Choose Your Own Adventure: The Galapagos

Maddi Higgins March 31, 2014 13

What is your ideal way to explore the Galapagos Islands? Is it to kayak against the tide, warming your muscles as you cruise past lava rocks covered in marine iguanas? Or carefully photograph every marquis species that left Charles Darwin wide eyed? Or snorkel among green turtles and sea lions?

We offer six different ways to explore the islands. This primer will help you decide which itinerary is right for you.

Classic Galapagos Adventure

Photo © Roberto Plaza/Natural Habitat Adventures

The Bolivar Channel, off the west coast of Isabela island, is a prime spot for whale-viewing. Photo © Roberto Plaza/Natural Habitat Adventures

Ideal for: Those seeking the quintessential Galapagos experience.
Why go: This tour hits the highlights of the islands, allowing you to check off the most popular species and sites from your bucket list while still enjoying isolation from other tourists.
Don’t miss: A visit to the Darwin Station, to see wiggly baby tortoises bred specifically to help bolster the islands’ depleted tortoise populations. This is a key goal at the facility, in addition to researchers’ collaborative projects with other conservationists, including staff from WWF, to preserve the islands.
Consider another trip if: You want to work up a sweat. While this trip is active, it’s not as sporty as other offerings we have in the Galapagos. Also, if you’re big-time susceptible to seasickness, you might want to consider our land-based Galapagos journey instead.

Lodge-Based Galapagos Adventure

© Eric Rock/Natural Habitat Adventures

Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and tour the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Santa Cruz island. The program has returned more than 5,000 tortoises to the wild. Photo © Eric Rock/Natural Habitat Adventures

Ideal for: People who like to stretch out at night when they sleep.
Why go: Creature comforts are a primary consideration for this adventure. Rather than spend time aboard a ship, which is how most travelers visit the Galapagos, you’ll get to keep your feet on terra firma, staying overnight in roomy lodges instead of cozy shipboard cabins. You’ll commute between islands via speedboat, so you’ll still have opportunities to see different animals and landscapes.
Don’t miss: Spending the night at an exclusive Galapagos Safari Camp. It’s just like being on safari in Africa, snoozing in well-appointed canvas tents surrounded by the sounds of nature. Keep an eye out for wild giant tortoises sauntering through the grounds.
Consider another trip if:  You want to experience a greater variety of ecosystems. This trip covers four islands, whereas other journeys take you to more.

Galapagos Hiking & Kayaking

Catching a ride in the Galapagos Photo © Sandy Draus

Catching a ride in the Galapagos. Though sea lions are the most common mammal in the Galapagos,  they are vulnerable to the effects of climate change on ocean currents, which impacts their fish prey abundance.Photo © Sandy Draus

Ideal for: Adventurous spirits; energetic, athlete types.
Why go: Nat Hab is one of the few travel companies in the world with kayaking permits for the Galapagos. And what a way to check out the islands! Kayaking brings you even closer to wildlife — could you imagine a seal hopping on your bow to hitch a ride? It’s happened quite a few times. So this adventure definitely allows you to see wildlife in a way few others get to experience.
Don’t miss: Climbing to the highest point of Bartolome Island for 360-degree views. During the trek to the top, you’ll pass by such intriguing geological formations as spatter cones, tuff cones and lava tubes.
Consider another trip if: You’re not looking to be ultra-sporty. All of our Galapagos trips are active, but this one is especially so.

Ultimate Galapagos Explorer

Blue-footed booby in the Galapagos

When you visit San Cristobal island, make sure you keep an eye out for the blue-footed booby. Photo Cassiano “Zapa” Zaparoli/Natural Habitat Adventures

Ideal for: People with FOMO (“fear of missing out”).
Why go: This itinerary hits a whopping 12 islands, making it the most comprehensive tour of the Galapagos available on the market today. Visiting the Galapagos is a once-in-a-life experience; this itinerary sets you up to see everything there is to be seen.
Don’t miss: Exploring Cerro Brujo, a breathtaking white coral beach considered one of the most spectacular in Galapagos. The beach is on the island of San Cristobal, which is home to great blue-footed and Nazca boobies and a colony of sea lions.
Consider another trip if: Eighteen days (plus travel time) is way too many to be away from home or work. Some of our shorter itineraries may work better with your schedule.

Classic Galapagos Photo Adventure

Photography adventure in the Galapagos

Small groups allow for more personal time with Galapagos wildlife, giving photographers the chance to capture that perfect close-up image.
Photo © Patrick Endres/Natural Habitat Adventures

Ideal for: Experienced photographers; novice shooters who are enthusiastic learners.
Why go: Superbly trained naturalists who also work as professional photographers lead these expeditions. While all of our Galapagos trips feature small groups, the photo tours have even fewer guests, to ensure enough elbow room to take the best shots, space for your gear and the utmost in flexibility to pursue photo opportunities as they arise.
Don’t miss: Rising early with the sun to capitalize on the best light. Could you imagine waking up early on Genovesa Island to photograph great frigatebirds and red-footed boobies against the golden light? Also, many of the animals here are nonchalant about human presence, making exciting close-up photography very easy.
Consider another trip if: You get restless easily. Photographers like to linger in one place to get that perfect shot.

Family Galapagos Adventure

Family traveling through the Galapagos Islands

A dedicated children’s guide and a variety of activities and wildlife pleases all ages.
Photo © Cassiano “Zapa” Zaparoli/Natural Habitat Adventures

Ideal for: Moms, dads and their always-curious children; grandparents and grandchildren.
Why go: A dedicated children’s guide leads activities especially designed for children; even teenagers will find the goings-on suitable. You’ll share wondrous nature encounters with a few other families who share your passion for nature—and not with head-shaking grownups who’d rather not be on a tour with kiddies.
Don’t miss: Kids love water, and there is no more exciting aquatic activity than snorkeling with the friendly creatures of the Galapagos. Snorkeling off the coasts of Isabela and Fernandina islands brings encounters with green turtles, marine iguanas and sea lions.
Consider another trip if: You have older teenagers. They could easily handle the activities of our other adventures.

Learn more
Kayaking the Galapagos Islands: Q & A with NHA Guide Champi Rodriguez
The Magic of Galapagos Through a Kid’s Eyes


  1. Judi April 9, 2014 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    So glad to find this.
    I have a trip to the Galapagos planned.

  2. Sherrie R. April 9, 2014 at 8:54 am - Reply

    My preferred way to enjoy/tour the fragile ecosystem that is Galapagos would be to view online & reduce intrusion on that delicate environment. True, there’s nothing quite like being there, but we shouldn’t destroy what we need & love to appreciate.

    • Maddi Higgins April 23, 2014 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      Photos are a great, sustainable way to experience the Galapagos. However, sustainable tourism is also an important conservation tool in the Galapagos and around the world. The Galapagos is a WWF priority place for conservation. In our work, we use ecotourism to support local communities, incentivizing conservation by connecting it to income. Check out this article by Jim Sano, WWF’s VP of Travel, Tourism and Conservation, for more info about why WWF believes sustainable tourism is important. You can also go here to learn more about WWF’s work on sustainable tourism in the Galapagos.

  3. Louis Joseph Adama Reyes Iii April 9, 2014 at 6:08 am - Reply

    I would chose the snorkeling as there is nothing like experiencing everything first hand!

  4. N. Millet April 9, 2014 at 5:01 am - Reply

    Went with WCS in 2000. One of my Greatest 2 week trips. Now we wish to return with others. Please send me info on the Photographers & the Ultimate Tours. Thank you very much.

    • Maddi Higgins April 23, 2014 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      You can send an email to or call (800) 543-8917 to get more info about the trips.

  5. Sharon LaForest April 9, 2014 at 3:49 am - Reply

    I would love to help in whatever jobs you have to do. I am a senior living on Social Security. Not enough money to pay for my trip. Good luck to all of you. Do the good work. Sharon LaForest

  6. Brian Daniel Harvey April 9, 2014 at 3:10 am - Reply

    Wednesday, 9 April 2014

    Who did your photo research and photo layout? Very handsome. A staff photographer? Or, did individual travellers contribute their own snaps? Or did tour guides take the pictures? Just curious as an archival photographic researcher.

    • Maddi Higgins April 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      All of the photos were taken on trips by NHA staff and guides. We’re lucky to have such great photographers.

  7. paul April 2, 2014 at 11:06 am - Reply

    Do you have any Galapegos trips that depart from an US airport and fly directly to the Galapegos? I do not wish to land in mainland Equador.

    • Emily Deemer May 6, 2014 at 11:30 am - Reply

      Hi Paul,

      Unfortunately there are no flights from the U.S. to the Galapagos Islands. The only way to get there is from Quito or Guayquil. If you have any questions, feel free to email or call (800) 543-8917 and one of our Adventure Specialists can help you out!


  8. faith klein April 2, 2014 at 7:52 am - Reply

    you mention snorkeling , which I very much want to do….but which trip includes this? Not indicated. Please advise.

    • Maddi Higgins April 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      All of the Galapagos trips include snorkeling, but I would recommend the Hiking & Kayaking trip if you want snorkeling as a main focus.

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