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In this page you will find practical information to plan a scuba diving trip to Galapagos:
Table of contents
The geographically isolated Galapagos Islands of Ecuador is a destination that is a nature lovers dream. It represents a unique environment that has been all but lost to modern man. Most of the archipelago is not developed and is basically the same as when Charles Darwin visited it in 1835. While Europeans had visited the island as far back as 1535 with pirates and whale fishing ships visiting the islands, it was Charles Darwin’s studies that reveal the islands to the world.
Today the adventurous come to this remote island paradise. Some to explore the wonders of the undersea world as others walk the islands to see things as Charles Darwin did.
Where to stay?
The Galapagos Islands is unique in many ways and one of those is where people stay when they visit. While recent numbers are not readily available, a report by Charles Darwin foundation a few years ago show that the majority of the tourist nights are aboard vessels. Some of these are scuba diving liveaboards while the most are nature cruises. The hotels and resorts are found on just four islands:San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Floreana and Isabela.
Activities and excursions in Galapagos
Scuba diving and exploring the natural beauty of the archipelago and its wildlife is the focus of most of the activities that visitors do. The majority of the Galapagos Islands are a National Park and entry is controlled. Visitors are not allow to explore without a licensed local guide. There are 116 visitor sites in the Galapagos where tourist are allowed to go most of which are only reached by boat. Motorized land vehicles are also restricted in the park, so most of the activities are on foot. Of the 116 sites, 54 are land sites and 62 are for either scuba-diving or snorkeling.
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Best time to visit Galapagos
Galapagos can be visited year round but certain times are best for certain activities.
- January to June is the wet season however while the rain can be intense it is of a short duration.
- July to December is the dry season. It does, however, have slightly lower air and water temperatures and higher seas.
- January to May has the calmest weather and seas and the greatest occurrences of Hammerhead sharks and Manta Rays.
- June to November are the peak months for the Whale sharks.
- December to April for Giant tortoise mating and egg hatching, Green turtles starting in January
Health and Safety
Travel to and around the islands does not expose the traveler to any unusual health risk. There are two small hospitals one of which has a decompression chamber, however, they are not equipt for major surgery. Tourist are encourage to obtain travel insurance that covers medical evacuation.
If you are planning an upcoming dive trip or travelling to Galapagos, it is a really good idea to invest in travel insurance for scuba diving, because you never know what could happen and when you might need it (because accidents do happen!). I recommend this diving insurance as they offer worldwide coverage and focus on providing scuba divers a quality insurance and medical assistance service.
Where is Galapagos located in the world?
Galapagos Islands is a part of Ecuador some 960 km to the east. To the northeast lies its nearest neighbor Cocos Island, Costa Rica (720 km).The archipelago has eighteen main islands,four minor ones and about 100 inlets that straddle the equator. Five of the islands are inhabited: Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. Baltra is mostly a military base with few accommodations. Darwin Island is the most northern island and Española Island is the most southern with a distance of 430 km between them.
How to get to Galapagos?
There are no direct international flights into the Galapagos Islands, however, there are daily flights from the Ecuadorian cities of Quito and Guayaquil on the mainland. There are airports on Baltra Island and San Cristobal Island. A few cruise ships do stop at the islands as a destination on round the world cruises but only stay for the day before moving on.
Do I need a visa for Galapagos?
To enter into Ecuador, citizens of most countries can obtain a tourist card at the airport or border upon arrival. To obtain the tourist card the visitor most have a passport with 6 months remaining, a outbound ticket and be able to show proof they can meet financial needs during their stay. The period of entry for the tourist card is for stays up to 90 days. Visitors can only stay for a maximum of 90 days in 12 months.
Visitors wanting to stay longer than 90 days and nationals from the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Somalia (as of March 2016) require a visa. Neither the tourist card nor the tourist visa can be extended except by citizens of the European Union, United States and Canada. While you may not need to get a visa for Ecuador, you need to verify if you will need to have one for any stop overs in route.
Travel between the islands are done by boats. Public ferries and shuttles connect the islands that have people living on them. The airports operate buses that run between the airports and the piers. If you need other transportation it can be arranged by your hotel, however, few tourist see the need. Tour companies will pick up guest at their hotels.
The Galapagos Islands are a destination that one will never forget. If does not matter if you are going there to scuba dive or to explore the land side of the islands, you will leave impressed and feeling you need to return.
You will find all information about sea life, best time to visit, top dive spots, etc. in our review: Galapagos Diving