Any traveler with an interest in nature should move the Galapagos Islands to the top of his or her bucket list. From the giant tortoise to the Galapagos penguin, the endemic wildlife is abundant and fascinating. It's also one of the most protected places on earth, allowing visitors to take part in a truly unique experience.
The landscape, flora and fauna of the Galapagos are magical, but the real stars are the animals. With no natural predators, the land and marine animals that live here aren't scared of humans. They allow you to become a part of their world, which makes a trip to the Galapagos unlike any other.Here are my top Galapagos tips:
- Many people fly into Quito to launch their trip, but Guayaquil is actually much closer. Save a little travel time by entering Ecuador through its largest city.
- Stay at least a week. When my 5 days came to an end, I wasn't ready to leave and I wished I had spent the extra time.
- The Galapagos is said to be amazing year-round, but May was an exceptional time of year to visit. The weather was perfect, the ocean wasn't too choppy and Whale watching season had just begun.
- The archipelago is made up of 19 islands, and there is different wildlife living on each. Identify the animals you most want to see before you go to be sure that your tour hits the right islands to spot them.
- Go snorkeling! Do not opt out of this opportunity. Some of my favorite memories are of things I saw under the water (like a stingray with a circumference of at least 5 feet!).
- There are two ways to travel through the Galapagos - by land or by sea. Cruises accommodate anywhere from 16-100 passengers. You eat, sleep and travel on the boat throughout your stay. The cruises are comfortable and fun, but not for those prone to sea sickness. Land packages (like this Red Mangrove deal) are a little less expensive and have larger living spaces.
- Invest in a good camera. Photo ops are everywhere and you'll want to capture the memories. You may even want one that takes underwater photos.
- The number of visitors allowed into the Galapagos National Park per year is restricted, and you must travel to protected areas with a licensed guide. The National Park creates all the tour itineraries throughout the islands. Visitors will appreciate this, as you'll be the only humans around on most of your tour stops.
Travelzoo Tip: This week our colleagues at Fly.com found that flights from New York City to Guayaquil, Ecuador, were slashed to $447 roundtrip, including taxes -- a savings of about $300. Book soon; this fare is not part of an official sale and could disappear at any time.
--Caroline Eber is a Travelzoo Deal Expert based in New York City. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.