Giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, indigenous sea lions and penguins, manta rays and hammerhead sharks, flightless cormorants and frigate birds: Without a doubt, nature reigns supreme in the Galapagos Islands, one of the world’s most revered yet remote ecosystems.
And while conservation efforts top the list of priorities for this volcanic island chain that was all but unknown to civilization until several hundred years ago—a visit by Charles Darwin in the 1830s later inspired his most famous book, On the Origin of Species—don’t think for even a second that you’ll have to rough it on your Galapagos honeymoon. All but three of the 20 islands are uninhabited, which means the best way to explore the Galapagos is by boat—yachts, catamarans and small-to-midsize cruise ships that are outfitted with plenty of modern comforts.
Located some 600 miles off the coast of South America, the Galapagos are largely a protected national park of Ecuador with just a few pockets of civilization. The total number of visitors within Galapagos National Park at any given time is highly regulated, as are the number and type of watercraft that receive permits to operate here. And every water and land excursion, whether as part of your cruise or through a local tour company, will be led by a certified naturalist guide, in accordance with park regulations.
They’re a wonderful wealth of knowledge and also ensure visitors leave no trace.
As the Galapagos Islands straddle the equator, year-round temperates are generally warm, with lows dipping into the 60s and highs topping out in the 80s. That being said, there is a warmer, more tropical rainy season (December through May) that brings a profusion of green to the islands and a drier season with stronger winds (June through November). Sea temperatures are comfortable for snorkeling and diving year round with a light wetsuit.
While daily direct flights connect the Galapagos with a handful of cities on the mainland, there are enough details involved in getting you and the hubs to your floating honeymoon home away from home that it’s a good idea to leave transportation logistics to professionals. As an example, Galapagos cruise itineraries for Celebrity Cruises, the only major international cruise line to have ships in the islands, often include a day or so on the ground in Quito, with complimentary meals and excursions before a private charter plane takes guests directly to the Galapagos for embarkment.
About Those Animals…
The Galapagos are known for an abundance and variety of wildlife, including species that exist nowhere else on the planet. And the first time you land on the shore of a deserted beach, save for a few sea lions happily sunning themselves, you quickly realize that you’re but a guest in their world. You’ll have the chance to experience up-close encounters with all sorts of creatures that don’t seem to mind their curious visitors, in part because they haven’t really known predators.
When it comes to what wildlife you’ll see, every month in the Galapagos offers some variation of courtship, nesting, and hatching. In January, green sea turtles begin landing on beaches to lay their eggs. Marine iguanas nest en masse in February and March. Blue-footed boobies begin their courtship rituals in May, and in June, the giant tortoises on Santa Cruz island begin their migration from the highlands to the lowlands in search of nesting sites. The fall months bring the birth and antics of young sea lion pups, among other delights.
The bottom line: If there’s something specific that you want to see, ask your travel planner about the best time of year to visit. Otherwise, let Mother Nature surprise you. No doubt you're in for a treat!
Major Cruise News for 2019
When it comes to honeymoon cruises or cruises in general, it's not uncommon to book a sailing date 8, 10, 12 months or more in advance, and there's big news on the horizon for the Galapagos. In May 2019, Celebrity Cruises is launching a brand-new ship, the Celebrity Flora, a 100-passenger, all-suite ship designed specifically for touring the Galapagos Islands. All rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows, oversized bathrooms, and a personal suite attendant; many have private verandas.
Zodiac watercraft are typically used in the Galapagos for beach landings, eco-tours, and shuttling passengers between ship and shore. Celebrity Flora is the first ship in the islands to have a Zodiac loading bay, called The Marina, allowing for quicker and easier access to the shore boats. The ship is also among the most energy-efficient in its class; a dynamic geo-positioning navigation system will allow it to stay in a precise location without dropping an anchor onto the sea floor.
Don't want to wait until 2019 for your Galapagos honeymoon, or would your prefer a smaller-ship experience? Celebrity also offers luxury catamaran cruises on the Celebrity Xploration, which has just eight rooms and a maximum of 16 guests (from $3,999 for an Oceanview Stateroom), as well as a variety of itineraries on the Celebrity Xperience, which only has 24 rooms and a maximum of 48 guests (from $4,999 for an Oceanview Stateroom). All Celebrity cruises in the Galapagos are all-inclusive.