Galapagos Land-Based Safaris

Sleep on land (not at sea)

- IMMERSE YOURSELF IN NATURE -
TAILOR-MADE SAFARIS ACROSS LAND AND SEA

What is a Galapagos Land-Based Tour?

On a land-based tour you stay in one location and take day trips to explore the surrounding area.

In this guide, we explain why land-based tours are becoming a popular alternative to cruising and what makes our Safaris different from other land-based tours? We also address frequently asked questions and debunk common myths surrounding the land-versus-sea decision.

Please refer to the table of contents in the sidebar (desktop only) to help navigate the content.

 

Explore the Galapagos Islands with a land-based or hotel-based tour - an alternative to a cruise for a fully immersive experience.

Return to our Safari lodge each night and enjoy a fully immersive wildlife experience.

Hotel based

On a Galapagos ‘land-based’ (or ‘hotel-based’) tour, visitors sleep on land instead of aboard a ship at sea. Combining the wildlife experience of a cruise with the comforts of a hotel makes land-based tours a preferred alternative to the traditional Galapagos cruise.

 

Day excursions over land and sea

A land-based Safari, however, does not mean you are limited to land experiences. In addition to exploring some of the lesser-known corners of Santa Cruz by car, bicycle, and foot, our Safaris also include day trips by boat to uninhabited islands.

 

Our Safaris include day trips by boat to uninhabited islands

Our Safaris include day trips by boat to uninhabited islands

 

Land-based comfort

At the end of each day, guests return to Galapagos Safari Camp to unwind in the wilderness, with seamless service and with all the comforts that a luxury tented camp brings. Those who have stayed at tented safari camps know how powerful these experiences can be on the psyche. You are sheltered and well looked after, yet exposed to the natural world you have come to see.

 

At Galapagos Safari Camp you are cocooned in comfort while exposed to the untamed beauty of the wilderness.

At Galapagos Safari Camp you are cocooned in comfort while exposed to the untamed beauty of the wilderness.

 

An authentic Safari experience

Not to be confused with ‘island-hopping tours’, which shuttle visitors between the crowded port towns of the archipelago, our customized, land-based Safaris provide guests with an unforgettable base from which to explore the more authentic and wilder side of the Galapagos. After all, most visitors that come to the islands want to be immersed in nature and to experience wildlife in its natural setting, not to stay in towns. Or, for that matter, to be confined to cruise decks.

 

An alternative to the Galapagos cruise

Discover the Galapagos without the cruise ship crowds

Discover the Galapagos without the cruise ship crowds

 

Many travelers are put off the Galapagos by the mainstream perception of the destination, believing the only way to see the islands is on a cruise, with strict schedules, and alongside 20-100 strangers. The idea of being herded from one site to the next and being confined to communal decks and compact cabins for a week or longer is not their idea of a vacation. Moreover, if you add seasickness, children, and/or honeymoon romance, a cruise will inevitably cause some trepidation.

Fortunately, there is an alternative way to experience the islands. It is the reason we founded Galapagos Safari Camp. There is so much more to the Galapagos than rushing from island to island, ticking off names from a list. It is a place to reconnect with a primordial sense of time and wonder, free from the bosun’s whistle.

 

Video: Presenting Galapagos Safari Camp

 

If, like us, you travel to seek meaningful life experiences, to gain a sense of place, and to bond with your loved ones, we warmly welcome you to Galapagos Safari Camp.

Our customized land-based Safaris combine time exploring the wilderness and wonders of Santa Cruz Island with day trips to uninhabited islands, returning to Camp at the end of each day.

What makes our Safaris different?

1. Level of Privacy

a) Private land tours (inhabited islands)

Our Galapagos Safaris include private land tours (on inhabited islands such as Santa Cruz and Isabela)

Our Safaris include private land tours (on inhabited islands such as Santa Cruz and Isabela)

All our land tours on the inhabited islands (i.e. Santa Cruz and Isabela Island) are private tours. You will have your own naturalist guide and chauffeur-driven vehicle at your disposal, allowing for more spontaneity during your day. If, for example, you want to stay a little longer at a particular site, it’s generally not a problem (provided you are observing the visiting hours of the National Park). This tends not to be possible on a cruise or on group tours that follow a strict schedule.

 

b) Private, semi-private or shared boat tours (uninhabited islands)

Our Safaris include either private, semi-private or shared boat trips to uninhabited islands

Our Safaris include either private, semi-private or shared boat trips to uninhabited islands

For our boat excursions to uninhabited islands, we offer three levels of privacy:

 

1) Shared Boat Tours (Small Group Tours)

Sharing a boat and a guide. (The maximum capacity on shared boats is capped at 16). This is the more cost-effective option and provides opportunities to meet other travelers.

It is important to note, however, that while we strive to have as many of our own guests as possible on the boat, we cannot guarantee there won’t be other people from other hotels. As such, the pace and overall experience may be compromised due to the diverse needs of the group, such as accommodating small children, elderly or different languages.

 

Semi-Private Boat Tours

A practical solution is to share the boat for the journey but to have your own guide for a private tour of the island, balancing cost savings with personalized attention.

 

Private Boat Tours (Chartered Boats)

Private tours offer a more personalized and flexible experience, allowing you to tailor the pace and activities to the specific interests and needs of your party. This is particularly beneficial if you have young children, elderly family members, or specific language preferences. We also have more control over food and services, and details in general.

Chartering a boat has the added advantage of being able to turn back to port early if necessary, e.g. in cases of severe seasickness. However, it’s important to note that due to the National Park’s strict schedules, the departure time is fixed and cannot accommodate late passengers. Additionally, if the boat does return early, all passengers must disembark, and the trip will be concluded for everyone.

 

The Boats

For shared group tours, we work with the best local operators, selecting boats that have proven the most reliable over the years.  

Galapagos boat tours: Boats we use to visit uninhabited islands

Boats we use to visit uninhabited islands

Galapagos boat tours: Boats we use to visit uninhabited islands

Boats we use to visit uninhabited islands

 

Private boats

For a private boat trip to the uninhabited islands, we charter boats such as the ones pictured below, which comfortably fit between 8 to 10 people.

 

Galapagos chartered boat: for private boat tours to uninhabited islands

Chartered boat: for private boat tours to uninhabited islands

 

The boat we use for our Galapagos fishing experience

The boat we use for our artisanal fishing experience (see our Family Safari for details)

 

Boat Tours: General Points to Note

  • Due to the strict rules of the National Park, everyone gets the same tour of the island following marked trails, regardless of the boat they arrive on and/or level of privacy chosen.
  • Visitors must be accompanied by an official guide at all times in the National Park.
  • As no food is permitted on the uninhabited islands, all meals are served onboard the boat. Lunch typically includes rice, fish and vegetables, and is served either buffet-style or at the table, depending on the boat. While the meals may not match the cuisine of Galapagos Safari Camp, they do provide a hearty option to keep you energized for your day of adventure. If you have particular dietary needs, we can prepare a packed lunch for you, providing these requirements are requested at the time of booking.

 

2. Personal Space

A Galapagos experience that offers privacy and personal space

A Galapagos experience that offers privacy and personal space

 

We understand that when on vacation, our guests want some personal space, some flexibility in their arrangements, and quality bonding time with their significant others or family, not to always be in a group.

The Camp is set with 55 hectares of private land, providing guests with the space and freedom to connect with nature and each other. After a day of adventures, guests can enjoy a dip in our pool, a nap in their hammocks, or a bike ride around the property. At sunset, guests can gather for cocktails on our viewpoint, where they can swap stories with others or quietly contemplate the setting sun.

Our nine Luxury Safari Tents and one Family Suite span 200 meters of pristine land. This affords guests an unparalleled sense of personal space and privacy.

Dining at Galapagos Safari Camp

Table set for two (or three, should you count the Galapagos finch!).

Table set for two (or three, should you count the finch!).

 

At Galapagos Safari Camp, we can arrange tables for each group size, from solo travelers and couples to large families and groups. You choose who to dine with.

Learn more about the dining experience at Galapagos Safari Camp.

 

Dining on a cruise boat (a comparison)

Aboard a cruise ship, everything is arranged collectively. There are set wake-up times, set excursion schedules, and set dining hours. On a cruise, the dining rooms are often designed with tables of four.

Communal dining on cruise ships

Honeymoons at Galapagos Safari Camp

A Galapagos honeymoon doesn’t have to be a group tour

A honeymoon in the Galapagos can be a more private, personal experience.

 

We welcome many honeymooners whose least romantic thought is to share every waking moment with a group of strangers. We understand they want a magical wildlife experience but also plenty of personal space too.

There is space and time to call your own at Galapagos Safari Camp.

 

3. Flexible dates

Galapagos tours with flexible dates and itineraries

Our Safaris can accommodate flexible dates and itineraries

 

With the exception of the occasional Small Group Safari, all our Safaris are fully customized and do not have set departure dates and fixed itineraries. We generally recommend 4 to 5 nights on Santa Cruz Island and a minimum of 2 nights for our Isabela Island Extension.

We can also arrange all transfers from/to the mainland, as well as Safari extension tours in Ecuador.

 

4. Personalized Itineraries

Itineraries are tailored to accommodate your personal needs and interests

Itineraries are tailored to accommodate your personal needs and interests

 

We have guests who want to see the Galapagos wildlife but also have specific needs or special interests they’d like woven into their itineraries. Eg, scuba-diving, surfing, bird watching, conservation initiatives, photography, painting, and botany. Or, they may want to include some downtime to relax and soak up their surroundings, or spend less time on a boat because of sea sickness.

We also get many multi-generational families with varying needs and interests. While it’s agreed they all want to spend quality time together, some family members may want to be more active and adventurous than others. E.g. a keen scuba-diver may like to include a couple of dives, while their other half may prefer to relax by the pool with a book.

Our Safaris are designed and tailored to accommodate the needs of all our guests. Ultimately, it’s not about guests fitting around our schedules but about us creating an experience that is life-changing for them.

Note: it is important to discuss any specific needs and interests with your Safari Designer at the time of booking.

 

5. Creative and Original Experiences

Original Galapagos tours and experiences: A To’ak Chocolate Tasting Experience

Our To’ak Chocolate Tasting Experience

 

Our aim is to craft experiences that are enriching and transformational. In such a fragile and fervently protected destination like the Galapagos, this often requires some creativity.

Experiences we are proud to offer include artisanal fishing (included in our Family Safari), gourmet chocolate tasting (read the story behind the first Galapagos chocolate bar), surprise tea parties in lava tunnels, romantic picnics in the wilds of Santa Cruz and family celebrations.

 

6. Authentic. Appropriate. Sustainable.

Authentic, honest, transparent: A sense of place

A sense of place.

 

At Galapagos Safari Camp, you’ll wake up in the wilderness to birdsong (and not to piped music as is often how the day commences on a cruise ship). At night, you’ll be lulled to sleep by the breeze in the Scalesia trees, and the distant hoot of barn owls (as opposed to the hum of a diesel engine).

We want our guests to experience the islands as we experienced them during the years we lived and raised our own children here so that they too may discover the freedom and joy that comes from awakening our senses and being at one with nature.

We believe strongly in what we have termed Appropriate Luxury, and its importance in the Galapagos Islands. We strive to offer our guests the highest levels of comfort and service, but without taxing the environment in the process.

 

7. Central Location

Galapagos Safari Camp is ideally located in the center of the Galapagos archipelago, and within easy reach of ports and visiting sites.

Galapagos Safari Camp is ideally located in the center of the Galapagos archipelago.

Galapagos Safari Camp is ideally located in the center of the Galapagos archipelago, and between the two main ports on Santa Cruz Island – Puerto Ayora in the south and Itabaca Channel in the north.

Note: No matter where you stay in Santa Cruz, you will likely use both ports for boat trips to uninhabited islands.

 

Escaping the crowds

Nestled in the highlands of Santa Cruz, and on the border of the National Park, Galapagos Safari Camp is also within easy reach of all of the islands’ major sites and attractions, yet far enough from the coast to escape the crowds and higher levels of heat and humidity found at sea level.

 

 

Immersed in nature

Our camp overlooks miles of pristine National Park and the Pacific Ocean with no other hotels, buildings, cruise ships or homosapiens in sight. It is about as far from the tourist crowds as you can get in the Galapagos.

The camp’s 55 hectares of land also serve as a refuge for giant tortoises and a variety of birds including finches, mockingbirds, warblers, Galapagos doves and Galapagos barn owls. At Galapagos Safari Camp you are immersed in nature 24/7.

 

Galapagos barn owl seen at Galapagos Safari Camp

Galapagos barn owls are often seen at night from the Camp’s main lodge

 

8. Family Friendly

Land-based tours are popular with families

Land-based tours are popular with families

 

Our land-based safaris are a popular choice for families who appreciate personalized service, flexible schedules, and the freedom to explore the Galapagos Islands at their own pace.

Learn more about what makes Galapagos Safari Camp family-friendly.

 

9. Rich in Wildlife

Close-up encounters with the iconic species of the Galapagos

Close-up encounters with the iconic species of the Galapagos

 

Wildlife encounters are a top priority, if not the top priority for most people planning a Galapagos vacation. A question we often get asked is, ‘What wildlife am I missing by not going on a cruise?’ The answer is very little, if anything. While you may see more islands on a cruise, you won’t necessarily see more wildlife.

Your chances of encountering the iconic species of the Galapagos will be the same, whether you’re on a cruise or on one of our Land-Based Safaris.

Species seen on our land-based Safaris

  • American flamingo
  • American oystercatcher
  • American yellow warbler
  • Blue-footed booby
  • Bottlenose dolphin
  • Brown pelican
  • Frigatebird (Great & Magnificent)
  • Galapagos barn owl
  • Galapagos dove
  • Galapagos finch
  • Galapagos flycatcher
  • Galapagos fur seal
  • Galapagos giant tortoise
  • Galapagos hawk
  • Galapagos land iguana
  • Galapagos lava lizard
  • Galapagos marine iguana
  • Galapagos mockingbird
  • Galapagos penguin
  • Galapagos sea lion
  • Green sea turtle
  • Nazca booby
  • Rays (various species)
  • Sally lightfoot crab
  • Santa Fe Iguana
  • Shark (various species)
  • Tropical fish (various species)

Species that can only be seen on a cruise

Species only seen on a cruise

Species only seen on a cruise

There are a few island-specific animals on the outermost parts of the archipelago that can only be seen on a cruise (to bear in mind that visiting the outermost islands will likely increase the length of your cruise due to the distance covered). These include the:

  • Waved Albatross on Española Island
  • Flightless Cormorant on Fernandina
  • Red-footed booby on Genovesa and San Cristobal (although sometimes they are seen on North Seymour Island, which our safaris can include)
  • Sub-species of giant tortoises, finches, and mockingbirds.

It’s also worth noting that you’d need to go to every island, every month of the year, to see all that the Galapagos has to offer!

 

Wildlife Disclaimer: As with any wildlife vacation, it is not possible for us to guarantee sightings of specific species but we do work with the islands’ top naturalists who have many years of experience in guiding wildlife tours in the Galapagos, and who can spot a well camouflaged creature better than anyone.

Wildlife viewing opportunities will also be determined by the itinerary you choose and the islands you visit.

 

10. The Best Naturalist Guides

Why top guides choose to work with Galapagos Safari Camp

Why top guides choose to work with Galapagos Safari Camp


One advantage of our land-based Galapagos Safaris is that our guides are able to return home to their families at the end of each day (unlike those on cruises who can be at sea for weeks at a time). This arrangement creates a win-win situation. Guides want to work with us so that they can spend more time with their families, and we are able to be very selective in our partnerships and work with only the best.

 

Highly qualified, knowledgable guides

Since our opening in 2007, we have curated a network of naturalist guides that we consider the best in their field. Not only are they deeply knowledgeable and passionate about the Galapagos Islands, but they are also sensitive to individual needs. They understand that for most of our guests, this is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, and are more than willing to go the extra mile to create an unforgettable Safari experience for them.

All guides are certified by Galapagos National Park and speak English. Upon request, and at additional cost, we can also provide guides who speak other languages.

 

Matching our guests and guides

We put a lot of thought into pairing our guests with the right guide. For example, some guides are better at engaging young children, while others are more comfortable with large, multi-generational groups. As your Safari Designer learns more about your needs and goals, he or she will know the right guide for you.

 

Same guide throughout.

We strive to give you the same guide for the duration of your Safari, including any extensions to Isabela Island, ensuring continuity and personal attention.

 

Explore our land-based Safaris

OUR SAFARIS