of its interior is perfect for an unusual trekking experience, and the island's cloud forest is home to five distinct subspecies of the giant Galapagos tortoise. Marine life here is rich and varied, and it's possible to see stingrays, White-tipped Reef Sharks and turtles in the mangroves and submerged lava tunnels, as well as playful dolphins and the odd glimpse of breaching humpback whales.

Male Frigate Bird, Galapagos Islands

North Seymour: A tiny island with a huge sea lion colony and a very large colony of frigatebirds - it's one of the best places to see the males displaying their bright red pouches during mating season. You may also get to see one of these relatively aggressive birds performing some aerial tricks as they steal food from boobies or gulls.

Giant Tortoise, Galapagos

Rabida: The striking russet sand differentiates Rabida from other islands; rich in iron, this is one of the most colourful islands in the Galapagos. Nesting pelicans can be seen amongst the red cliffs, whilst pink flamingos are found feeding in the island’s saltwater lagoon. 

Red-Footed booby perching on a twig, Galapagos Islands

San Cristóbal: The easternmost island of the archipalego and the first landing point for Charles Darwin in 1835. The islands' provincial capital, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, is on San Cristóbal, and the town is home to the excellent Galapagos Interpretation Centre. Popular sites for vistors to the island include El Junco lake (one of the archipelago's few freshwater lagoons), Frigatebird Hill (unsurprisingly named for the large colonies of Magnificent and Great frigatebirds), and Kicker Rock, a towering split rock which rises over 100 metres from the ocean. The highland cloud forests provide a natural habitat for giant tortoises. Huge numbers of sea-lions are also present on San Cristóbal and nearby Isla Lobos, reachable by boat, is a big nesting site for Blue-footed boobies.

Sea Lion, Ochoa Beach, San Cristobal island

Santa Cruz: The second largest island in the archipalego, Santa Cruz is home to Puerto Ayora where most Galapagos ships are docked for embarkation. Home of the Charles Darwin Research Station, which conducts tortoise research programmes and is heavily involved in the management and conservation of the islands along with the national park authorities. The Santa Cruz highlands are much greener than the dry lowlands of the other islands and are home to freely-roaming groups of tortoises. In common with the rest of the group, Santa Cruz has many interesting volcanic features such as pit craters and lava tunnels, and there is also a noted flamingo lagoon at Cerro Dragón.

Crabs on rocks, Santa Cruz Island

Santa Fe: The dense vegetation of Santa Fe is made up of some of the largest species of cactus, including a forest of Prickly Pear. Large numbers of the endemic Santa Fe land iguana reside here, one of the largest land iguanas found on the islands.  

Flying Over Kicker Rock

 

Santiago: Home of Galapagos fur seal, which likes the rocky shoreline and shady spots of Santiago. Around 30 to 40 thousand fur seals live on the islands, and the majority can be found close to Puerto Egas, either on the rocks or on its black beaches. The island is a good place to see Galapagos hawks and Darwin finches, and there’s a popular snorkelling site called Chinese Hat where penguins, rays, turtles and playful sea lion pups reside.

 

South Plaza: A tiny island formed of lava and carpeted with cacti and plants which give it a luxurious red surface. There is abundant birdlife on South Plaza (including tropic birds and Swallow-tailed Gulls), as well as a large number of land and marine iguanas which feed on the cacti.

 

The table below summarises which itineraries visit which island, with links to the full range of Galapagos holidays below.

7 night Galapagos cruises (the grey indicates the island visited on the respective vessel and itinerary)

 

Cachalote A

Trip: WAG

Cachalote B

Trip: WAG 

Queen Beatriz A

Trip: WGQ  

Queen Beatriz B

Trip: WGQ

Bartoleme

 

 

 

 

Espanola

 

 

 

 

Fernandina

 

 

 

 

Floreana

 

 

 

 

Genovesa

 

 

 

 

Isabela

 

   

 

North Seymour

 

 

 

 

Rabida

 

 

 

 

San Cristobal

 

 

   

Santa Cruz

       

Sante Fe

 

 

 

 

Santiago 

   

 

 

South Plaza

 

 

 

 

Galapagos Islands Holidays

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

11 days Excl. flights From
USD $4,460.00

A First Class yacht cruise around the Galapagos Islands with incredible wildlife encounters guaranteed

  • Spend 7 nights on a first-class schooner in the Galapagos Islands
  • Experience incredible wildlife and photography opportunities with near-tame animals
  • Enjoy fantastic on-board service with experienced and engaging naturalist guides
Classic Galapagos - Itinerary B - Standard Twin

Classic Galapagos - Itinerary B - Standard Twin

10 days Excl. flights From
USD $5,135.00

A Luxury Class 7 night cruise in the enchanted Galapagos Islands aboard the Queen Beatriz, a modern catamaran

  • 7 memorable nights in the Galapagos on a Luxury Class Modern Catamaran
  • Snorkel in beautiful idyllic bays and coves - turtles, sea lions and marine iguanas also inhabit the water
  • Fantastic wildlife observation and great photo opportunities!
Galapagos Encounter - Itinerary B - Standard Twin

Galapagos Encounter - Itinerary B - Standard Twin

6 days Excl. flights From
USD $3,060.00

A Luxury Class 3 night cruise in the enchanted Galapagos Islands aboard the Queen Beatriz, a modern catamaran

  • 3 memorable nights in the Galapagos on a Luxury Class Modern Catamaran
  • Snorkel in beautiful idyllic bays and coves - turtles, sea lions and marine iguanas also inhabit the water
  • Fantastic wildlife observation and great photo opportunities!
Galapagos Explorer - Itinerary B - Standard Twin

Galapagos Explorer - Itinerary B - Standard Twin

7 days Excl. flights From
USD $3,455.00

A Luxury Class 4 night cruise in the enchanted Galapagos Islands aboard the Queen Beatriz, a modern catamaran

  • 4 memorable nights in the Galapagos on a Luxury Class Modern Catamaran
  • Snorkel in beautiful idyllic bays and coves - turtles, sea lions and marine iguanas also inhabit the water
  • Fantastic wildlife observation and great photo opportunities!
Galapagos: In Darwin's Footsteps - 2015

Galapagos: In Darwin's Footsteps - 2015

15 days Excl. flights From
USD $5,510.00

A unique trek amid the volcanic Galapagos archipelago

  • Trek for 3 days around the Sierra Negra Volcano
  • Encounter the unique wildlife of the Galapagos archipelago
  • Experience a land based Galapagos holiday
Galapagos Wildlife Cruise

Galapagos Wildlife Cruise

18 days Excl. flights From
USD $7,790.00

A two-week cruise around the enchanted Galapagos Islands, taking in the best of the islands' scenery and wildlife

  • Join an extraordinary two-week cruise in the Galapagos Islands
  • Stop at landing sites on far-flung islands to discover more of the archipelago
  • Enjoy the fantastic on-board service with experienced and engaging naturalist guides
Galapagos & Amazon

Galapagos & Amazon

16 days Excl. flights From
USD $6,745.00

Ecuador's contrasting ecosystems, from the Amazon jungle to the Galapagos archipelago

  • Stay in a community-owned lodge
  • Join a 7 night cruise to the Galapagos
  • Encounter wildlife from contrasting ecosystems

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