The Enchanted Islands have drawn people to them for centuries. After being discovered in 1535 by Fray Tomas de Berlanga they soon became home to whalers, pirates, explorers and those seeking to understand the curious creatures that inhabit the islands.
The majority of the Islands have no human habitation, and as a result, the species inhabiting the islands have very little fear of humans, allowing unique interaction and wildlife viewing from a close proximity that would not be possible in many other places on the planet.
As a result, the Galapagos ends up a “bucket list” destination to many well – heeled travellers, who are looking to experience this pristine environment, generally from the comfort of a luxury cruise vessel or five star hotel stay. The possibilities for the traveller with means are vast, with options such as a cruise on the MV Grace – which was the private yacht of Princess Grace of Monaco no less! There are dozens of luxury catamarans, larger vessels also such as La Pinta and the Galapagos is also home to its very own tented Safari camp. Generally, you don’t get much change out of USD $600 – $700 per night on any of these options but how do you get to travel to the Galapagos on a budget?
Fortunately, over recent years the amount of offerings for budget minded travellers has increased. There has been a surge in the offerings of land based stays, such as multi sport adventures – which allow guests to put on their scuba dive masks and snorkel in the beautiful ocean, mountain bike all across the island, trek, kayak as well as many other activities from a lodge or lodge to lodge type trip. Prices for these type of trips are around the USD $200 mark per day, which is by no means “budget” compared to other Latin American destinations – however when you take in the remoteness (around 900km from the mainland), limited resources and environmental sensitivity of the islands – it is a pretty good bang for your buck.
The big advantage of land based stays over cruises is that diving is available at additional cost. Since the park regulations changed 2 years ago, cruises are no longer permitted to offer diving unless it is an authorised diving only tour. The drawback of island stays is that you generally will not visit as many islands, and due to sailing times between islands you won’t venture too far. That being said, most islands have serious concentrations of wildlife – so you won’t be disappointed.
If the idea of cruising the Galapagos still holds appeal, the cheapest options are around USD $200 – $250 per night inclusive of all meals, guide and activities for a vessel such as the Aida Maria or Beluga Yachts. These vessels will allow you to explore the more remote islands, and be part of a small group of only 16.
Some boats include snorkelling gear in the prices. Yachts allow greater spotting of marine mammals, such as whales, Penguins and Dolphins whilst at sea – and the flexibility of being able to manoeuvre around to follow migrating pods in and around the islands.
Specialist companies such as Chimu Adventures work with a variety of yachts and land based options, and with specialist knowledge, work hard to find the option that suits you. Regardless of what option you choose the Galapagos Islands have something for everybody – and are a sight to behold.
Written by Greg Carter
Greg is a Co-founder of leading travel specialist to Latin America; Chimu Adventures and travelled extensively around the Galapagos Islands on numerous voyages and hotel programs.
For more information about the Galapagos Islands, click here.
Want to learn more about the M/Y Grace, check out this video!