Feathery Island Days
There are many books available covering the various aspects of Galapagos subject matter. Preparatory reading about the unique archipelago, its geological formation, unusual flora and fauna, and the history of mankind's interactions there is very important. It enhances the upcoming visit just as reading again after the trip serves to extend and enrich its pleasure. I found Pierre Constant's The Galapagos Islands and Tui De Roy's knockout photograph-essays in Galapagos, Islands Born of Fire particularly informative. For birding enthusiasts there is an excellent small book, A Guide to the Birds of Galapagos, by Isabel Castro and Antonia Phillips.
A Galapagos cruise is an active expedition, highlighting about seven hours on foot during two outings every day for island visiting. Tourists should be in good hiking condition and prepared to participate; one departs well exercised and returns in even better shape!
Plan the way you would for any day hike. Secure an essential pair of strong walking shoes. Clothing should also be sturdy, comfortable and informal: shorts, one to two pairs of longer pants, outdoor shirts, and a light jacket and/or sweatshirt for breezy heights. A brimmed hat, sunglasses and strong sunscreen are well advised. A nicer top will suffice at dinner on the ship. Since space onboard may be limited, small to medium size luggage makes sense.
Simple water shoes are a must for wet landings; passengers frequently disembark from boat-to-shore launches into shallow beach waters or onto wet rocks. Twice daily the launches presented a challenge for this traveler and others with short legs. Try to improvise some chest-high (unsteady!) verticals and practice climbing over them to get in shape!
A water-repellent daypack or solid canvas bag is vital to carry belongings from the home boat to shore. Sometimes we parked our bags at the foot of a climb or on the arrival beach before heading off on an island trail.
Certainly birders and critter-watchers, but probably everyone should bring along binoculars. An aluminum portable scope may well serve the accomplished birder as will a bird guidebook.
Camera equipment is a must in the stunning surroundings. Galapagos Islands provide endless variety of precious subject matter to observe and photograph. Snorkelers should bring underwater cameras for some of the fish and turtle cove scenes. They may be joined by sea lions that like to swim circles around them and play. Rubber suits, flippers, and masks are often available for rent on the boats.
Swimmers will want to bring their bathing suits, although towels are generously provided on board. Be forewarned: The crystal ocean waters are mighty cold, marvelously refreshing. No trappings are necessary to enjoy resting, ambling, and lounging on pristine sand beaches among treasures of shells (which must be left there).
Another important item to remember is cash. American dollars go very far in local purchases and are welcomed staff gratuities. And dollars are required for paying the $100 national park entry fee upon arrival.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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