Six Things NOT to do in Galapagos

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Galapagos Giant Tortoise

A Galapagos holiday should be one of the best travel experiences you ever have and many of our guests tell us when they return that it’s been the holiday of a lifetime. You will be visiting one of the most pristine wildernesses on the planet, with wildlife that is unafraid of humans. You’ll be surrounded by beautiful scenery and getting the chance to reconnect with nature away from the pressures of modern life with like minded fellow travellers.

To make sure your trip is truly memorable, to minimise the human footprint on the islands and ensure the unique nature of the Galapagos is conserved, sustained and protected, here is our guide to some things NOT to do in Galapagos!

1. Don’t Ignore Your Galapagos Guide

Part of how the Galapagos islands have remained so pristine, even with the growth of tourism in recent years, is that in order to visit any part of the Galapagos National Park, you must be with a licenced Galapagos National Park guide at all times.

Under the Galapagos National Park rules there can be up to 16 guests with a Galapagos National Park guide.  Most guides that work on board our cruises with are highly qualified, with years of training and in-the-field experience.

If they tell you to move away from an animal, or you are getting too close, or to move back within the assigned paths marked out for tourists, it’s best to follow their advice immediately.

Whilst you are within the Galapagos National Park, your guide is the expert; it is their job to show you the amazing wildlife, but more importantly it is their job to protect and conserve the nature of the islands.

2. Don’t bring plastic

Tackling marine plastic pollution is a global challenge, and as a visitor to Galapagos there are some simple and practical things you can do to help. Within Galapagos itself, the Governing Council of Galapagos is doing all it can, and is currently in the process of introducing a ban on single-use plastic.

This means you should take a refillable water bottle with you; all the yachts have a large water dispenser that you can use to fill up whenever you need.

Don’t bring toiletries that contain microbeads, use a waterproof, reusable drybag to keep anything dry that you need, and finally if you do see any litter when you are in Galapagos please pick it up and dispose of it safely!

Galapagos iguana with stop sign
Galapagos Land Iguana

3. Don’t forget Galapagos National Park (GNP) rules

All cruises and day trips into the Galapagos National Park must be accompanied by a licensed guide who ensures that tourists respect the GNP rules:

  • Take only photos, leave only footprints
  • Do not use flash photography
  • Do not leave the marked trails
  • Keep your distance – please keep at least two metres away from all animals and NEVER touch them no matter how tame they appear
  • Don’t feed the animals
  • Buy responsibly – when purchasing souvenirs, do not buy anything made from the flora, fauna or rocks of the Islands. This includes black coral, marine tortoise shells, sea lion teeth, seashells and lava rock
  • No smoking
  • No camp fires
  • No fishing
  • No water sports

4. Don’t visit Galapagos as part of a land based island hopping tour

This is probably controversial of our recommendations as many companies now sell island hopping as a way of seeing Galapagos.

Island hopping tours involve staying in a hotel on an inhabited island in Galapagos (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal or Isabela) and making day trips out to visit places.

We don’t recommend them as they fall far short of allowing you to experience Galapagos at its most wild and pristine and they are a less sustainable form of travel than on board a cruise which is very tightly regulated and controlled.

In terms of your experience as a visitor, you are based out of a town and to get to the places of interest usually involves quite a lot of travel.

Sometimes this means bobbing around in a small boat to get to the place you want to see, usually travelling out in the morning with a short mid-day visit and returning in the afternoon.

Compare this to a cruise, which takes you to the most remote and pristine parts of Galapagos, when you will be navigating at night, which means you wake up each morning in a new site and you are able to visit the islands early morning and late afternoon which is the best time to see the wildlife. Read advice on how to choose the best Galapagos cruise here.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise in the highlands.

5. Don’t try and cram it in less than 5 few days

Many people try and fit Galapagos into just a few days as part of a longer trip in the region.  We would say at an absolute minimum you should take a 5 day cruise, but ideally an 8 day trip is best.

The logistics of travel to and from Galapagos mean that on the first day of your visit you will be flying from the mainland and you don’t really arrive to the boat until lunch time so just get a visit in the afternoon.  Then at the end of the cruise in order to get to the airport in time to take the flights back to mainland Ecuador, usually you just have a short visit on that last morning, which means on a 4 day trip – you actually only get 2 full days – which given all there is to see and experience is nowhere near enough!

We would say that the optimum length of cruise is 8 days, which gives you enough time to get a great overview of the islands and see most of the main highlights in the islands without feeling rushed.

6. Don’t go unless you are a nature lover

Lastly, and this probably sounds like a strange one, don’t go to the Galapagos unless you are a nature lover.  The Galapagos Islands are a special place and should only be visited by people who are passionate about experiencing wildlife.

A Galapagos holiday isn’t for people who want a beach holiday or a relaxing break.  It is all about the wildlife, and your days will be action packed and structured to maximise what you are seeing and experiencing in the islands.

Don’t get me wrong, you will have time to relax in the middle of the day, and in the evening and it is ultimately a holiday, but you will be up and out early to get the most of the daylight hours – usually having breakfast by 7am – and your activities and visits during your Galapagos trip will all be focused on wildlife and the natural world.

Need advice or just the chance to chat through your options for visiting the Galapagos Islands? Give Rachel a call on 01482 887453.

More Advice from us

When is the best time to visit Galapagos?

Galapagos FAQs

Ten amazing animals to see in the Galapagos Islands




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