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Galapagos Islands Holiday: Cruise or land-based tour?

Friday, 06 May 2016 00:00

The Galapagos Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime holiday destination. Choosing between a cruise and a land-based trip is a massive decision. Here, Andean Trails’ Tom gives advice to help you make the perfect Galapagos holiday decision.

The similarities

The wildlife, the scenery, the small groups and the expert local guides - most trips will be with small groups and you’ll encounter the tame and photogenic wildlife at every corner.

Neither will disappoint.

You’ll fly to either Baltra on Santa Cruz and/or San Cristobal, and from there make you way to a town or the boat.

Traditional Galapagos cruises

Often more expensive than hotel-based tours, are they worth the extra money on what is already a high budget destination?

Cruise ships have two separate, week-long itineraries to choose from, and they go to some sites that hotel-based day trips cannot reach or are not allowed to visit. 

If you want to visit the remote northern and western islands of Genovesa (red-footed boobies), western Isabela and Fernandina, then it has to be a cruise. These islands are far from civilization, and away from the relative crowds at sites that receive day tours. Incredible snorkeling, just you and your shipmates most of the time, and plenty of turtles, sharks and sea lions.

As you’re on the ocean waves at all times, there are countless chances to spot marine wildlife from dolphins to sharks to turtles. Some boats have kayaks that enable you to get even closer to the wildlife.

There is plenty of time to relax, reading books and sipping a drink, and almost all of the long sailings are done overnight. 

Skillful crewmembers make the sailing as comfortable, as possible, and attentive waiting staff will make sure everyone aboard is happy.

Food is excellent and plentiful and most ships now offer bars, libraries, DVDs and talks during the trip. No need to pack up and change room as once you’re aboard, the cabin is yours. For those who want space though, consider a catamaran as the cabins are larger than those on sailing boats, which can be very compact and many have bunks rather than twin/double beds.

I’d recommend that anyone not used to sailing take some seasickness tablets, just in case, whatever the boat. For those who worry about seasickness, the larger boats/catamarans are much more stable than the sailing boats.

Families are well catered for with some boats offering specific cruises for kids/teenagers, during the main holidays etc. so that everyone gets the most out of the Galapagos cruise.

Divers can take day dives from hotels, but serious divers really should take a dive-based cruise, so as to be able to visit Darwin and Wolf. These are islands designated for divers only – and must dives so as to spot whale sharks and schools of hammerheads.

Land/hotel based trips

There is a lot of hotel choice in Galapagos now, from hostels to luxury 5*, and hotels are the best way to combine seeing the wildlife and the people of the Galapagos, combined with creature comforts and space.

Although Galapagos National Park rules mean that you cannot get to all the places a cruise can, but there are still a terrific number to visit.

While cruises are sailing, hotel-based travellers will be more active – bikes, hikes and snorkels as well as diving.

Hotel rooms are much more spacious than cabins so it’s easy to unpack and pack, get to your stuff and relax after a good day exploring.

You get plenty of free time too and this can be used to do as you will; explore beaches, swim, relax by the sea, walk around and enjoy the islands themselves. 

If you don’t like snorkelling, there is no compulsion as you can select land-tours. Want a day on the beach? No problem, build it in.

You can choose where to eat at night, use the internet if you wish and customise your trip.

Sea travel is often done in very fast boats, reducing the time spent on sea and your chances of feeling woozy.

Families in particular love the flexibility of the hotel-based trip as they can be moulded to what you wish and give you a greater feeling of exploring the islands.

More Information?

Original Ecuador can help with all your Galapagos holiday needs, just drop us an email to begin planning your trip of a lifetime to the Enchanted Islands!

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