By Allie Almario
One of the most popular questions we are asked is “Which is the best Galapagos sailing itinerary?” And the right answer is that… they’re all great.
Let’s start with some basic information about this world-famous archipelago. Located in the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos is actually made up of 13 main islands with seven smaller islands dotting the Equator. To get here, you must fly in from two main cities in mainland Ecuador, 600 miles away.
Every Galapagos ship must be a licensed vessel following a 15-day route approved by the Galapagos National Park. And the sailing itineraries are a mind-boggling combination of 4, 5, 6 and 8 days within this 15-day loop. Most sailing itineraries start and end on one of two different islands – Baltra or San Cristobal. A handful start in one island and end in the other, usually on short cruises.
We truly believe the Galapagos National Park has done a great job of identifying the best islands for visitors – highlighting the islands with the greatest diversity of wildlife and landscapes with the least amount of human impact. There’s always the Galapagos Big Five — wildlife you’ll pretty much see no matter what when and where you go – marine iguanas, sea lions, blue footed boobies, Galapagos tortoises, sally lightfoot crabs.
As a plus, the Galapagos National Park has purposefully planned itineraries so that only a handful of ships are on an island each day, ensuring that that you’ll never hike on crowded trails. No one is allowed off a ship unless you’re with a naturalist in a group of 16 travelers or less. And as each small group arrives ashore, they’ll rotate which trail loop they’ll take so that the only herds you’ll see might be sea lions!
Eastern sailing loops are preferred by birders. Bird species such as waved albatross, red-footed boobies, large colonies of land iguanas and the very photogenic giant opuntia cactuses are on these islands. You might have a chance to swim with penguins or snorkel with reef sharks.
Western sailing loops are liked best by those interested more in marine life. There are dreamy wide white beaches and unusual lava landscapes, populated by marine iguanas and fur seals. It’s easier to see a giant tortoise in the wild.
No matter which option you choose, you’ll be guaranteed an adventure full of wildlife and wonder. Unless you are a birder with a specific checklist in mind, most people will be happy with whatever itinerary they are on. For example, certain bird species like the flightless cormorant, Galapagos hawk or Galapagos penguin are endemic to specific islands. Choose a ship based on your preference for a larger or smaller ship and within your budget, and then head off to Ecuador knowing you’re off on a great wildlife journey.