The Galapagos Islands, located off the coast of Ecuador, are one of the most magical destinations on the planet. Anywhere you go in the Galapagos, you can’t help but encounter amazing wildlife and be awed by breathtaking landscape. If you are considering a family travel destination to learn about wildlife and the environment, see why the Galapagos Islands should be at the top of your list.

Why Visit the Galapagos Islands

Young girl ready to photograph a young Sea Lion in the Galapagos Islands. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom

Young girl meets a Sea Lion pup in the Galapagos Islands. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom

The Galapagos Islands are an ideal destination for families that have an interest in wildlife. The animals are protected and have not learned to fear humans, so you are able to get quite close and take remarkable pictures. It is the perfect destination for wildlife photography, and especially for kids to gain confidence with their cameras.

A cruise is the best way to experience the Galapagos Islands. On board naturalists provide presentations and breifings so that your experience is as educational as it is enjoyable.  It’s nice to visit several islands while only having to unpack once, and having all meals ready for you on the boat after an excursion.

Wildlife on the Islands

Galapagos islands path

Visitors detour a Galapagos Sea Lion mother and pup on path. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom

At just about every spot you go ashore, you will be greeted by Sea Lions, Marine or Land Iguanas, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, or any number of bird species endemic to the Galapagos. Each island is different and offers a distinctive treasure of it’s own. For example, the highlands of Santa Cruz Island are home to the Galapagos Tortoise, while North Seymour Island is home to nesting colonies of the Magnificent Frigate Bird and the Blue-Footed Booby. Some islands are volcanic and rocky, while others are sandy and beachy. The onboard naturalists will give presentations and breif you on what to expect at each island.

Wildlife in the Water

As it happens, the abundant wildlife is not just found on land. To truly appreciate the variety of animals that call these islands home, you’ll have to get a little wet! Snorkelling is an excellent option for viewing life below the surface, and there are many opportunities for this exciting activity during a Galapagos cruise. Most Galapagos cruise operators are outfitted with snorkels, masks and fins onboard, but you can also bring your own. Be sure to check with the cruise operator if the equipment is included or available for an extra rental charge. Whatever the case, prepare to get wet!

There are two types of snorkelling opportunities. The first, beach entry, is just that – you stop at an island and enter the water from the shore. This is best for first time snorkellers and children. Most of the time you can see plenty where it is still shallow enough to stand up. The second involves entering the water directly from the boat. This is for more confident and skilled snorkellers, as usually it is “deep water” and you’ll be swimming without opportunity to stand. Life vests are provided and helpful in these circumstances.

Camera and Gear Tips for the Galapagos Islands

* Bring more memory cards than you think you will need, plus spare batteries (and a charger).
* A drysack is an ideal way to transport your camera from ship to shore on the zodiacs- sometimes you’ll be making wet landings and you will be glad for the protection a drysack offers your camera.
* Invest in an underwater camera, you’ll be glad you have it once you start swimming with sea lions and snorkelling with turtles! At the very least, find a waterproof case for your phone. My personal favorite underwater camera to take snorkelling is the Panasonic A500 wearable camera. It’s hand’s free and the camera sees what you see. Plus, there is a screen monitor to check your picture, and an app to playback and download shots and short videos to your phone.

What Animals Are Found in the Galapagos Islands?

Blue Footed Booby, Galapagos

Blue footed Booby of the Galapagos islands. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom.

There are so many species, but reading a list doesn’t really do it justice. Instead, here’s a short video featuring many animals you’ll encounter in the Galapagos Islands. Enjoy!