15 Things to do – only in the Galapagos Islands
When was the last time you saw something for the first time? There is something undeniably thrilling about visiting a destination that hosts a one of a kind experience with adventures that can’t be had anywhere else in the world. While some destinations have one or two of these special experiences, the Galapagos islands are chock full of places, things to do, and bucket list activities that leave every visitor with long-lasting memories – not to mention fantastic photos. We’ve compiled a list of 15 things that you can only do in the Galapagos Islands to help you research the absolute musts of the islands.
1. Wander through colonies of 500-pound Galapagos Tortoises
When you stand near a giant Galapagos tortoise, you’ll feel like you are on another planet. While your typical tortoise weighs less than 10 pounds, the supersized Galapagos tortoise can weigh up to a whopping 500 pounds – you’ll feel quite a bit smaller, to say the least. These majestic creatures have to be on your Galapagos islands bucket list, and luckily they inhabit seven of the Galapagos islands. Additionally, there are 12 surviving subspecies, each with its own unique size and appearance.
As you take a stare in wonder at these supersized creatures, ponder on the question: How did these giant tortoises make the 1000-km oceanic journey from the South American mainland to the Galapagos islands?
2. Snorkel with the only Marine Iguana in existence
Snorkeling is incredible, especially in the Galapagos Islands.
However, what really sets the Galapagos snorkeling experience apart relative to other snorkeling experiences occurs when you put your head underwater, peer through your snorkel mask, and spot a strange-looking marine iguana dart down to the seafloor to chomp on some algae.
Only in the Galapagos islands can you find these marine reptiles with a mastery of underwater foraging, and it is a treat to witness.
For any of those not keen on snorkeling, these iguanas live on large colonies on land which you will walk through as well. Like the Galapagos tortoises, it feels like a scene of Jurassic Park as hundreds of reptiles turn their neck to peer at you as you walk by.
3. Cruise through the equator in style
One of the best ways to travel the Galapagos islands is on one of the many live-board yachts which have a capacity for twelve to one hundred people, depending on the yacht you choose. The benefit of the yacht is that they do all the traveling between islands when you are sleeping, so you aren’t wasting precious time on ferries transiting between islands or motorboats to the visit points.
One of the top things to do in the Galapagos is to cross through the equator and the traditional celebrations that come along with it. Whalers, pirates, and even Darwin partook in various celebrations, and many of the Galapagos yachts do just the same. Dancing, celebrating, or even witnessing a short play featuring “King Neptune” are just a few of the examples of your journey across the middle of the earth.
4. Walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin
When you visit the Galapagos islands, you get to truly witness the power of evolution close up. Finches, Tortoises, iguanas, and other plants all have unique physical and behavioral differences that vary throughout the islands, showcasing a special case study of evolution. As you visit new islands, your guide will illuminate the different characteristics that enable that species to survive on the island.
Among the most famous species showcasing evolution are Darwin’s finches, a group of finches that only live on the Galapagos Islands. These species were unclassified until after Darwin’s expedition and unknowingly, Darwin discovered over 20 species of birds. Each species had unique physical variations, including the overall shapes and sizes, and differences in the beaks.
When Darwin realized each of these species physically adapted to the unique ecosystem of each island, it ultimately helped shape his theory of evolution.
5. Swim with penguins – without freezing!
When you think of penguins, you likely think of arctic conditions, sliding on ice, any big colonies huddling together for warmth. It’s a bit different in the Galapagos islands – no snow or ice. This provides a unique opportunity, where guests can spot a penguin in a t-shirt, or better yet even swim and/or snorkel with penguins!
Around ninety percent of the penguins are located off of Fernandina and Isabela Island. However, don’t worry if your tour does not visit the western isles of the archipelago. There is also a chance to see penguins at Bartolome, Floreana, Santiago, and Santa Cruz. If seeing a penguin is a priority on your Galapagos things to do bucket list – reach out to our travel experts and they’ll recommend the best itineraries.
6. Get up close and personal with wildlife (2 meters!)
One of the aspects that makes Galapagos truly unique is that the animals are completely unafraid. When you try to get a photograph of an animal in other countries, they are usually frightened away before you get the shot you wanted. This isn’t the case in the Galapagos islands – you can get close, and they won’t seem to mind you at all.
Keep in mind, there is a two-meter rule in the Galapagos Islands. Keep at least six feet away from any creature you see, respecting the animals of the island.
7. Pose with Galapagos seals
The Galapagos seals and sea lions are definitely one of the cutest animals on the islands, especially if you spot a baby rolling around in the sand with its mom. They are one of the most common species of the Galapagos, and you’ll spot them on most islands you visit.
8. Send a postcard from the world’s most unusual post Office
How did homesick sailors voyaging around the Galapagos communicate back in the day? They erected a barrel on Floreana Island where sailors would leave their letters for ships passing to the mainland to deliver. This historic post office still stands, and you can send a postcard to your loved ones like they did in the old days.
9. Sail through a pirate hideaway
For pirates, the Galapagos Islands was a perfect hideaway, composed of coves, lava caves, and plenty of other places to hide treasures and ships out of sight. Remote and tucked away with plenty of distance between the mainland but close to commercial trading routes between Asia and Europe, it was a great strategic location.
You get to experience these various hideaways, such as Tagus Cove on Fernandina Island – the pirate hideaway. While visiting this cove, notice the graffiti from pirates, naval soldiers, and whalers on the cliff walls.
10. Snorkel through a massive rock formation teeming with sea life
Jutting almost 500 feet out of the water, Kicker Rock is one of the most unique places in the world to snorkel. Teeming with life, including hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, seals, and tropical fish, the snorkeling experience is unforgettable.
Your guide will take you through a hallow section underneath the formation, where you can float along with the local marine life.
11. Relish in the flavors of ceviche de “Canchalagua”
Ceviche is a famous fish in the area, and the Ceviche of the Galapagos Islands has a unique flavor with a specific type of shellfish only found in the archipelago, responsibly harvested by fishermen from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
12. Witness amazing displays of courtship
If you come to the Galapagos at the right time, many species such as the Galapagos Boobys, Cormorants, and Frigates will be performing various courtship displays aiming to woo their partner.
These dances are fascinating to witness, and one can’t help but laugh at the unusual displays. Typically, the male is the one attempting to impress the female.
13. Witness a Galapagos sunset
There is nothing quite like witnessing an ice-cold Ecuadorian beer as you watch a brilliant Ecuadorian sunset, especially from the deck of a Galapagos yacht.
14. Explore volcanic lava tubes, lava fields, and even hike to the top of an active volcano
The islands of the Galapagos, young and new, were formed from volcanic activity. The younger islands showcase unique volcanic geographies, such as volcanic lava tubes and lava fields. One of the top things to do in the Galapagos is the hike to the peak of the Sierra Negra volcano, with a breathtaking view of the islands.
15. Spend a night glamping in a safari camp in the highlands of Santa Cruz
The luxurious canvas cocoons saddled on the beautiful island of Santa Cruze have all the amenities you could ask for – private balcony decks, electrical sockets, hot showers. If you want a truly unique experience in the Galapagos islands fully connected with nature, this is the way to go.