7 Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Galapagos Islands

My trip to the Galapagos islands was arguably one of the best weeks of my entire life. I absolutely loved everything about the place, and I found the entire experience to be magical. This trip was my first time living on an island and a boat. It was also my first time snorkeling and swimming in the ocean! You could say this was definitely a life-changing opportunity for me, which is why I admire my time here greatly. I learned so much about this archipelago and if you’re planning a trip here, I have lots of advice and information to share.

1. The Galapagos Islands are a “plastic-free” zone.

The official policy of the island states that one-time use plastics are not allowed (supposedly). While the islands are not super strict on adhering to this policy, you should avoid bringing these plastics anyway because it is likely that they will end up in the waters surrounding the islands and damage these beautiful marine ecosystems.

2. The animals are not afraid of you.

One of the most peculiar things about the islands is how close you can get to an animal without it getting scared. They have the privilege of living in this “pristine” environment that they have not learned to fear humans. Their biggest fears are their natural predators, which makes them equally interested in us as we are of them. That being said…

3. You are not allowed to touch the animals.

These animals aren’t toys and even if it’s tempting to touch them, avoid doing so. The whole goal of the islands is to conserve this historical and biodiverse landmark while promoting ecotourism. If people are touching the animals, it’s a quick way for diseases to transfer and for these species to start dying off. But other than that, you’ll find an abundant variety of different animals on these islands. Remember to always be on the look-out for boobies. I’m referring to the blue-footed ones, of course. A lesser-known fact is that there are also red-footed boobies and the Nazca boobies (pictured below). These birds are adorable and a staple of the islands so keep an eye out for them!

4. Snorkeling is your new best friend.

Nothing is cooler than being able to see underwater. With snorkeling, you can feel like you’re one of the fishes and join them for a swim. Because the Galapagos is a mega-diverse location, you can swim with countless fishes, turtles, sea lions, and sharks, too! My group had the opportunity to swim with hammerhead and white-tip sharks. But don’t worry about sharks attacking you. They’re so well-fed and docile that they won’t be interested in you.

5. Cruises are all fun and games… until they’re not.

One of the best experiences from this entire trip was the 4-day cruise. We stayed on Nemo III and I can say nothing but amazing things about them. They treated us like royalty. We would go out to snorkel in the morning and come back to the boat to find a tray full of snacks and drinks ready for us. However, it’s important to remember that this is still a boat and people can get seasick on it. My group had many cases of seasickness and even though it’s harder for me to get seasick, I still felt a little nauseous on our last night because the boat had started moving after we had all eaten a big dinner. You can avoid seasickness by bringing some medication (better safe than sorry) and not eating large meals while on the boat. It’ll be tempting, but it’s 100% not worth it.

6. The islands are full of hidden geological gems (and tortoises).

You can find the most awe-inspiring geological formations on these tiny islands. Visit Santiago for an otherworldly experience. This island is covered with a hardened lava flow and the contrast with the iron-rich soil makes it appear like you landed on Mars! On top of that, lava does some pretty weird things like form bubbles and tunnels. Speaking of which, you can easily find lava tunnels on these islands. Santa Cruz may appear well-developed, but there are still many places that are unexplored. My group had the opportunity to explore a relatively untouched lava tunnel. While this is currently not open to the public, you can visit Reserva El Chato (also on Santa Cruz) to visit the endangered giant tortoises while also getting the opportunity to walk through the lava tunnels on site. On top of that, there are sinkholes on Santa Cruz, as well. Los Gemelos are two twin sinkholes that sank hundreds of years ago and are now covered in vegetation (most of it invasive species). You can take a hike around these sinkholes and marvel at their natural beauty.

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7. Drink specials are not hard to find!

While out in the town of Puerto Ayora, you can find endless deals. There’s a street dedicated purely to food, and they have a row of tables lined on the road for tourists to sit and enjoy a meal. We came across an amazing deal for 3 drinks for $10 at a restaurant near the end of the street. And we’re not talking about some wimpy watered-down drink; these were so rich and flavorful. One of them would have easily cost over $10 back in the states. I ordered a strawberry daiquiri and two passionfruit caipiriñas (not all on the same day, of course. Drink responsibly!) When I tell you those caipiriñas were some of the best drinks I’ve ever had, you know it’s a good drink. They’re also served at so many restaurants, so finding them shouldn’t be difficult.

Overall, this trip completely mesmerized me. I have nothing but amazing things to say about this archipelago, and I hope you see the beauty in it, too. Please help keep this environment as pristine as you can if you do visit. It’s one of those places that makes the Earth such a wonderful place and protecting it means so much more in this era of massive change.

I took so many photos that it would also be a shame not to share them, so I added a bonus slideshow! If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me. Thanks for reading!

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