How to get to Ecuador
The country of Ecuador can be reached from many major airports around the world. Private yachts with special licenses can sail to the Galápagos Islands, but most travellers take one of the regular flights to the islands. To visit the islands, you will be screened to make sure you aren't bringing any banned fruit or vegetables with you.
What To See
Both Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands offer adventures in different landscapes. Try any of the following to see the wildlife of Ecuador:
Snorkelling in the Galápagos. Swim through the crystal-clear blue waters around Galápagos and view its unique marine wildlife up close. Watch marine iguanas dive, swim with sharks, and float above sting rays.
Canoeing in Cuyabeno Nature Reserve. Hire a guide to take you on a tour through the flooded rain forest, part of the larger Amazon rain forest. Delight in colourful macaws, pink river dolphins, and mighty anacondas.
Hiking. Climb some of the peaks in Cotopaxi National Park for a different wildlife experience. Tapirs, pudu and the Andean fox are just some of the wildlife you might come across. If you're very lucky you may even see an Andean condor, one of the rarest birds in Ecuador.
Visit the Galápagos National Park. Strict regulations govern tourism in Galápagos National Park because of the fragility of the ecosystem. This UNESCO Heritage Site is home to some of the most unique organisms on the planet and was critical to Darwin's “On the Origin of Species.”
What Animals Will I See?
The Galápagos Islands provide a unique ecosystem that supports a variety of wildlife. The islands were never attached to the mainland so all inhabitants either flew or swam to reach the island. In addition Darwin's famous finches, some of the more notable fauna of the Galápagos are:
The Galápagos Tortoise. This tortoise is an incredible creature with a lifespan greater than 150 years. Many weigh in at over 400kg/880lb.
The Marine Iguana. This iguana is the only living lizard that feeds in the ocean. These large lizards can dive up to 10m/30 ft in search of marine algae. Their faces sometimes appear white as they shed absorbed salt.
The Galápagos Cormorant. This is one of many distinct bird species on the island. It is also called the Flightless Cormorant because it has lost the ability to fly.
The animals of Ecuador's mainland are less unique, but no less stunning. Much of mainland Ecuador is covered in tropical rain forest and is part of the greater Amazon rain forest system. Some of the creatures found in Ecuador's jungles include:
Ocelots. A small wild cat, ocelots are rarely seen but are prevalent across most of South America.
River dolphins. These dolphins live in many of Ecuador's rivers. Due to the murky river water, river dolphins have smaller eyes and poorer vision than their marine relatives.
Tapirs. Tapirs are a pig-like creatures that roam Ecuador. Though they look like pigs, they are more closely related to horses.
Different wildlife also live in Ecuador's paramo, a grasslands area around the Andes mountains. Visitors to the paramo may encounter:
Spectacled Bears. The last remaining short-faced bear, Spectacled Bears are named for their distinctive facial markings.
Vicuña. The vicuña, a relative of llamas and alpacas, is the national animal of Ecuador. Their wool is so fine and rare that for many years anyone but royalty was forbidden from wearing garments made from vicuña wool.
Andean Condor. The Andean Condor has the largest wingspan of any land bird. This bird is very rare in Ecuador, but has been rebounding in recent years.
Eye on the Weather
Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands are on the equator so the climate is usually quite warm. In the warmer season, which runs from June to September, temperatures generally remain between 70 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 31 degrees Celsius). From October to Mat the temperature ranges from 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (19 to 27 degrees Celsius). It rains frequently but not heavily in Ecuador.
What to Pack
Take the following items to prepare for Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands:
Appropriate clothes. The weather is generally mild, so bring light clothes and extra layers for the occasional cool rain spell.
Rain gear. Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands are known for misty rain. You won't need too much rain gear as the rain is usually light.
Snorkelling gear. If you plan to snorkel, bring your own gear so you won't have to rent it.
Sun protection. Bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen to protect from sunburn. As close to the equator as Ecuador is, it's easy to sunburn before you even realize it.
U.S. dollars. The official currency of Ecuador is the American dollar.
Shoes. You may wish to bring a sandal type of shoe as well as a more solid hiking shoe. You might appreciate the ease of being able to walk in the water with your sandals without taking off socks or unlacing boots.
Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands are fantastic destinations to experience some of the most diverse life forms on the planet. You will never forget your time in this amazing tropical paradise.