The Galapagos Islands are a destination that seems to feature on pretty much everyone’s travel bucket list. Their link with Charles Darwin and evolution, their remoteness, their unique wildlife and habitats, stories of whalers, buccaneers and eccentric settlers – all this adds to the fascination people have with them. While you can experience some of what they have to offer with a hotel stay on one of the inhabited islands, a Galapagos cruise is the best way to feel the magic of this enchanting archipelago.
Experience the Most Unique Place On Earth with a Galapagos Cruise
The Galapagos and their surrounding waters form one of the world’s largest National Parks as well as being the first UNESCO World Heritage Center. There’s nowhere else on the planet with so many unique creatures – 27 of the animal species here can’t be found anywhere else, with many listed as endangered or vulnerable. Landscapes vary from lush, tropical forest, to sun-kissed white sand beaches, to other-worldly lava fields from recent eruptions. Because humans didn’t settle permanently in Galapagos until the 20th century, the creatures who have been there for thousands of years have no fear of people. Where else in the world can you swim with penguins and sea lions, come within a few feet of a giant tortoise, or walk among hundreds of sunbathing marine iguanas?
Choosing the Best Cruise
While there are a handful of larger ships that carry 100 passengers or so, most of the ships that can take you on a Galapagos adventure only carry 16 passengers – some even fewer. This is mainly because National Park rules state that visitors must be accompanied by a certified, professional guide, with a maximum of 16 people per guide. Not only do you get a highly knowledgeable and experienced expert in the islands to show you the sights and wildlife encounters, but you also get a really intimate trip with just a handful of like-minded people.
We talked with Galapagos cruise experts Galapatours to find their recommendations for a selection of wildlife cruises to suit a range of budgets. Their web portal lets travelers choose a cruise that fits their budget and dates from every boat that’s approved to sail in the islands and, importantly, they offset 100% of the carbon footprint associated with your trip to and around the Galapagos.
A Luxury Cruise
Built as a decadent toy for millionaires in the ‘20s, used in World War II to host Winston Churchill twice, sold to the most famous shipping magnate in the world, and then given as a wedding gift and floating honeymoon to one of the most glamorous women of the 20th century, the yacht “Grace” is the ultimate way to experience the Galapagos.
This beautiful Motor Yacht Grace is simply magical. As elegant as the princess who once owned her, and whose name she now wears, Grace Kelly, this boat oozes fantastic period charm.
With teak decks, original period features, luxurious suites, and fantastic service, Grace is the ultimate way to experience the Galapagos islands. With accommodation for a maximum of only 18 passengers, Grace carries two guides which means you experience the islands in groups of only 9. She offers a choice of two 8-day itineraries that cover the western or eastern islands. One is titled “In Darwin’s Footsteps”, the other “Beyond Darwin”. As well as seeing all the most iconic creatures in Galapagos you will enjoy walking, snorkeling, sunbathing, and superb gourmet meals
Overall Value for the Experience
The Archipel II is a modern catamaran – a yacht with twin hulls. This makes her more stable in the water than a traditional single-hull yacht, and that’s good news if you suffer from motion sickness. The waters around the Galapagos can be a little choppy sometimes.
Archipel has a lot of space – another feature of the catamaran design. Because the bulk of the boat sits on top of the two hulls her lounge and dining area are the full width of the boat, and cabins are spacious and comfortable. Although you won’t find teak and brass on board Archipel, you certainly won’t be uncomfortable, either!
Archipel’s owners know that the Galapagos are the stars of the show, and they have a great choice of 8-day, 5-day and 4-day cruise options. You can choose the one that best suits what you want to see as well as your budget.
Other Budget Options
Golondrina is a motor cruiser with a really relaxed vibe. It’s the nearest thing to a floating backpacker hostel you can get! You can mingle with the other guests in the laid back lounge and bar, or soak up the rays on the sundeck. If you’re feeling brave, there’s a Golondrina rite of passage that involved jumping into the ocean right from the top!
When it comes to accommodation, you’ll be sleeping in basic but comfortable rooms that all have traditional wooden bunks. It’s all clean and neat, but don’t expect any plush soft furnishings or marble washstands here!
But don’t be deceived. The cabins may be small, and the vibe chilled and “back to basics”, but Golondrina has some of the most awesome wildlife itineraries in the whole Galapagos fleet. Available trips include island visits, exploring the mangroves by zodiac, swimming, and snorkeling.
Our thanks once again to Galapatours for giving us their picks for 3 Galapagos cruise options to suit a range of budgets. By taking to the sea by boat you’re able to visit so many more of the islands than a land-based stay, and you will experience so much more in the time available to you. Whether you want to walk through the forests and see the finches that got Darwin thinking about the origin of species, or to stand close to a gentle giant tortoise wandering in the wild, or to swim with penguins and marine iguanas in the clear waters of the Pacific, the Galapagos is the ultimate bucket list travel destination for adventurers.