About the Galapagos Islands

Where are the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles / 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador in South America. Explore the Galapagos Islands on Google Earth.

How many Galapagos Islands are there?

There are 13 main Galapagos Islands, only 4 of which are populated (Santa, Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana) and hundreds of islets and rocky outcrops.
Read more: Our Guide To The Galapagos Islands

What country do the Galapagos Islands belong to?

The Galapagos Islands belong to the Republic of Ecuador in South America.

How do I get to the Galapagos Islands?

There is no international airport in the Galapagos Islands. All incoming flights are domestic and depart from either Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE) on mainland Ecuador. These flights serve Seymour Baltra Galapagos Airport (GPS) and San Cristobal Airport (SCY). The nearest airport to our camp is GPS on Baltra Island (sometimes referred to as Santa Cruz airport due to its close proximity to Santa Cruz). There is also a tiny landing strip on Isabela Island for hopper planes between Isabela, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. The majority of flights to the Galapagos leave in the morning, so depending on your international flight you might need to spend a night in Quito or Guayaquil. We can book all domestic flights for you as part of your Galapagos Safari.

How far is the Galapagos from the mainland?

The Galapagos Islands are situated 600 miles / 1000 km west off the Ecuadorian mainland. About an hour-and-a-half flight from Guayaquil, and a 2-hour flight from Quito.

How much of the Galapagos is National Park?

97% of the archipelago’s islands is designated a national park. This area covers just over 3000 squared miles. Human settlements are concentrated on the remaining 3%. There are strict rules about visiting the areas on islands that have been designated as visitor sites by the national park authorities. The oceanic area surrounding the Galapagos is one of the largest Marine Reserves in the world.

Why are the Galapagos Islands so special? Why is the Galapagos so famous?

“In a lifetime making natural history films I’ve been to many wonderful places. But none more extraordinary than here. The Galapagos Islands” – David Attenborough, The Galapagos With David Attenborough

The Galapagos Islands have a variety of singular ecosystems, in which species that can’t be found anywhere else on this earth have adapted and evolved, thanks to unique environmental conditions. The islands are located at a juncture in the Pacific Ocean where a number of major ocean currents meet. It is the nature of these currents that makes this oceanic spot so rich in nutrients and in turn, wildlife.

For more information on the currents and how they make this archipelago so special, see When is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands

When to Visit the Galapagos Islands

When is the best time of year to visit the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are an all-year-round destination. The best time to go very much depends on your individual interests and needs.
Read more: When is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands

What is the weather like in the Galapagos?

The Galapagos can be visited at any time of year as there are no harsh temperature contrasts and the wildlife thrives all-year round. There are two seasonal periods:

Warm & Wet Season (January – June)
January through June sees monsoon-like rains followed by clear blue skies. The ocean temperature is warmer, ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Temperatures range from 25°C to 32°C (77° F to 90° F)

Cool & Dry Season (June – December)
From June to December the southern trade winds bring the colder Humboldt Current north to the Galapagos. This means that the water is cooler, and a layer of high atmosphere mist pervades island skies. Due to the Humboldt Current, this is an ideal time for diving and spotting the big fish. Temperatures range from 20°C to 27°C (68°F to 80°F)

Read more: When is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands

What is the water temperature in the Galapagos

Sea temperatures range from 74-76°F / 23-24°C in the warm season and 68-74°F / 20-23°C in the cool season

Read more: When is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands

Planning a Trip to The Galapagos Islands: Pre-Reservation

Should I take a land-based tour or a cruise in the Galapagos?

The first decision you will need to make when visiting the Galapagos is whether you want to have a cruise experience, a land-based experience, or a blend of both. The answer will depend on your preferences and priorities.

If your ultimate goal is to see as many islands as possible then cruising is the best option. The advantages are that you will cover more ground (and sea!) and you may see a couple more species than on a land-based safari. The disadvantages are that you will be limited by set departures and itineraries, you will be in close proximity of other guests for a week, and nights are not usually as restful due to engine noise and boat movement. Sea sickness can be an issue depending on the vessel.

With a land-based program you will not visit as many islands, but you will be exposed to lots of wildlife and you will see a large percentage of the flagship Galapagos species. Itineraries are more flexible and easier to customize, the experience is more tailor-made and private. Nights are more restful, and there is room for exploring the Camp’s grounds after the day’s activities. This is undoubtedly the better choice for families. Sea-sickness will be minimized as boat trips cover shorter distances.
A blend of both is also an option.

Read more: Lands vs Cruise: What is the best way to see the Galapagos?

What islands should I visit in the Galapagos?

Every island offers something a little different and none of them will disappoint. As with any wildlife destination, a sighting of a specific wild animal can never be guaranteed but if you do have a particular creature in mind that you are longing to see, we can certainly advise you on which islands are best to visit during the booking process. Itineraries are subjected to National Park Authority permits and availability of boats.

Read more: Our Guide To The Galapagos Islands.

What activities are there in the Galapagos? / What can I do in the Galapagos Islands?

All outdoors activities within the National Park are strictly regulated. Most visitor sites can be only accessed with a guide, who is responsible for enforcing said regulations, in order to ensure the pristine state of conservation of the Archipelago’s protected areas. There are many incredible experiences and adventures to be had in the Galapagos Islands, both on land and water, as well as in our camp. These include:

  • Snorkeling
  • Surfing
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Hiking up a volcano
  • Picnicking
  • Bicycling
  • Exploring lava fields and lava tunnels
  • Painting and art classes
  • Chocolate tasting

View all our Safaris

How long should I go to the Galapagos for?

We recommend a stay of at least 4 or 5 nights. If you have a little longer you can combine a Classic Safari or a Family Safari with our Isabela Extension Safari, or extend your cruise adventure with a relaxing or active stay at the Camp.

View all our Safaris

How physically fit do I need to be to visit the Galapagos?

This will depend on your itinerary and which sites you visit. Many islands can only be accessed by a small dinghy boat, from which you will be expected to step in and out of, sometimes via a beach landing. Most of the visiting sites will require walking on uneven ground or on sand. Trails can range from around 1 to 15 km in length and from flat to steep. As all our Safari tours are fully customizable, we can take your physical fitness levels into account and create an itinerary that is going to be comfortable for you.

View all our Safaris

Will I get seasick in the Galapagos?

If you are prone to seasickness, we would recommend a land-based tour. You can still visit other islands on day boat trips, but should you feel nauseous you can draw comfort from returning to dry land at the end of the day. There are also numerous wildlife experiences to be had on Santa Cruz itself, many of which can still include water-based activities such as snorkeling, but without having to venture across rough seas. As with all our safaris, we can create a bespoke itinerary that is suitable for you and your needs.

View all our Safaris

What are the park’s fees?

There are two different fees:

  1. Immigration Control Card: At the airport in Quito or Guayaquil guests must visit the Galapagos Immigration Control desk, show their IDs, and pay $20 per person to purchase their card. Please note that to avoid a double charge the card must be presented upon arrival in Galapagos and kept until departure.
  2. Entrance fee: Once in Galapagos, there is a Park Entry fee which at present is $100 per adult and $50 for children.

Let us know during the booking process if you would like us to take care of these for you.

Planning a Trip to The Galapagos Islands: Post Reservation

Do I need a travel visa for Ecuador and the Galapagos?

Visa requirements vary by nationality and sometimes change. If you are planning on visiting Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands we advise you to check with your own government travel advisory center for the latest information.

At the time that this article was published, these were the requirements for US, UK and many European citizens:

Tourist Visa Required: No, for stays less than 90 days, in any 12-month period.
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page per stamp
Passport Validity: 6 months
Vaccinations: None
US UK

Does the Galapagos National Park have any rules?

Yes!

You are required to be guided by a Naturalist Guide whose job is to impart information and to enforce all Galapagos National Park regulations. No person can set foot in the visitor sites of the Galapagos National Park unless accompanied by a certified naturalist guide. There are steep penalties for breaking the rules and regulations of the Park. Do follow and obey your guide’s discretion.

What time zone is the Galapagos in?

Galapagos Islands: GMT-6
Quito, Guayaquil, and mainland Ecuador: GMT -5 (The Galapagos Islands are one hour behind mainland Ecuador).

What languages are spoken in the Galapagos Islands and on Ecuador mainland?

Ecuador’s official language is Spanish, but English is widely spoken by guides and staff at Galapagos Safari Camp.

In the Andes on the mainland various dialects of Quechua are spoken and in the Amazon several indigenous languages are spoken.

All our guides are proficient in English. Upon request and at an extra cost we can assign guides who are fluent in other languages. Contact us for more detailed information.

What currency is accepted in the Galapagos? Should I bring cash, credit card or Travelers Checks? Are ATMs available?

The monetary unit of Ecuador is the US Dollar. There are ATMs throughout Ecuador and on Santa Cruz Island. Though many places accept major credit cards, it is advisable to carry enough cash on hand for general expenses.

IMPORTANT: Please have $20 USD in cash when you check in for your flight to the Galapagos, which will cover the INGALA transit control card. When you land at Baltra airport in the Galapagos, have $100 USD to cover the Galapagos National Park entry fee, which is mandatory and must be paid in cash upon arrival.

Let us know during the booking process if you want us to take care of these for you.

Can I use my cell phone?

Cell signal is weak across the Galapagos Islands, and the ability to make or receive calls will depend on your mobile carrier. There is signal for GSM, CDMA, and G3 carriers on Santa Cruz Island. There is a land-line at GSC for emergency use.

What camera equipment should I bring to the Galapagos?

Due to the close proximity visitors have with the animals of the Galapagos you do not necessarily need long lens and expensive camera equipment to take great photos.
However, visitors must respect the Park’s rules of keeping at distance of at least 6 feet / 2 meters from the animals.

As the wildlife is as equally impressive below the water as it is above it, photographers will benefit from having a waterproof camera, such as a GoPro.

If you intend to take professional pictures for commercial purposes you need to obtain a permit from the National Park authority prior to your trip. Let us know during your booking process.

Are drones allowed in the Galapagos?

Drones are not permitted in the Galapagos National Park, which covers 97% of the islands.

What should I pack for the Galapagos?

For your daily activities you will need comfortable, light- and sun-protective clothing. Good walking shoes are highly recommended, as a lot of the terrain is volcanic. You will most likely spend time on boats, swimming and snorkeling in the ocean, so protective swimwear is important. We provide wetsuits and snorkeling equipment for excursions. During the day, many people wear shorts and t-shirts, though trousers and long sleeves are advisable.

At Galapagos Safari Camp the dress code is casual. In the evening, guests often wear long pants and loose fitting long sleeved shirts, as it can be chilly in the highlands where GSC is located.
Here are some suggestions, in addition to your normal clothes:

  • Warm fleece and/or windbreaker that is sufficient for any temperature fluctuations
  • Light waterproof jacket or water poncho
  • Sun Hat
  • Plenty of sunscreen
  • Light trousers as well as shorts.
  • Good walking shoes (hiking boots not needed – best footwear is a pair of teva or chaco type sports sandals, and also closed sports shoes for you highland visits in Santa Cruz islands )
  • Sunglasses
  • A small bottle of insect repellent (horse flies can be an issue at some landing sites in the Galapagos)
  • A small flashlight or headlamp is great for walking between the tents at GSC
  • Motion sickness tablets if you are prone to sea sickness
  • Swim suits*
  • Rash guards
  • Camera

*Wetsuits and snorkeling gear are provided, no need to bring your own.

See our suggested packing list here.

What books should I read for the Galapagos?

See our recommended reading list here.

Are there baggage allowances or restrictions?

There are luggage restrictions for flights to Galapagos: a maximum of 23kg and one piece of luggage per person, plus cabin baggage. 64kg is permitted in Business Class (the only airline that offers Business Class is Avianca).
Within the Galapagos are propeller planes that connect Baltra, Isabela, and San Cristobal. If your itinerary involves a local flight please note that the maximum allowance is 11kg and there are no storage facilities at the airport.

For Isabela Island extensions, our rate includes up to 50lb free of charge. If you happen to have more baggage with you, you will have to pay the extra fee.

There are storage facilities at Baltra airport, and you can also leave it with us at the camp for an extra fee. Please check with us during the booking process

Due to the fragile ecosystem there are border controls. Expect your plane to be fumigated, your shoes to be cleaned between islands, and do not bring food into the Galapagos. If you have special requirements contact us for advice.

Galapagos with Kids

What is the best age to take kids to the Galapagos?
Is there a kid’s club?

Yes. At Galapagos Safari Camp we have a small kids club, operational during the major school holidays at Christmas through New Year, Easter and summer holiday (July and August). The activities are held during the afternoons, after the day’s activities. Please note that it is NOT a babysitting service. If you need babysitter, let us know during the booking process so we can advise you on the available options.

What can kids do in the Galapagos?

There are lots of things for children to do in the Galapagos. You can read about a few of our favourite things here.

Are the Galapagos Islands safe for children?

Unlike an African Safari where you may be exposed to lions and elephants, the animals you encounter on a Galapagos Safari are not a threat to humans, providing you keep a respectable distance.

Is snorkeling in the Galapagos safe for children?

We recommend snorkeling only for children who know how to swim and feel comfortable in the water. If your children haven’t snorkeled before it helps to give them some snorkeling lessons first in a swimming pool prior to their visit.

Can children learn to dive in the Galapagos?

Children from 10 years old with an Open Water license can go diving accompanied by an adult family member but with a private Dive Master. As currents can be very strong in the Galapagos, diving is generally recommended for Advanced Divers. Please contact us for more information.

How can I best prepare my children for a Galapagos vacation?

We have lots of ideas in our Ultimate Guide to the Galapagos With Kids.

Is Galapagos Safari Camp kid friendly?

We consider ourselves a very child-friendly camp!
Read more: Family-Friendly

Health & Safety

Are the Galapagos Islands safe for tourists?

The Galapagos Islands are generally very safe for tourists. In case of regional unrest, we advise you to contact your own government travel advisory sites for the latest information.

Can you drink the water in the Galapagos?

We don’t recommend drinking water from the tap in the Galapagos Islands. At Galapagos Safari Camp,we provide our guests with drinking water, together with water flasks to take on excursions.

Where is the nearest hospital / medical facility in the Galapagos?

Galapagos Safari Camp is equipped with an excellent first aid kit, and local pharmacies are well stocked. There is a local clinic for minor ailments, and for emergencies there is a hospital in Puerto Ayora. If your insurance covers an air ambulance evacuation please note that the evacuation can only be done within the operating hours of the airports in the Galapagos. We strongly recommend checking your policy, and what it covers in the Galapagos, with your travel insurance company.

Do I need any vaccinations / immunizations?

Not required for entry to the Galapagos Islands, but check if you are travelling in mainland Ecuador or other South American countries. As government legislations change, we always recommend checking with your doctor for the latest information.

What kind of travel insurance do I need?

All passengers should have full medical insurance and trip-cancellation insurance. Be mindful that the Galapagos is a remote location with very basic medical facilities at hand. Emergency medical evacuation can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. Your insurance company should be able to assist you with the best options for your trip.

Galapagos Safari Camp

Where is Galapagos Safari Camp?

Galapagos Safari Camp is located in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island.

How do you get to Galapagos Safari Camp?

The nearest airport to our camp is Seymour Baltra Galapagos Airport (GPS), on Baltra Island. Baltra is a tiny island which only accommodates the airport and landing strip. The whole trip form Baltra airport to the camp takes about 45 minutes once you have cleared Galapagos customs and Park Authority entry process. You will be met by your guide at the VIP lounge at the airport. Together you board a private vehicle that drives you down to the pier, where you take a ferry which will cross the narrow channel separating Baltra Island from Santa Cruz. Once across you will transfer into a private vehicle to drive you to the camp – approximately 20 minutes. Door-to-door, the journey from the airport to the Camp takes approximately 1 hour.

Do the tents have private bathrooms?

All our tents include fully equipped bathrooms with hot water showers powered by solar energy.

What is the terrain like at Galapagos Safari Camp?

We have gravel paths and steps leading from the main lodge to the tents. You will need enough mobility to be comfortable both at the camp and for your excursions.

What wildlife will I see at the camp itself?

Giant tortoises are often spotted roaming in the property. There is plenty of birdlife, including various finches, Galapagos doves, flycatchers, warblers, rails and barn owls.

Read more: Wildlife in the Galapagos Islands

Do you have laundry facilities?

Yes we do, at an extra charge. We do assist with drying wet clothes & shoe cleaning free of charge.

What do you mean by ‘appropriate luxury’?

Read more: Appropriate Luxury

Do the safari tents have electricity?

Yes – the electricity at the lodge and in all tents is 110 volt, 50 hertz, 2 flat-pronged US plugs (same as in the USA).

Does the camp have WIFI?

Whether on sea or land, WiFi is considered weak, slow and unpredictable in the Galapagos Islands (e.g. strong enough for social media but not for streaming video). At Galapapos Safari Camp, WiFI is free and available in the main lodge.

Is there a dress code at camp?

At Galapagos Safari Camp the dress code is casual. In the evening, guests often wear long pants and loose fitting long sleeved shirts. In the cooler season, it can be a little chilly in the highlands where GSC is located, so it’s a good idea to bring a jumper as well.

The bug situation … be honest. What should I expect?

We have nothing dangerous or life threatening in Galapagos. During excursions expect a few mosquitoes and horseflies, but this is seasonal. At the camp there are very few mosquitoes, again seasonal, spiders are commonly seen, and there are a few centipedes but they are shy and hard to see.

Are there any dangerous animals at camp?

There are no dangerous or life threatening animals in our camp, or in the Galapagos at large.

Do you have a smoking policy at camp?

Smokers can smoke in a small zone outside our office at the main lodge. When it’s cold we can provide a heater. We discourage smoking in all other areas of the camp.

Can you cater for special dietary needs?

Yes, we can cater to vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, gluten-free, allergies, preferences or religious regulations – just let us know and we can adapt our menu to meet your needs.

Do you provide shampoo and soap?

Yes, we provide biodegradable soap, shampoo and conditioner in reusable dispensers.

Do we need to bring our own towels for day trips?

We provide towels for day trips.

Do you provide wetsuits and snorkeling equipment?

Yes. We will ask you for your wetsuit and fin sizes at the time of booking.

How much should I tip, and when?

It is customary to tip guides, drivers, and boat crew. If service is satisfactory, an added bonus for staff members at the camp is welcome. It is difficult for us to make suggestions, as we believe tipping should reflect satisfaction and should not be expected—but we are always asked for guidelines. We suggest $10 per person per day for guides, crew-members on boat trips, and GSC staff members. That would be $30 per person per day.

Galapagos Safaris

How do Galapagos Safari Camp daily tours operate?

This depends on your selected itinerary. Your full day exploring Santa Cruz is fairly flexible, and you will sit down with your host the day before and go through all the options in order to create a day tailored to your preferences. This means you can choose when your day starts and ends and what activities you would like to incorporate (i.e. biking, trekking, kayaking, swimming) as well as which visitor sites in Santa Cruz. Lunch is usually planned at local restaurants or picnics are arranged.

In terms of boat excursions, usually you leave the lodge between 7am and 8.30am and return between 4pm and 6pm. The drive to the embarkation point (either Itabaca Channel or Puerto Ayora) takes around 30 minutes. Navigation time depends on sea conditions and destination, and is from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours. It is important to note that you will be visiting Galapagos National Park territory, which is highly regulated. The Park allocates fixed schedules for visiting sites, and hours for each boat. Walking paths are set, and naturalist guides are obligatory.

When visiting the uninhabited islands you follow trails with your guide, the tempo is slow so as to observe wildlife, you are very close to the animals, which may be mating, nesting, feeding, or fighting, and it is essential to respect distances and follow your guide’s advice. Lunch is served on-board. After the morning visit there is an opportunity to snorkel or swim in designated areas.

Fully Private, Semi-private or Shared?

From pick up at the airport, your private guide will be with your during your stay.
On a basic, shared safari, your guide will join you at the airport and take you to discover the highlands of Santa Cruz Island as detailed on your personalized itinerary. He/she will also lead you in your tailor-made exploration of Santa Cruz island during your full-day, and will see you off at the airport on your departure day. If your Safari includes a fishing day (Family Safari) or you choose to upgrade your Classic Safari with a fishing day, your guide will be there with you as well, ready to help you catch dinner!

During your boat day tours there are three different levels of personalization that you can choose from during the booking process:

Shared Guide: Day tour boats are certified by the National Park Authority and can only visit particular destinations on particular days. All of them seat up to 20 people including a certified guide. We usually use only a handful of those, the ones who have consistently offered the best service and best guides along the years. If you choose the “shared safari” this is the only instance in which you will be sharing the guide as well as the boat with other passengers.

Semi-Private: If you prefer to keep your guide with you for a more personalized experience, we can also book him/her on your boat day tour at an extra cost.

Fully Private: We can also charter a boat for you and your group for day tours, and of course, your guide/guides will sail with you.

How do I plan my Galapagos Safari Camp experience?

Visit All Our Safaris and then contact us. Our Safari Planners will be happy to help you plan your best Galapagos experience!

How qualified are the guides you work with? / Do you use certified guides?

All guides are Galapagos National Park certified guides, and they act as honorary park rangers, committed to reinforce National Park regulations. This said, during our over ten years of operation we have developed our networked of preferred partners that have been working with us in creating unforgettable experiences for our guests.

During the booking process we will ask you about your preferences, hobbies, interests and expectations, in order to be able to match your group with the most appropriate guide.

Do the guides speak English? And other languages?

All the guides speak English. Upon request, and at an extra cost, we can assign guides who are fluent in other languages. Contact us for more detailed information.

What animals will I see on my safari?

Like any wildlife destination, we cannot guarantee sightings of specific wild animals but you will most likely see many of the flagship species on all of our Safaris.
Read more: Flagship Species in the Galapagos

Additional Questions

Have more questions? Contact us!