The best way to see the Galapagos is on a cruise which takes in a few of the different islands in the area. There are different cruise options – luxury, mid or budget, but whichever cruise you decide to go for, there are a few essential items you will need.
Even if you never get seasick, it is a good idea to have some pills on hand. The seas around the Galapagos can be rough in the dry season, and being sick can spoil your entire holiday. It’s better to be safe than sorry – bring more than you think you need. There are only two major ports in the Galapagos where you can find a pharmacist.
The terrain on the islands range from sloping, sandy paths to rocky, uneven areas. There will be wet landings as well as dry docks. I brought a pair of open toed Teva sport sandals which served me fine for all occasions. They got torn up a little on Isabela due to the hard volcanic rock – you may want to bring a pair of hiking boots if you are nervous about getting your toes stubbed, however my Tevas worked perfectly, were lighter to carry and kept my feet cool.
The diving and snorkelling in the Galapagos are among the best in the world, so don’t forget to pack your swimmers. If you are visiting during the dry season, when the currents are cold, you may want to bring your own wetsuit (at least 5mm), snorkel, mask or scuba unit – or you can rent equipment off your cruise.
Video or photography gear
Don’t forget your camera! Tripods can come in useful, but keep in mind that the wildlife will be pretty close up, so unless you are shooting mostly macros, you won’t really need a tripod. If you plan on shooting videos, a tripod might come in useful. I used a catch-all 18-135mm zoom lens – on the Galapagos you won’t really need 300mm lenses – the animals are very close! Bring extra batteries and ziplock bags to keep your gear dry during wet landings. If you own an underwater housing for your camera, pack that too – the underwater photo ops with sea lions, diving cormorants and turtles are endless!
Stock up on sunscreen – there are only two ports in the islands where you can buy it. A waterproof, SPF 30 or SPF 45 sunscreen will give the most protection. Remember to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you go out into the sun. Bring a hat and sunglasses. If you burn easily, pack thin, cotton, long sleeved shirts and trousers to protect your skin from the sun.
Cruising around the Galapagos, you may find yourself hours away from the nearest medical facility. Pack extra medication – more than you think you will need. Also pack a basic first aid kit to cover any emergencies or accidents. If you are flying in from Quito, the elevation (3,000m or 9,000 feet) may affect you, so bring some aspirin or Diamox to relieve altitude sickness.