Marine Iguana, Galapagos

Galapagos Holidays

The Galapagos Islands are like nowhere else on earth, they are truly amazing. The seemingly fearless wildlife is the big draw for these islands. Observe the giant tortoises grazing in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, smile at the comical blue footed boobies doing their courtship dance, watch the marine iguanas diving into the sea off Isabela Island or snorkel with the playful sea lions from the beach on San Cristobal Island. 

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Cruising the Galapagos

  • See the biggest selection of islands and greatest variety of wildlife in the shortest time
  • A fully inclusive experience with expert Galapagos National Park guides, meals, snorkelling and kayaking
  • A big selection of boats from 12 to 100 passenger and to suit every budget and taste
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Hotel Based Galapagos Holiday

  • Stay longer on each island and fully explore and integrate with local people and wildlife
  • There are four inhabited islands to stay on, Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and Floreana
  • Choose from simple lodges, high end tented camps or luxury hotels in beach or highland locations

 

Our Galapagos Specialists recommend

What to Expect on your Galapagos Cruise

Begin your Galapagos cruise by flying from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands, here you will meet the crew and board your chosen boat. Most of the travelling will be done overnight so straight after breakfast you are ready to start exploring the islands. There will be twice daily excursions with expert Galapagos National Park guides that consist of either trail walks, kayaking or snorkelling adventures. Meals are all served on board the boat and can be buffet style, a la carte or barbeque. In the evening the guides will give lectures about the wildlife, history and volcanic geography of the Galapagos archipelago, which will leave you reeling with knowledge, information and trivia.

A cruise is hard to beat if you want to see as much as possible on your Galapagos holiday. It is a great way for you to fully experience the huge variety of terrain and the richness of flora and fauna of the many different islands. There's the added advantage that you travel whilst you sleep, making the most of every moment. The standard Galapagos cruise lasts for eight days, but there are options to stay longer.

The choice of boats can sometimes be confusing as they vary in terms of size, comfort, stability and facilities. We have handpicked our favourite boats, ranging from the smallest sailing yachts, catamarans and motor boats sleeping up to 20 passengers, to midsize boats carrying between 32 and 48 passengers and the largest boats carrying 90 to 100. Our Galapagos specialist team have first-hand expereince of these having been aboard all during their travels around the Galapagos Islands, they can help you choose the right boat.

Family Holidays to the Galapagos Islands

A Galapagos holiday has many highlights. Stepping around the endearing courtship ritual of the blue-footed booby. Sitting on a beach face-to-face with a seal who does not flinch as you watch every twitch of its whiskers. Snorkelling with turtles. Sea lions blowing bubbles at you. What adult would not be enthralled by such encounters? Consider then what it is like for children. A holiday to the Galapagos Islands really is one of the most magical travel experiences, whatever your age. 

No other destination is more family friendly - family holidays to the Galapagos Islands are a winner. Where else in the world can you get so close to animals that have no fear of humans? Your family can learn all about Darwin’s natural selection whilst having fun in the process. Kids will love the comical nose-snorting of the marine iguanas, lie in awe on the grass in front of giant tortoises and laugh at the curiosity and playfulness of somersaulting sea lions as they snorkel with them on your Galapagos family holiday. Some of the boats also offer special family departures with activities, walks and games aimed at children, earlier meal times and cabins furnished more to a younger taste.

Island based Galapagos holidays

Whilst our Galapagos holiday experts often recommend a cruise, a growing number of visitors never set foot on a live-aboard boat as the choice of lodges and camps in the Galapagos is now at an all-time high. To quote Spike Milligan, 'a sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree' so if you want to explore the Galapagos but don't have the sea legs for a cruise, speak to our experts. They know the best 'trees' under which to sit in the Galapagos or, for the more active, can arrange walking tours on volcanic islands or birding excursions into the islands' interiors.

Our Galapagos Island experts

Roxy, James and John regularly visit the Galapagos Islands and have between them been on board all the boats we offer, inspected pretty much all the hotels and explored all the islands. They can offer first-hand knowledge on most aspects of a Galapagos holiday.

Advice from our Galapagos Islands Experts

Galapagos Islands

“Do not over-stress about what camera equipment to take, the up close encounters are frequent and large lens are not needed. If you are going to invest then an underwater camera or waterproof camera case to capture the incredible underwater marine life would be useful.”

Roxy Dukes | Steppes Travel Galapagos Specialist

 

“Unless you have a specific animal or species that you would like to see don’t worry too much about which itinerary and islands to visit. All the cruises visit a large number of islands and you will see a vast selection of wildlife including sea lions, blue footed boobies, giant tortoises and marine iguanas.”

James Armitage | Steppes Travel Galapagos Specialist

Making a difference | Galapagos Conservation Trust

Steppes is a Gold Corporate member of the Galapagos Conservation Trust. As such we continue to support ongoing conservation projects in the archipelago. When you book your holiday to the Galapagos Islands with Steppes Travel, you will also benefit from a year’s free membership of the Galapagos Conservation Trust

Galapagos Conservation Trust

Galapagos Islands FAQs

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Where are the Islands in relation to Ecuador?

The Islands are located on the equator approximately 600 miles from the coast of mainland Ecuador. It's a three-hour flight from Quito or 2 hours from Guayaquil and all flights go via Guayaquil.

How many islands make up the Galapagos Islands?

The reserve consists of 19 large islands, and has a land area of approximately 5,000 square miles and the marine reserve covers approximately 50,000 square miles.

How many of the Islands are inhabited?

A total of 4 islands are inhabited in the Galapagos National Park; Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isla Isabela, Isla Santa Maria (Floreana) with approximately 28,000 people living there.

Is it possible to visit the Islands independently?

You can choose to visit 4 of the Islands but will miss out on wildlife inhabiting the smaller islands. 

What are wet and dry landings?
Dry landings are when you disembark the panga straight onto dry land. Wet landings are when you get out into the surf on a beach – generally about ankle depth. 
How can I help preserve the Islands?

You can help by following the national park rules and anyone wishing to donate to the non-profit organisation in charge of studying and protecting the islands can do so to the Charles Darwin Foundation.

Can I walk anywhere on the Islands?

All walking trails are clearly signed at each visitor site and designated to avoid disturbing the wildlife or vegetation. You must be accompanied by a naturalist guide at all times. 

How will I differentiate between the species?

All boats have a naturalist guide who will help you explore the Islands and are very knowledgeable.   

What footwear should I take?
A pair of comfortable, sturdy trainers for walking on rough terrain, preferably that don’t mind getting wet. A pair of sports sandals are the best thing for wet landings.
How long should I spend in the Galapagos?

There are many islands to visit therefore 7 night/8 day cruise is usually a reasonable length of time to explore the islands.  If time is not restricted then stay as long as you can as there is plenty to see.

What is Garúa

The annual influx of the Humboldt Current brings cool waters that cause an air temperature inversion around the islands, trapping a layer of thin cloud over the islands. This is also evident in coastal Peru & Ecuador. 

When is the peak season?

Peak season is during the festive period Christmas and New Year and school holidays with low season being in the months of late August, September and October where the majority of the boats go in to dry-dock for maintenance. Generally the Galapagos is a year round destination and the seasons are not defined by the weather.

Is snorkel equipment/wetsuit provided?

All the boats provide snorkel, mask and fins free of charge, but most charge about $20-35 for the loan of a shortie wetsuit for the week.

Are the Galapagos suitable for children/families?

Children will have a fantastic time exploring the islands and certain cruise boats namely the larger operate specific family departures.

What about for a single traveller?

The Galapagos is suitable for single travellers; however there are few single cabins available. Single supplements may be applicable for sole occupancy of a twin cabin. Some vessels offer a shared option where you can stay with another single traveller of the same gender. 

And the elderly?

All passengers, regardless of age, will be looked after by the Naturalist guide and their personal pace taken into consideration. Walking aids are generally found on board if required. You will be briefed each evening with the following day’s activities so you can plan the evening before if you wish to take part.   

Can I pay my boat bill at the end of the cruise by card?
No – the boats only accept cash. There are only very temperamental ATMs on the islands, so get out enough USD to cover what you’ll need before you leave the mainland.
How much should I tip?

USD 8-12 per day/per passenger to be shared between the crew, and the same again for the guide is the general guideline, but it is entirely up to you. Tipping is expected and encouraged, but in no way compulsory.

Holidays

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Inspiration

Blue Footed Booby, Galapagos, Ecuador

Cauldron of Life on BBC1

Over three episodes Liz Bonnin joins a team of scientists to explore the Galapagos Islands. Journeying from the slopes of ancient volcanoes to the depths of the ocean, tracking and tagging species and carrying out groundbreaking experiments en route, in a bid to learn more about the evolution and survival of these islands amazing inhabitants.  
Giant Tortoise, Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands

Lonesome George comes home

The last of his kind, Lonesome George, a giant Pinta tortoise, thought to have been hunted to extinction for their tasty oily meat, was discovered in 1971 by a snail biologist. Attempts to entice him with a suitable mate failed and he lived alone for the next 40 years until an estimated ripe old age of over 100 years old when he passed away in June 2012. 
His celebrity didn't end there as he was then jetted off to New York to be forever preserved by the best taxidermists in the country. In February 2017 he returned home where he will reside in the newly opened building at the Fausta Llerena Breeding centre on Santa Cruz where visitors can learn more about his life story.
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Galapagos Giant Tortoises

NEWS: Five Giant Tortoises Returned to the Wild

After 51 years at the breeding centre on Santa Cruz Island, five male giant tortoises have been returned to their natural habitat on Santa Cruz Island.

The tortoises have been at the breeding centre while scientists worked out which species they belonged to, they came to the centre when giant tortoises were still being bred as pets. Through genetic studies scientists have identified they are western Santa Cruz tortoises, age between 70 and 100 years old and have returned them to their rightful home. The tortoises were moved by helicopter and will now be monitored over the next 10 years to assess the success of the re-introduction programme.

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Sea Lions, Galapagos, Ecuador

Top 5 Reasons to Visit the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands remain one of the most in demand destinations that should be on your travel wish list. Read here our top 5 reasons to visit.
Pikaia Lodge, Exterior View, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador

A Taste of the Galapagos Islands

Client Reviews

Sally Light Foot Crab, Galapagos, Ecuador
"Steppes was very helpful and flexible in arranging the trip. 
Everything was great, thanks!"
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Ryan Embertson

Galapagos Islands
Battling marine iguanas, Galapagos
''Absolutely superb trip, brilliantly organised. 
Thanks for all the help and the information before the trip, it was really really helpful.''
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Richard Mould

Galapagos Islands
Tortoise foot, Galapagos
''As usual all aspects of this trip went like clockwork, even though we were in South America where timings can be different to other parts of the world!
This we put down to the work done by the travel expert and their knowledge of the country visited.''
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Heather Bronson

Galapagos Islands

FLIGHT INFORMATION

16 hours from UK
(via Madrid or Amsterdam)

Galapagos Islands - Know Before You Go

Galapagos Islands Travel Expert Blogs

Holiday Ideas in Galapagos Islands

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