Galapagos Islands

Tailor-Made Tours

Introduction to the Galapagos Islands

A Galapagos cruise is so many things rolled into one – a relaxing holiday, an adventure, and foremost, a wildlife extravaganza. It truly is the experience of a lifetime, not only for birdwatchers or wildlife obsessives but for every traveller who has any interest in seeing the incredibly diverse and often unique species of birds, reptiles and mammals. The isolation of the islands and the minimal contact with humans has made the wildlife almost totally unafraid and allows visitors to see them at closer quarters.

On a luxury or first-class Galapagos cruise you will visit many of the islands where you will participate in short walks, snorkelling, Zodiac (Panga) cruising and kayaking as well as visiting the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre.

At South America Travel Centre we will create a unique, tailor-made itinerary specifically for you including a Galapagos Island cruise and any additional exploration in Ecuador that suits your interests. This may include the Amazon rainforest, the cloud forest or a perhaps trip down the avenue of the volcanoes. Our expert travel consultants have firsthand experience and will create the perfect Galapagos holiday for you and your travel companions.

galapagos islands map


WILDLIFE Overview:

The Galapagos Islands are a wildlife paradise.  Many species have no fear of humans as a result it is usually possible to get close to them and to take amazing photographs (please always follow the parks guidelines as well as the instructions of your National Park guide).  Quite recently the guides have come up with the ‘Galapagos Big 15’ – they are; 1.  blue-footed booby, 2.  red-footed booby,  3.  Nazca booby, 4.  flightless cormorant, 5.  America flamingo, 6 & 7.  Great & Magnificent frigate birds, 8.  Galapagos Hawk, 9. land iguana, 10.  marine iguana, 11.  Santa Fe Iguana, 12.  Galapagos penguin, 13.  Galapagos sea lion, 14.  Galapagos fur seal and last but not least the 15.  Galapagos Giant tortoise.  Then there are 13 species of Darwin’s finches and other birds species, too numerous to list here


Most voyages over 5 nights in duration will see most of the above species.  The more difficult (site dependent) species are; waved albatross, flightless cormorant, Santa Fe Iguana and Galapagos penguin.  Please tell us if you have specific interests as we can ensure the selected voyage visits appropriate sites.


In 1959 Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands created and Galapagos National Park (GNP) established.  Five years later in 1964 Charles Darwin Research Station was established in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos.  Invasive species are the number one threat to Galapagos ecosystems and biodiversity.  Significant work to remove feral goats and pigs have been particularly successful in helping giant tortoise numbers recover on some islands.

A visit to the research centre will allow you to see several sub-species of giant tortoise that developed in isolation of one another on specific islands with particular habitat that led to changes in their shells and necks – clear demonstrations of evolution – made famous by Charles Darwin.  There are also many hundreds of young tortoises bred for future release.


In the last five years many new and quite luxurious catamarans have been built that offer a very high level of service, excellent food as well as a very comfortable cabin, some with private balconies.  In the Galapagos Islands the best guides work for the best vessels. In part it is economics – in part if you get looked after well you’re happy and will enjoy escorting guests around your home – the Galapagos Islands.

It’s worth mentioning here that whilst there are over 70 boats of varying sizes and standards operating in the Galapagos Islands there is a strict mechanism to control which boats visit which sites/Islands on any given day. So you will never have too many people (or boats) at any one site.


There are a small number of high quality hotels that offer a bed that doesn’t move, if you’re really not a sailor, and day trips to nearby islands. Another popular option is to add a few nights at the end of a cruise – quite literally the best of both worlds.  Finch Bay Eco Hotel, Red Mangrove Hotel, Galapagos Safari Camp and Pikaia Lodge are all excellent options.


The largest (4,588 and 100km long) and one of the youngest of the Galapagos Islands, Isabela was formed by six independent volcanoes that came together – five are still active, making it one of the most volcanically active places on earth. Aside from the geological interest for which it is famous, Isabela is rich with bird (including flightless cormorants and galapagos penguins), animal and marine life and is home to more wild giant tortoises than all the other islands. Its large size and the lava flows and other obstacles created barriers that the slow-moving tortoises were unable to cross, causing several different sub-species of tortoise to develop. The island was also a favourite hideaway for early pirates, buccaneers and whalers, and at Tagus Cove you will see the names of hundreds of ships painted on the high ridge, a practice dating back to the 1800s and now forbidden.


Sadly the most famous giant tortoise, Lonesome George, died in 2012 before it was possible to find a female of the same sub-species of tortoise (Pinta) for him to mate with.  The good news is that Galapagos giant tortoise numbers are increasing and can now be seen on several islands with Santa Cruz offering the best opportunities.  Recent work on removing feral goats and pigs (both of which would dig up nests of eggs to eat) has been extremely successful as have captive breeding programmes; who’s work can be seen at the Charles Darwin Research Centre.

The Galapagos giant tortoise now represent one of the remaining two groups of giant tortoises in the entire world — the other group living on Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean.

Overview Genovesa Island:
Genovesa Island, Frigate Birds

Genovesa Island is the northern most island in the Galapagos archipelago, famous for an abundance of bird life. This island is is a shield volcano in which part of the caldera wall has collapsed creating Darwin Bay. Genovesa Island is famous for the courting frigate birds who nest on this island and the males inflate their bright red throat pouches to impress a female. Other birdspecies found on this island include: Red footed boobies, blue footed boobies, Nazca boobies, storm petrels, short eared owls, and many more. Here you will also find seals as well as Galapagos sharks.


Snorkelling in the Galapagos

Snorkeling adds a whole new dimension to a visit to the Galapagos Islands.  Whilst not everyone who visits may want to go snorkeling we suggest it’s definitely worth giving it a go.  The guides (on the better boats) are experts themselves and also experts at helping guests to venture into the underwater world of the Galapagos, after all it is a Marine park – hence there’s a lot to see under the water.  It’s possible to see three species or turtle, white-tipped reef sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, bottle-nosed dolphins, marine iguanas in addition to many species of reef fish.


Espanola Island

This is one of the islands where you will observe the highest proportion of endemic species in the Galapagos. You will be noisily greeted by sea lions when you land on their beach at Punta Suarez, while curious mockingbirds peck at your shoelaces. Colonies of blue-footed boobies engage in ‘sky-pointing’ to show off for potential mates; swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds take shelter under the cliffs, and you will also find Darwin’s finches, Galapagos doves and Galapagos hawks. And only here you will see a species of marine iguana identified with traces of red and green colouring (nicknamed, for obvious reasons, Christmas iguanas!)

Espanola is also home to the waved albatross.  This critically endangered species breeds mainly on Espanola Island and the major cause of its decline continues to be long-line fishing. The courtship of the waved albatross is a spectacular sight and usually takes place in March & April. It includes rapid bill circling and bowing, beak clacking, and an upraised bill to make a “whoo hoo” sound.  The waved albatross head out to sea in December and don’t return until February.


First Class
(Small size, less than 20 guests)


First Class (16 berths)

Top class design and the finest facilities combine with excellent guides and crew.  Ideal for those who prefer a more intimate experience as well as the ability to disembark the entire group quickly to explore the Galapagos.  As is the case with all of the better vessels they attract the best guides.
Other ships in this category include:
Ocean Spray, Alya, Natural Paradise and Galapagos Sea Star Journey

First Class
(Mid size, less than 50 guests)

La Pinta

First Class (48 berths)

A perfect alternative to a 100 guest ship – with many of the benefits.  Large comfortable cabins excellent guides and great cuisine. The ability to have guests off the boat relatively quickly and out exploring. These vessels have good guide to passenger ratio so there are options of more than one activity each day.
Other vessels in this category include:
Isabella II & Evolution

First Class
(Large size, 90-100 guests)

Santa Cruz II

First Class (90 berths)

Larger vessels of a high quality with large cabins and a full range of facilities (e.g. gym, salon) and first-rate service; may be a new vessel or regularly refurbished with attention to ongoing maintenance. The benefits of larger ships are stability, greater flexibility as they often have a higher guide to client ratio (some as low as 1 guide for 12 guests) as well as the additional amenities. Other ships in this category include the Galapagos Legend.

Tourist Superior
(Small less than 21 Berth)

Galapagos Seaman Journey

16 berths

The cabins all have standard facilities like private bathrooms, air-conditioning and hot water, cabins may be a little smaller than on the First Class vessels. A good and comfortable option.

Luxury Ship
(Large 100)

Silver Galapagos 

100 berths

The Silver Galapagos is possibly the only true luxury vessel in the Galapagos.  Refurbished in 2014 she has 5 categories of suite to choose from.  In addition there is a Jacuzzi, library, massage room, beauty salon, lounge, fitness centre and a piano bar.

(First Class & Luxury)

Finch Bay Eco Hotel 

Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

There are a small number of high quality hotels that offer a bed that doesn’t move, if you’re really not a sailor, and day trips to nearby islands. Another popular option is to add a few nights at the end of a cruise – quite literally the best of both worlds.

For more information on the accommodation we offer, call 1300 784 794 or email

Planning Your Trip

The Booking Process

South America Travel Centre can look after all aspects of your holiday, including flights and travel insurance.

We start by asking you what your interests are and where you are interested in, when, for how long, what standard and style of accommodation (it can be a combination – for example you may wish to celebrate a special occasion while you’re away by staying in a very special property or place). Once we have a good understanding of just what you’re looking for, we can begin to create a holiday to meet your time and budget requirements and, most importantly, that will deliver interest and enjoyment in an experience to exceed your expectations.

Please book early. Many of the hotels, lodges and cruise vessels we recommend are relatively small. For example, the Petrel accommodates just 16 guests. This exclusivity combined with high demand means they can be booked out up to 6-8 months in advance.

If you’re thinking of travelling during any major holidays like Christmas, New Year and Easter, or during any festivals, our advice is simply to book as early as you can, even 12 months or more, and we can add flights as soon as they become available.

Visa and Health Information

Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter Ecuador or the Galapagos Islands. You will be required to pay entrance into the Galapagos National Park (US$100). You will need to hold a valid passport and have a return ticket when you arrival.

It is strongly recommended that all travellers to Ecuador be vaccinated for yellow fever before commencing their trip.

Vaccinations are advised for common diseases like Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid as well as Influenza.

There are no compulsory vaccinations.


We advise you to consult a Travel Doctor specialist prior to departure to assess any health risks in relation to your medical history and travel plans.

Flight Information

We have access to a wide range of airfares and have excellent relationships with our key airline partners. Our two main airline partners in Latin America are LATAM Airlines, QANTAS Airlines and Air New Zealand. We can also arrange internal flights for you within Latin America.

Flights from Quito or Guayaquil (Ecuador) to the Galapagos Islands are usually booked by the ship operator (to ensure all guest arrive on the same flight).

Irrespective of whether you book directly with us or with your preferred travel agent, we’ll request the details of all of your fights to ensure if there are any changes your transfers and other arrangements are adjusted accordingly.

The Best Time to Go

Year-round. Despite their sub-tropical location on the equator, the cold waters of the Humboldt Current surround the islands keeping temperatures pleasant.

The Galapagos has two main seasons:

December to June – warm (becoming hot and humid January to March)

July to November – more wind, cooler, mainly dry, with some misty drizzle


  • Genovesa Island is a shield volcano in the Galapagos archipelago, famous for an abundance of bird life. On a recent visit to the island Fiona finds out first hand the main attraction of the island. Find out how to get there and what you will see....

  • Fernandina Island, which is an active Shield Volcano, was impressing its visitors recently with a volcanic eruption over the North-Western side of the island.  The flowing lava is a fascinating site to see for any guest to the Galapagos and below are some pictures that were captured by guests and staff onboard the La Pinta....

  • The ‘BIG 15’ has been released, a list of the most iconic wildlife of the Galapagos Islands chosen by consensus among top naturalist guides and dedicated wildlife enthusiasts, and you’ll encounter many of these amazing creatures on cruises of 5 nights or longer...

Client Reviews

We will tailor the perfect holiday to suit your needs.
We will tailor the perfect holiday to suit your needs.