The Magical Galapagos Islands
We close the month of our peers’ world travels with an incredible destination!
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As in the past few weeks, we are delighted to feature the critical inside information you need to help you rise above the competition. We’re fortunate to share an amazing report from your generous colleague, Anita Sears, Tipping, Sears & Assoc. Dream Vacations. Here are Anita’s tips!
The first question I’m always asked about the Galapagos destination is: Where is that? The Galapagos Islands are 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. It is an archipelago consisting of 13 major islands (only four are inhabited). This is where Charles Darwin got his inspiration for “Origin of the Species.” It is an ecosystem unto its own, and there are species of flora, fauna, and creatures not found anywhere else on the planet! It’s an exciting and intriguing destination that truly is for your bucket list. This stunning location is for the curious, the nature-lover, the life-long learner. Here are a few reasons why:
Penguins on the equator! Blue-footed Boobies! Creatures in their natural, undeveloped, unspoiled habitats! Snorkeling alongside sea lions, giant turtles, penguins, and iguanas! Giant tortoises on land that are 100 years old! Observing the Wave Albatross mating dance! Giant Cacti! Piles of black marine iguanas sleeping on each other! Orca whales jumping out of the water! Active volcanoes! Baby sea lions napping on the path—step around them quietly, please!
So how does one get there? It is best to fly into Quito, Ecuador, the capital city. I recommend arriving two days early to explore it. Quito is very historic and situated on the Equator (where you can try to walk straight on the official line). There also are many day trips from Quito for hikers. One can also add days before or after to travel to Machu Pichu or the Amazon River, which many people do. The other option is to fly in and out of Guayaquil if you don’t want to do any pre- or post-touring. From land, it’s a two-hour flight out to the Galapagos Islands. Therefore, even if one isn’t sightseeing, arriving a day early is critical.
This is an active vacation, so travelers should be mobile and in decent physical condition. There are options for hikes (long or short), and many ships offer tender rides around an island with no walking involved. Do explain to your clients that this is a natural terrain, which can be uneven and sometimes more difficult to walk on. Our ship provided walking sticks, although many travelers brought their own. Light hiking shoes and wet/dry landing shoes are a must. Kayaking and snorkeling are available at some of the stops (snorkeling is a must-do with equipment/wetsuits provided!). In addition, travel protection with medical evacuation is necessary because it is a remote location.
Travel to, around, and on the islands is tightly controlled by the National Park System. The itineraries are on a rotation, so no island is overwhelmed with too many ships. In most cases, our group was the only group on an island, which was very cool. Every ship must have a Certified and Licensed Naturalist aboard to accompany every person/group setting foot on land. The Naturalists are passionate and extremely well trained. Most have grown up on the islands and know the entire archipelago like the back of their hand. Incredible. Every evening onboard, a Naturalist would recap what we saw that day, outline what to expect for the next day and discuss our choices for excursions. I learned so much!
I had the opportunity to travel on board the Celebrity Flora. Built in 2019 specifically for the Galapagos, the Flora is state-of-the-art luxury. It’s modern and artistic, and the accommodations and service are top notch (champagne, anyone?). Meals were five-star gourmet. After a day of hiking, what’s not to love about being greeted back onboard with fresh fruit smoothies, snacks, and live piano music? There are many options, depending on your client’s preferred method of travel—small and intimate, rustic, luxury, or somewhere in between. Ships are max 100 passengers. There also are some that cater just to scuba divers. Clarify what type of experience and price point works for your client, so expectations are met.
Do you have to be on a ship to get around? Not necessarily. You can have a home base in one of the cities and take day trips out to nearby islands. But, for the best experience, I recommend a seven-day cruise.
The Galapagos is a year-round destination. There are two seasons: January through June is hotter (80s and low 90s), wetter, and greener. June through December is cooler (70s), drier, and a bit more barren.
One of the reasons I love travel is experiencing the feelings and people I meet along the way. A huge revelation I had was that, in the Galapagos, we are the visitors in these amazing creatures’ world. We are privileged to observe and respect nature at its absolute purest and most unique. The other travelers were like-minded, and we met so many interesting and well-traveled people who made it a truly memorable journey.
Fantastic, Anita! Thank you!