Traveler Spotlight: Combination cruise & hotel stay

In this month’s Traveler Spotlight – where we interview tourists about their experiences of visiting the Galapagos Islands – we spoke to Susana Cueva, who visited the islands by combining a cruise with a hotel-based stay.

  • What type of trip did you go on in the Galapagos? I took a four-day cruise and also stayed independently on San Cristobal Island.
  • What yacht did you choose for your cruise?  The yacht was called Amigo, it was a tourist-class boat. It was a wooden-hulled boat and a little old, but the service made up for it. The chef was excellent and the food was varied and delicious. The staff were very friendly.
  • How long did you stay for? I spent four days on the cruise, and two weeks staying on San Cristobal.
  • Which islands did you visit? Santa Cruz, Floreana, Española and San Cristobal.
  • What was your favourite experience on the islands? The best part for me was seeing the animals, who are so friendly with humans. It was wonderful to see so many species that are unique to the islands.
  • Would you have done anything differently? I would have loved to have gone diving!
  • What advice would you give to people planning to take a trip to the Galapagos islands? Take a great camera with you! Make sure you organize your trip well in order to make the most of your time on the islands. I think to make the most of your time, it’s best to take a cruise. Also, make sure you have extra money on you – things are more expensive in the islands than in mainland Ecuador.


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Photo credit: Waved Albatrosses on Española Island Flickr/Island Conservation 

Galapagos Spotlight: Santa Fe Island

Santa Fe is one of the Galapagos’ oldest islands: underwater rock formations here date back a rather impressive 3.9 million years. It’s most famous for the Santa Fe Land Iguana, which is endemic to the island. Santa Fe is also known for its enormous prickly pear cacti. 

Thanks to its convenient location just south-east of the Galapagos’ main island, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe is a popular stop: the boat ride from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz takes just 45 minutes.

The island is uninhabited and can only be visited with an official guide. Many cruises include Santa Fe on their itinerary, while several operators in Puerto Ayora offer regular day trips which include lunch and plenty of snorkeling and hiking opportunities.


  • Visitors arrive at Barrington Bay, a beautiful beach which has great snorkeling: there are fish of all colors, shapes and sizes here, among them parrot fish and trumpet fish. Spotted turtles, sea lions and rays also pass by looking for attention and providing excellent photographic opportunities. Galapagos hawks can also be observed at the beach, as they come here to feed
  • Two hiking trails lead from the beach – one leads to a scenic viewpoint with wonderful views of the island
  • The second trail winds along an inward path to the Opuntia (or prickly pear) cactus forest. This unmissable sight is a spectacular forest of giant cacti, some of which reach six meters (20 feet) tall
  • As you hike, look out for the Santa Fe Land Iguana. Endemic to this small island, the Santa Fe Land Iguana differs from the Galapagos Land Iguana in color: it’s a paler yellow. It also has a longer snout and more pronounced spines on its back. 80% of the iguana’s diet comes from the prickly pear cactus that the island is known for

What to bring:

  • Plenty of sun cream
  • A sun hat
  • Comfortable shoes that are suitable for walking on rocks. A pair of sandals is also recommended
  • Swimming and snorkeling gear (snorkeling equipment may be included in your cruise or day trip)
  • Drinking water and snacks (lunch is generally provided on a day trip or cruise)

Click here to plan a trip to Santa Fe.

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Photo credit: Flickr/Joanne Goldby

Galapagos sea lion with pup

Galapagos Islands: What happens in August

Updated August 2016.

In August, the cold Humboldt Current becomes stronger through the Galapagos Islands, making the waters rich with nutrients. This is a boon for nursing sea lion and fur seal moms – and for human snorkelers and scuba divers!

On Land
  • On Santa Cruz Island, giant tortoises are returning to the highlands. You’ll have a greater chance of seeing these gentle giants.
  • Lava lizards continue their mating rituals. Look for the blushing females and their potential mates doing push-ups to attract their attention.
  • It’s pupping season for the Galapagos sea lion, especially on the central and western islands. Be aware that the mothers can be aggressive if they feel threatened.
  • Fur seals are beginning their breeding season on Fernandina Island.
At Sea
  • Humpback whales are migrating through the Galapagos Islands.
  • Whale and dolphin sightings are common near Isabela and Fernandina Islands.
  • Whale sharks are still hanging out up at Darwin and Wolf Islands.
In the Air
  • Migrant shore birds are arriving in the Galapagos Islands. Many will stay until March.
  • The Greater Flamingo continues to perform its courting dance.
  • Blue-footed boobies and their downy chicks are seen, especially on Española Island.
  • Also on Española Island, the Waved Albatross are nesting and the chicks appearing.
  • Courtship rites of the Galapagos Hawk can be witnessed on Española and Santiago Islands.
  • On North Seymour Island, the Frigatebird babies are hatching.
  • On Genovesa Island, Nazca Boobies and Swallow-tailed Gulls are nesting.
  • The high season continues, with highlander Ecuadorians and Northern Hemisphere visitors on vacation.
  • At the end of August, the villagers of Santa Rosa in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island will be celebrating their patron saint.

The strengthening Humboldt Current brings brisk conditions to the Galapagos Islands.

  • The fine garúa mist makes the mornings and evenings damp. Have a rain slicker on hand for the light afternoon shower that might fall.
  • August is the coldest month in the Galapagos Islands, with air temperatures ranging from 18-23ºC (64-74ºF) with a strong breeze. Be sure to pack a sweater or jacket.
  • The ocean is roughest in August, with strong currents. High waves can occur along south and west-facing shores. If you are prone to seasickness, don’t forget seasickness medication, or you may want to consider land-based tours.
  • The sea temperature can drop as low as 18ºC (64ºF). You will definitely need a wetsuit for snorkeling.


Have you visited the Galapagos islands in August? Tell us about it in the comments below.


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Photo credit: Jan Hazevoet

Galapagos penguin population on the increase

It’s good news for Galapagos penguins. Thanks to shifts in wind currents – possibly due to climate change – the penguin population has doubled in size over the last thirty years .

Endangered species

Threatened by the El Nino weather phenomenon (when sea temperatures increase), as well as pollution, fishing, and introduced species such as dogs and cats, the Galapagos penguin is endangered and is the rarest penguin species in the world (in the 1980s, a particularly strong El Nino reduced numbers to less than 500). The Galapagos penguin is the only species of penguin found in the northern hemisphere: they are able to survive due to the cool temperatures created by the Humboldt and Cromwell currents.

Now, new research has shown that shifts in wind currents over the past three decades, which could potentially be due to climate change, have resulted in nutrient-rich cold water being pushed further north, increasing fish and algae numbers and providing more food. As a result, the penguin population has doubled over the last 30 years: in 2014, there were more than 1000.  

Galapagos penguins are generally found on the archipelago’s western-most islands, Isabela and Fernandina. So, if you’re hoping to spot penguins, be sure to include these islands when planning a visit

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Photo credit: Flickr/Christian Ostrosky