GALAPAGOS CRUISE HOLIDAYS
Galapagos, also known as the "Enchanted Isles", offers a unique opportunity to view animals in their natural habitat which are completely unafraid of man. The islands, which belong to Ecuador, straddle the Equator about 600 miles off the coast of South America.
Galapagos cruise holidays are our speciality
We have been offering trips to the Galapagos for more than twenty years. Our director David Horwell lived and worked as a naturalist in the islands in 1978 and subsequently founded Galapagos Adventure Tours, which at the time was the only company specialising in visits to the islands. Since then we have expanded to offer select tours of the whole of Latin America, but Galapagos remains our prime destination. It is wise to book up well in advance and with a company that knows the islands as intimately as us.
A word from our director
“Over a quarter century ago I landed on an ex-military airstrip in the Galapagos Islands. Baltra island seemed an inhospitable backwater. The cactus-covered lava looked like an alien planet. Why on earth had I come? A few hours later I had sailed on a schooner to a nearby uninhabited islet. The contrast was amazing.
The yacht anchored in a tiny cove of turquoise water. A small dinghy, locally known as a 'panga', dropped us ankle-deep in the cool unpolluted Pacific. Once ashore on a white coral sand beach, a group of playful young sea lions came as if to greet us. Brightly coloured 'Sally Light-foot' crabs scattered over the algae-stained rocks, while dark scaly iguanas stood motionless, like part of the jagged lava. The beach master - a huge bull sea lion - came to investigate the intruders into his domain. When he realised we were no threat, he raised a whisker or two, then disappeared with a splash. A lone hawk hovered above, keeping any eye on the scene totally unafraid of us.
It is the feeling that you are the first person to land that makes each landing so beguiling. Today the islands are less remote, the jet from the mainland takes less than two hours (rather than 5 hours in the old turbo-prop). Bigger and more comfortable yachts take passengers in air-conditioned luxury. Twenty five years ago a shower was a bucket of sea water on deck and anchors were all pulled up by hand. Happily, despite huge increases in visitors, the animals are just the same, the magic is still there and the boobies carry on dancing...”
– David Horwell
(Founder of Galapagos Adventure Tours and Director of Select Latin America).
Why are the Galapagos so special?
Their isolated setting and mixture of tropical and cold currents have produced a unique set of habitats and a cast of characters to match: the only penguin in the tropics, a flightless cormorant, sea lions from the North and fur seals from the South. On land the dominant creatures are large reptiles. Clearly no conventional paradise, the lack of fresh water and stretches of barren lava have kept humans away.
It is strange to see flamingos and penguins side by side. Long distance voyagers like the waved albatross or green sea turtle return after years of travel to breed on the same spot their parents once came. Whales, dolphins and sharks also use the archipelago as a 'rest and refuelling' base and today they still find sanctuary here.
Each island is completely different - from large mountainous peaks shrouded in mist and forest to mere reefs of submerged rock and coral. Their most famous visitor was Charles Darwin in 1835, to whom they were "eminently curious''. It was his visit here that helped inspire his theories on evolution. Though low in species numbers, a high proportion are unique to the archipelago. They have been dubbed "a living laboratory of evolution".
In the absence of man and large predators all the creatures evolved without fear. It is the 'tameness' that is the true enchantment of the Galapagos. You can approach close to the creatures who will not even bat an eyelid. You can snorkel with penguins and sea-lions, be enchanted by the dance of the blue-footed boobies or observe the antics of the waved albatross. As one of of clients recently said on returning from their Galapagos holiday - 'there's a wonder around every corner'.
Today the Galapagos Islands are a World Heritage Site and they were declared a national park in 1959. Because the uninhabited islands are far apart, a boat cruise of some sort is needed in order to see the best sites. We know the best of the boats available having taken cruises on most of them from small traditional sailing vessels to dive specialist boats to pure luxury yachts that have been chartered by hollywood film stars. As the numbers of tourists are restricted by the national park authorities it is advisable to book as far ahead as possible. Four islands have human populations, and hotel based options for those that don't entirely trust their sea legs are possible.
When to go:
During the hot season between December-March, temperatures range from 25-32°C. It may rain occasionally in the afternoons (especially during a rare "El Niño" year). It is good for snorkelling. During the cool season May-November the effects of the cool Humbolt current are more pronounced making it drier but cooler 16-22°C, there is often a mist or garua in the mornings.
All our tailor made Galapagos cruise holidays are individually designed, but as a guide we can arrange a 10 day itinerary with 8 days on the islands from £4,500 including flights.
6. Sombrero Chino
8. Santa Cruz
10. North Seymour
13. Santa Fe
16. San Cristóbal