Before visiting the Galapagos with Galakiwi a few months back, I had no idea that land-based tours were even an option.
All I’d ever heard about were cruises, and I (wrongly) assumed they were the only way to go.
You know what they say about assumptions? It’s true, in this case especially.
I’ll let you in an a well-kept secret: cruises are NOT the only choice, and they’re not even the best way to experience the Galapagos Islands.
Top 7 Reasons Land-Based Tourism is the Way to Go in the Galapagos
1. You’ll bypass the crowds
skipping the crowds and getting a lot of guide face time with land-based tours
Most of the Galapagos cruise ships are pretty big, and have a sadly low ratio of guides to guests.
When you’re packed on a cruise ship of up to 100 (or more) people, you can imagine how busy each excursion will be. Every guest participating will need to load onto a smaller boat from the main cruise ship to head to the activity location… and you’ll need to wait for each and every one.
When you opt to go land-based, you’re surrounded by fewer people, which means more animal interactions (as there will be fewer people crowded around and less likelihood of scaring the critters off) and less time waiting in the shuffle to and from each activity.
2. You’ll get in touch with locals + local life
learning about local flora with a local guide
The Galapagos is NOT the deserted wilderness I thought it was. People are a big part of the equation. Going land-based gets you more interaction with local people and their culture, rather than purposely separated from them on a cruise ship.
Skipping the cruise ship means that you don’t need to retreat to the ship to sleep or eat, you get to spend as much time as you want amongst the people and on the islands.
Staying on the islands means that you can go hiking, walk trails, and have more time in touch with nature and the land.
3. You’ll avoid seasickness
not puking my guts out — on the boat for a max few hours at a time
Seasickness is a real concern.
Especially depending on the size of the ship and the motion of the ocean, seasickness can strike anyone and everyone, even the most seasoned seaman.
You don’t want to waste ANY portion of your dream trip puking your guts out. On a cruise ship, there’s no escape from seasickness, you’ve just got to suck it up and get over it.
4. You’ll keep your tourism dollars local
staying in a beautiful local hotel
Instead of a few people at the top of the cruise ship company making the profit (very rarely is a cruise ship owned and operated by the same person or family, usually the person owning the company is not the same one participating in day to day operations), going land-based means that local people get to share the tourism wealth.
Staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants, and using a land-based tour operator means that you’ll be distributing your tourism dollars among many local businesses.
Cruise ships come and go, but land-based businesses are there on the islands year-round, operated by local families. The local, land-based businesses use and spend their money on the islands, while spending on a cruise sends the money off the island.
5. You’ll have more options
choosing vegetarian dishes at delicious local restaurants
There are a limited number of cruise ships companies. When you choose one of those companies for your trip, your options are then significantly limited to what that particular ship offers in terms of accommodation, dining options, and activities.
Don’t like what’s for dinner? Too bad, you’re stuck on a ship!
If you opt to go land-based (like with Galakiwi, as I did), there are a wide range of tour types to choose from. Within each tour, you are also given options for activities and dining, in addition to ample free time. Choosing a land-based tour is more adaptable for special diets, as restaurants on land have a wider menu range.
The smaller group size and land-base is also more accommodating for special needs, including tours for people with physical disabilities and for elderly people.
6. You’ll further encourage conservation
visiting the tortoise breeding center
Tourism and conservation go hand-in-hand, which is especially evident in the Galapagos. One specific example is the tortoises on the Galapagos. Locals used to eat the tortoises and were nearly hunted to extinction. Now, with the advent of tourism, tortoises are protected and breeding centers (and therefore: more jobs) have been established.
Tourism provides money to locals which incentivizes environmental protection. Tourists like to see healthy happy animals, and business owners like to see profits. Everybody wins!
Tourism also offers fishermen and potential poachers second careers as snorkel boat captains and more local job opportunities.
Local land-based tourism allows former cruise ship employees to return home to their houses and families, and to open restaurants, hotels, tour operations, and bike rentals instead of working for third party companies.
7. You’ll be more independent
personally, I enjoy sampling local cocktails
Going land-based means that you can experience aspects of the Galapagos like you would enjoy in any place.
If you typically enjoy lazy afternoons in coffee shops, going for a hike, or doing yoga on the beach, you can continue those activities with a land-based tour rather than being cramped up in a cruise ship. Land-based means you have a lot more freedom of time and space.
You feel like taking an after-dinner walk along the promenade? Go ahead!
Fancy wandering down to see the sea lions sleeping on the beach? Do it!
Grabbing cocktails at the corner bar with your guide or some new friends? Enjoy!