“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves” ~ Euripides
Unless you’ve “been there, done that” there is always a degree of uncertainty and mystery to any given travel destination. That’s probably some of the reasons why we travel … to discover. The Galapagos Islands are no exception.
What follows are the first FIVE THINGS (of a total of 10) that many people have mentioned that they wished they had known before visiting the Galapagos Islands.
If people are informed they will do the right thing. It’s when they are not informed that they become hostages to prejudice. ~ Charlayne Hunter-Gault
#1 Decide on a cruise BEFORE you make flight reservations
Although the majority of tours (both live aboard cruises & land-based hotel packages) include the coordination of the round trip Galapagos Islands flights, many people opt to book these flights independently. Recently, this is more predominant with people using LAN airline flights. Keep in mind that cruise logistics are based on pre-assigned/determined flight schedules. Each operator already has the flight spaces for specific airline flights … and thus coordinate matters in Galapagos based on these specific flight schedules.
In the case of many of LAN airline flights into and out of the archipelago, for example, the arrival and/or departure times don’t always work well with all cruises (i.e., you arrive too late and/or depart too early). People often need to arrive one day before the cruise and/or stay on in Galapagos one day after the cruise ends in order to ensure that everything can be coordinated. If you’re not sure, ask!
#2 Sea sickness
It is difficult to avoid traveling on the open water while in Galapagos … even during land-based hotel packages. In fact, contrary to public opinion, you are more than likely to spend more daylight hours traveling to and from a visitation site on land-based (or day tour) options than you are during a live aboard cruise.
Many people (whether they are aware of it or not) might be susceptible to motion (or sea) sickness. For anyone who has never traveled on board a boat, you might not know. The good news is that there are remedies to alleviate or minimize any potential effects of sea sickness – these include patches & tablets (e.g., Dramamine, Transderm, Mareol etc). There are a number of natural remedies that many claim seem to work (i.e., ginger, peppermint etc).
In terms of practical recommendations, avoid selecting a sailing boat (more prone to rocking than wider, heavier vessels like catamarans and cruise ships). Basically it boils down to a width & weight issue. The narrower (and lighter) the vessel is, the greater the likelihood of rocking. So, pick a wider and heavier vessel to minimize rocking (and therefore the potential effects of sea sickness). Another aspect to keep in mind is that the higher up you are on a boat, the more likely you are to feel movement (both side to side as well as aft [back] to bow [front]). So where is the most optimal spot to be? As low down (e.g., lowest deck possible) and in the middle (both front to back and side to side) of the vessel.
On final pointer includes the time of year to visit the archipelago. Generally speaking (Mother Nature is not always constant and predictable) it would be advisable to consider traveling the Galapagos in any month except for late August, September & October (when the seas are generally rougher).
February to April is generally the calmest period.
#3 Drizzle & rain
The warmest (and wettest) period – also known as the “rainy season” - is generally late November through to early June – this period is characterized by strong showers followed by clear skies and long sunny periods.
Mid-June through to late November is known as the garúa (meaning “drizzle”) season. There is little rain during this period but light drizzle is not uncommon – skies are overcast although there are some sunny periods.
So why mention this? Although the majority know to bring sunblock/suncream against the strong sun, it is advisable to also pack a light rain jacket.
#4 Cabin location
While many take the time to investigate the most appropriate boats for their cruise experience in Galapagos - be it a catamaran, cruise ship, sailing boat or motor boat – many neglect an important issue … the cabin itself.
Although it is true that one does not spend an exorbitant amount of time during the course of a cruise in your cabin (other than to sleep and change), your cabin location is fairly important. Why? In conjunction to the a fore mentioned indications regarding sea sickness, having a cabin close to the aft (back end) of the boat is more prone to noise from the generators and motors. Therefore, you want to be as far forward and as high up (if deck options exist) to minimize the potential problems of noise, fumes and vibrations from the motors/generators.
#5 Clothing & packing
The first thing you need to keep in mind is the following luggage restriction for the Galapagos flights per person: (1) one carry-on of 8kg (17.6lbs); and (2) one check in of 20kg (44lbs). No agricultural products are permitted (e.g., fresh fruits & vegetables etc).
In addition to the useful list of items to take found in the article, “The Ultimate Packing List for the Galapagos Islands” you should try and pack quick-dry clothes.
Part 2 of “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting the Galapagos Islands” will touch on another five things people have stated that they wished they had known prior to visiting the Galapagos Islands.