You've dreamed, researched and finally decided on one of our recommended Galapagos tour providers for your once in a lifetime trip to the Galapagos. Whether you decided to do a small boat liveaboard experience or are destined for a local eco-establishment with day excursions, planning responsibly and having the most appropriate gear will make a big difference to your peace of mind and overall enjoyment. Like the creatures that you are going to see, you are going to need to adapt to the situation. Please tour with respect for the environment and your guides who are there to ensure your safety and the preservation of this unique place.
First, schedule your flights into and out of Ecuador to allow yourself several days on the mainland before and after your flights to the Galapagos. Most international flights arrive late at night and the flights for the Galapagos leave early in the morning - no time to accommodate delays. Tours are co-ordinated with flights from the mainland, which are typically booked by the tour operator. If you miss your flight you will find that your ship has sailed and there is no way that you can catch up with your tour. Seriously! Returning, you could encounter problems, if late for your independently booked "connecting '' international flight. There are wonderful things to see and do in either Quito or Guayaquil so plan accordingly, relax and enjoy.
What should you bring to thrive and survive? Your tour operator will likely give you a general packing list. What we offer here is an experienced based perspective and advice regarding key items.
Lockable, waterproof, soft-sided, duffel or expedition luggage. Keep it light. If you are travelling on a longer trip and have gear that is not required in the Galapagos, plan to store a bag at your mainland hotel. Once you get to the Galapagos, your luggage is likely to go directly to your accommodation - come dressed for a land-based excursion. It is possible you will see tortoises in the wild and find yourself crawling on your belly in the mud to meet them. In the meantime, your luggage will be on its own adventure in a panga (open zodiac) bouncing through the waves and enjoying the fresh salty sea spray. Once you meet each other in your room you will be glad that you selected a bag that sat snuggly in the luggage pile, kept things dry, will compress to fit under the bed or in the back of a tiny closet and lock to store valuables.
For on-shore excursions, waterproof, well fitting, holds a water bottle, camera, wind jacket. You will be jumping out of the panga into the surf or onto rocky ledges so hands-free is important. Nothing too pretty, the sea lions like to sleep on your pack while you're swimming. If not waterproof, bring zip-lock plastic bags to protect contents. Also, toss in a compresses-into-nothing tote bag for corralling your towels and scuba gear in the panga and protecting stuff while snorkelling.
Don't expect to get bottled water on board. Bring your own environmentally friendly water bottle to fill.
- Excursions - Most lists suggest hiking boots or walking shoes for dry landings and Teva/Chaco style water sports sandals for wet landings. We recommend an old pair of running shoes or if you're comfortable with them, the sports sandals for dry landings. You need a sturdy sole for durability and balance as the paths are very rocky. Why old running shoes? Because you are going to get poop on your shoes - boobie poop, iguana poop, sea lion poop! Your shoes will be washed off as you get back on the boat. These damp shoes will sit outside in the salt air and ferment. No matter how well you treat them they will stink forever after. Don't bring the hiking boots destined for the Inca Trail! The sports sandals work for wet landings but we much prefer surf socks. The wet landings are on sandy beaches and the surf moves the sand, right under every strap of your sandals, where it is impossible to get out. Surf socks stay on in the surf and are tight enough to keep the sand out, allowing you to explore on land in comfort.
- On Board - It's nice to have a pair of soft-soled flipflops or light deck shoes. Most people spend most of the time wandering around in bare feet - but we prefer a little something between our feet and the public property. At least, be a responsible traveller, please come with clean well-groomed footsies - don't gross out your guide, who in Inca tradition believes cleanliness is godliness.
Bring PLENTY of US$ CASH. There are a few ATM machines in the major ports on the Islands, however, they are extremely unreliable, and you may not get a chance to access one. You need to come prepared. Check to see what add-ons your tour operator will allow you to charge to a credit card, and which cards - some may not accept any. You will need to consider how much you expect to spend on extras, like adult beverages, and wetsuit rentals. Add some for souvenirs, snacks or a beer while waiting for the boat. Make sure you have some cash for emergency purchases in town, perhaps a visit to the doctor and or for medication - figure at least $50/traveller. You will want an emergency $100/traveller in case your tour operator did not arrange for your Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee, which you will need to pay for in cash upon arrival at the airport. Then there are TIPs - the responsible traveller realizes that this is an important part of the take-home pay for your guides, boat crew and staff members. Allocate $30/traveller/day for acknowledging these people that are keeping you informed, happy and safe. If you have had special services by an individual, tip them directly - allocation from tip pools is not always fair.
Did you know that sunscreen that contains oxybenzone is toxic to coral reefs? A reef-friendly sunscreen that contains titanium or zinc oxide seems to be ok, but we think it is wise to reduce the amount of sunscreen polluting the ocean as much as possible. You will need serious sun protection, please protect as much as possible without using sunscreen - make sure you have a hat, light scarf for your neck, comfortable light protective clothing and a rash guard for snorkelling.
You will be out at sea, away from civilization for several days at a time, so you'll need a personal first aid kit with everything from painkillers to full spectrum antibiotics. The ocean can be rough, so even if you don't think you are prone to seasickness, come prepared. We like to carry candied ginger, ginger tablets or tea to settle the tummy on a stormy night. There is only a small local clinic/hospital in Puerto Ayora. Serious medical issues - you will be interrupting your trip and travelling by air ambulance to mainland Ecuador. It is imperative that you have travel/medical insurance.