While studying abroad in Ecuador, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands! The Galapagos Islands are one of Ecuador’s many beautiful places to visit, and what’s not to love? This archipelago of tiny volcanic islands is located 1000 km (about 600 miles) off of the Pacific coast of Ecuador. It’s completely surrounded by some of the clearest, most beautiful water in the Pacific Ocean, and each island is home to a diverse population of plants and wildlife. I’m talking diverse, people! One island can be covered in volcanic rock, while another island is full of beautiful greenery. Some islands are home to the most beautiful birds you’ll ever see, while on other islands you’ll encounter sea lions, giant tortoises, and even penguins! The best part about a trip to the Galapagos is that these islands are under some pretty strict conservation laws. People only live on 5 of the 19 islands, which means that many tourists choose to make their stay in the Galapagos on a yacht, so that you can travel to a number of islands throughout the week without having to return to one of the only few that have hotels available. My group took a 5 day vacation via yacht, and it’s an experience I HIGHLY recommend! Since each island is so unique, I’ve created a list of items below that are ESSENTIAL for a safe and happy trip to the Galapagos Islands! From hiking to snorkeling, bring these items to amp up your experience!
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Like most of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands generally has two seasons, cool and dry (June-November) and warm and wet (December-May). I went in mid-September, which would be considered “cool” and dry. Now, we’re talking about “cool” for being on the equator, so it was still about 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and, since it’s the dry season, there were few clouds to block the sunlight. For this reason, many of my initial items are directly related to clothing/attire that will keep you safe and cool!
Most of our trip was scheduled into time for hiking/exploring the island in the morning and time for snorkeling in the afternoon. Remember, if you’re staying on a yacht and traveling to an island for a hike, your feet are going to get wet! For this reason, hiking sandals are a must! You will want all the support that you usually receive from your sneakers, but without the hassle of wet socks and shoes. Most people instantly think of Chacos for these trips, and they are a great choice! Most of the people on our yacht wore Chacos for their style, comfort, and lifetime warranty! As a college student, I was looking for something a little cheaper, so I went with a similar brand, Teva. My tevas are similar to Chacos in that they are waterproof, have awesome support, and come with adjustable straps. However, the Teva straps are Velcro, and they do not come with a warranty. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which type of sandal is the best choice for you! Just don’t rely on tennis shoes unless you enjoy soggy feet!
A Baseball Cap or Cute Sunhat
Did I mention that Ecuador/the Galapagos Islands are located directly on the equator?! This means the sun is INTENSE, folks! I learned this the hard way when I first arrived in Ecuador (before my Galapagos trip). I took a stroll to the store down the street from my dorm, and returned less than 30 minutes later with some groceries. I was maybe exposed to the sun for 10-15 of those minutes, and I noticed an instant sunburn on my shoulder/upper arm. Sunscreen is important, and, if you don’t want to put sunscreen in your hair, you should bring some type of hat! 😉 I brought my cute sunhat to take some pictures in, but noticed that it can be VERY windy on the yacht and sometimes on the islands. I wrestled with the hat to secure a few photos, but had more success overall with a baseball cap. Bring your favorite, borrow a friend’s, or buy one at the airport, because they have some pretty good ones to choose from!
Athletic Wear for Snorkeling!
When I heard we were going snorkeling, I packed my swimsuit and called it good. However, when we got on the yacht, the tour guide recommended renting a wet suit or wearing long-sleeved material for swimming. Again, this is because of the sun! The suns rays are super powerful as you snorkel on the surface of the clear-blue water. Luckily, I had packed a pair of leggings. I intended to sleep in those leggings, but instead used them for snorkeling to prevent getting some serious burns on my legs. If you’re a lover of snorkeling or diving, you can bring your own wet suit or rent one for the week! If that’s not something you do often and don’t feel like spending the extra money, bring a pair of old, dry-fit athletic wear! It’ll work. Trust me, I saw the burns that some people got and was so glad I happened to have that pair of leggings. I didn’t have a long-sleeved top though, but I wore a tank top and was fine. I did have a pretty good tan by this point in my trip to Ecuador though, so if you’re a naturally more-pasty person like I typically am in the winter, cover up!
Ok, so this one’s obvious, but sometimes it’s the little things like sunglasses that we easily forget and instantly regret not having! You’ll pretty much always want some sunglasses on you, whether you’re relaxing on the yacht deck reading a good book or hiking those windy, sandy trails, keep your eyes protected!
If you have a waterproof camera, this is your chance to get some really incredible pics! The wonderful thing about the Galapagos Islands is that, since it is so well-preserved, the animals are very relaxed and not scared of humans. You are not allowed to directly approach the animals or try to touch them, but if they come to you (which many of them will), you’ll have an awesome, up-close-and-personal experience with all kinds of sea creatures. My first day snorkeling was spent chillin’ underwater with a great big sea-lion who was just takin a nap in the sun. I also sat very still in the water while some penguins approached me, and I even got to swim above some hammerhead sharks! I do wish that I had invested in an underwater camera so that I could have capture some of those images to share with you! Many people on the trip used Go-Pros, which seemed to have a sustainable battery life and plenty of space to store lots of cool images!
For the rare occasion that the animal you wish to see is far away from the path (seriously, they’re usually right up next to you!), you’ll want a pair of binoculars. This is especially handy for the islands with the birds. You’ll take a hike around the island and encounter hundreds of different bird-species. To really get a closer look at the beauties, bring a pair of binoculars! They also come in handy at night. During the night, we would eat dinner in the middle of the sea and then travel to the next island. After dinner, there’s usually a great opportunity to see the stars. With absolutely no light pollution from most of the islands, you’ll see the stars like never before! Since the sky is so clear, it will be easy to get a better look with a simple pair of binoculars instead of lugging your telescope on board.
Small Journal/Writing Pad
You’re going to want to record this trip! Yes, you’ll be busy swimming with incredibly cute sea creatures, exploring the diverse islands, and getting the world’s best sun-tan, but take some time each day to record what you’re doing! My tour guide started each day with a meeting after breakfast, in which we discussed the day’s agenda. He included the name of the specific island we were visiting that day along with some specific wildlife we would see. There are so man different types of birds, wildlife, and plants that it will be hard to keep it all straight when you’ve returned home! To make sharing your experience easier, take a small writing pad with you where you can record each day’s agenda and keep lists of the names of all the cool wildlife you’re seeing!
Why bring a flashlight? No, it’s not because you’ll be without electricity, don’t worry. 😉 One evening before retiring to bed, the captain noticed that we were in an area with a lot of dolphins! Of course, it was pitch black out except for the lights of the yacht and some moonlight, but a few people on board had flashlights. They shone their lights in the water, and we were instantly able to see dozens of dolphins surrounding our little boat! It was soooo neat! Later on that night, we also saw hammerhead sharks! Basically, you don’t want to let the lack of sunlight stop your adventure, so bring a flashlight and keep checking out the water long after dark! And I know your phones all have flashlights, but please don’t hold those over the edge of the boat. Invest in a cheap flashlight in case you lose your grip! If you want an affordable light with great reviews, check here!
Waterproof Case for Electronics
This may seem like another basic, but it’s a necessity that I wouldn’t want you to forget! You will travel frequently from boat to land, and you’ll want to make sure that your electronics are protected! I took my phone or camera on every excursion so that I would be prepared to take some pictures, and I was constantly paranoid. I had my items in my backpack, which was of course securely worn tight on my back, but I still wish I would have kept them in a waterproof case inside just to put my mind at ease. You can find lots of small, waterproof, and floatable cases here.
People, I am in no-way qualified to give medical advice, but this is a friendly reminder that if you’re staying on a yacht at sea, you will be on the water to eat and sleep, and that can be a very different type of experience. Sea-sickness/motion-sickness can absolutely RUIN your trip. One lady on our yacht spent a whole day in bed because she was so sick. It was awful! You don’t want to waste a second of this incredible adventure, so please pick up some medicine to bring with you! I also recommend (purely from experience) that you pick up enough of whichever medicine you’re choosing to last you for a few days after the trip. Yes, you can continue to be motion-sick once you’re back on land. In fact, I was more sick during the 3 days after the trip than I ever was during it. I guess my sea legs were stronger than my land legs, and my brain just couldn’t adjust back right away! One cool thing about Ecuador is that you do not need a prescription from a doctor to go to the pharmacy and receive most meds (sounds sketchy, but I promise it isn’t). Basically, instead of going to a doctor to say you will be traveling and need sea-sickness medications and then waiting on them to send over a prescription, you can go right to the pharmacy and explain the same situation directly to the pharmacist, who will then prescribe you right then and there and give you the medication you need. So if you forget this item before leaving your home and are spending some time on the mainland in Ecuador, you can stop by a pharmacy and get what you need! Of course, there are plenty of over-the-counter varieties as well. Please talk to a doctor about what may be best for you, but don’t assume you can stomach the sea for a whole week if you’ve never done it before!
I hope your trip to the Galapagos is just as beautiful and breath-taking as mine was! Safe travels!
Welcome to Learn-Grow-Teach-Go! I’m Rachel. Join me as I explore what it means to be a life-long learner and begin to live out a more full, balanced, and simplistic lifestyle. I am currently a high school English teacher, and I enjoy traveling the world and adventuring in my spare time. Whether you’re looking for advice on living minimally and simplistically, teaching ideas and lessons, or travel tips and trips, you’ve found the right place. Glad to have you here!