Too Many Galapagos Cruisers Make These Same 8 Mistakes
Too Many Galapagos Cruisers Make These Same 8 Mistakes
I came back from my recent Galapagos Silver Origin cruise with a pile of unused clothes and accessories that I’d lugged thousands of miles. While at the same time wishing that I’d taken some other things. But as you will see, packing wasn’t the only, or the most important thing I, and many of my fellow passengers got wrong.
I found too many people go expecting the wrong thing. I talk about this in more detail in my previous Galapagos blog post – which you can view here – so I won’t dwell on it right now, but don’t go expecting magnificent landscapes and hordes of bucket-list animals.
It’s more about smaller animals, reptiles, birds, and marine life. On land I got to see the famous giant tortoises unique to this island, various iguanas, Galapagos Penguins, and Galapagos Sea Lions. Birds are a big factor, with Red-footed Boobies, Blue-footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, Great Frigatebirds, Finches, and brown pelicans.
In the water, hundreds of species of fish, various rays, sharks, and turtles.
And it’s important to understand that the scenery is great, but it’s not magnificent and it’s rough and rugged at times from its volcanic origins. So, you do get to do some interesting things like walking on lava fields.
The second big mistake I found is to go at the wrong time of the year. I had assumed because it’s on the equator, all the year would be basically the same, and so I went when it suited me, which was November.
As my trip drew grew closer, I realised I was going when the weather was mixed and not when experts recommend going.
There are two seasons in the Galapagos. The dry season from June to November and the wet season, between December and May.
The temperatures are lower in the dry season, averaging 22 to 24 degrees Celsius (73 to 76 Fahrenheit). It’s cloudier and the water’s colder.
In the wet season, although there’s sporadic downpours, the average air temps sit around 25 to 26 degrees Celsius (76 to 79 Fahrenheit), the seas are calmer, and the water clearer and warmer for snorkelling.
While there’s no wrong time of the year, bear in mind experts recommend December to May.
The third mistake was people seeing it as a vacation to go and relax and unwind. It was the busiest trip I think have ever been on.
My first expedition set off at either 7 or 8am, and after 2 expeditions, we had an hour or two for lunch, an afternoon expedition, an hour or two before an evening talk and next day briefing before dinner.
The expeditions were mostly active – lots of hikes and snorkelling. By the fifth day, I was tired and nodded off after lunch, resulting in me missing an expedition, which you do not want to do.
You don’t choose Galapagos to relax, you come ready to be busy.
This brings me to the next mistake. Don’t go to the Galapagos if you have limited mobility, you’re not active, or you dislike snorkelling.
More than other expedition trips I’ve been on, I found this even more active and mobile.
The ships don’t ever dock, so embarking and disembarking is by Zodiac. All expeditions require using Zodiacs. Most expeditions are adventurous, like walking over lava fields, rocky outcrops, or up steep stone steps. If you have limited mobility, you will miss out on so much.
Furthermore, an important part of the Galapagos experience is in the water, daily snorkelling to see the fish, turtles, rays, sharks and even sea lions swimming around. If you don’t go to the water, you miss out probably a third of the best part of going to the Galapagos.
Another mistake is thinking this is a cruise to party, to be entertained or to have lots of choice.
The ships are small. The largest ships only take 100 passengers, but most only 40 or 50.
I was on the 100-guest Silver Origin which did have more in the way of facilities but it was still limited. There was the Explorers Lounge, for the briefings and drinks, The Restaurant, which could seat everyone, The Grill, a casual lunch dining option and Silversea signature Hot Rocks outdoor restaurant, small fitness centre, hardly used Observation Lounge and Base Camp, with Guest Services and Interactive information screen and the Marina, for getting on and off the zodiacs. So, some choice but not a lot.
The only entertainment were talks, a pianist who played during drinks and out at lunch on deck, one cooking class and one trivia on the last night.
So, you’re not going to be entertained, nor have lots of choice, as the focus is on learning about the Galapagos and heading out on expeditions.
Which leads me to the next mistake, don’t go on the wrong line.
I chose Silversea, partly for the pampering, but because based on my other expeditions with them I knew they’d have an incredible expedition team.
The expedition team makes or breaks these trips. I was reminded of this on Sante Fe island when we were there alongside one of the smaller ship lines. Listening in to their expedition team, versus what we were being told, was like night and day.
If you’re really into wildlife, think about the company you go with, you might like Lindblad National Geographic ships as the passengers tend to be more passionate nature lovers than say on my ship.
Decide if one of the bigger ships like Silver Origin, Celebrity Flora, some of the National Geographic ships suit as you want some facilities and choice, or if a small intimate yacht with a more intimate experience better suits.
Be sure it’s worth it
Whatever you decide it is not going to be cheap. I recommend you ask if you are going to love the experience before splashing out.
With flights and pre- and post-stay hotels it can easily cost you around $1,000 per person per day. As a solo traveller, it cost me close to double that, even with a Silversea lower supplement on selected sailings, like mine for solo travellers.
When budgeting, make sure every cost door to door is included. On Silversea, the price included flights to Ecuador and on to Galapagos, pre- and post-stay hotel, transfers, all drinks, basic Wi-Fi and gratuities, entry fee to the Galapagos National Park, and expeditions. The only cost I had once there were meals in the hotels, and I upgraded to the better Wi-Fi.
As much as I enjoyed my trip, I realised I am a more casual nature lover and prefer the more bucket list animals. If you are like me, you may find the Arctic with polar bears or Antarctica with vast penguin colonies and whales may be better suited to you.
I got stressed when I was packing for this trip because I felt a lack of good information. On other expedition trips to the Arctic and Antarctica, I had specialist gear sites that I could order a pack of everything I needed that partnered with the line, and even delivered it to the ship for me.
This trip was trial and error, and here’s what I found I should have taken:
Good water shoes or sandals that you can get wet and hike in, for the wet landings.
Good walking shoes. While many had proper hiking shoes, I used worn-in track shoes as I find them comfortable and give me good support.
The next thing is expedition trousers. Ones that repel the water. I took regular shorts with me, but they did get a bit soggy sometimes on Zodiacs. And while they dried quickly, I noticed all the expedition team and passengers that had done this before wore these kind of expedition trousers, which are sort of almost waterproof trousers but look like regular trousers. They also can be unzipped to turn into shorts. I wish I had brought those.
You need long trousers, as on some of the excursions, particularly when you headed up into the highlands there are fire ants and bugs. I took jeans with me which I couldn’t wear on any of the wet landings. So those expedition trousers would have helped there.
Make sure you take swimming gear because you must go snorkelling. The lines provide a wetsuit and goggles, but you need gear to wear underneath.
You will need a raincoat outer layer. A cap or hat is also essential to avoid getting burnt.
And there’s still more…
Check on the dress code on board. On Silversea, they didn’t allow jeans and I had to wear a collar shirt in the evening while on other lines, like National Geographic, they are much less fussed.
I also recommend taking long-sleeved top for the expeditions to avoid bugs and getting burnt. Many people took long sleeve tops made of that gym shirt material. I really wish I’d taken those.
Take layers. I took far too many warm clothes with me. But do have a warm zippy top or thin jumper for the evenings.
I also recommend a first aid kit. In it have insect propellant, Imodium, headache pills, seasickness pills and all your usual stuff. Take sunscreen, and make sure that it’s bio-friendly, eco-friendly
The other thing to think about is camera equipment. As the animals and wildlife are comfortable with humans and you can get close, most people on my trip only used their iPhone and the zoom on that was enough.
Check if the line gives you rucksack, which Silversea did. If not take one as you need your hands-free when you step on and off the Zodiac.
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