Perhaps I could jump in here as the writer of the Galapagos article just mentioned…Yes, I’d endorse what’s been said about the zodiacs on a Silversea Galapagos cruise. There are no places where ships can go alongside in the Galapagos so you do need to be able to get into and out of a zodiac boat to get ashore. The Silversea crew are always helpful and the platform on the ship’s side makes getting into the zodiac easy from the ship – you go down a flight of steps and the crew steady you as you step in. You then sit on one of the inflated sides of the zodiac, holding onto the ropes, as the boat heads for shore.
There is a mix of dry and wet landings. On the dry ones, you can step onto a landing stage ashore directly from the zodiac which is quite straightforward and the crew can again help you. For the wet landings however, you do need to be able to swing your legs over the side of the zodiac and into the water – usually only ankle-deep – to then walk a few metres to the shore. The trickier bit is after you’ve looked around the island and then need to get back into the zodiac. We found the easiest way was to walk into the ankle-deep water to the boat, then turn your back to it and with each arm on the zodiac’s side, to push yourself up onto the side of the boat. You don’t need to be strong or especially agile to do this – the crew will of course help – but you do need a certain amount of physical confidence. Plenty of men and women in their 70s on the cruise were having no problem with this at all, but if you were concerned you could just go ashore on the dry landings. I would recommend taking a cruise if you can as it’s the best way to appreciate the amazing diversity of the different island landscapes – and wildlife. The onboard naturalist guides are excellent and the cruise lines are very eco-conscious. As I understand it, it is the increase in unregulated visits by some less conscientious land operators that is putting most pressure on the islands’ eco-sysytems, not the cruise lines.
One of the Silvertraveladvisor team went to Galapagos with Silversea, you can read Gill’s review at https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/blog/cruise-small-ship-cruising/galapagos-islands?helpful=1
Gill did mention being nimble enough to get into the zodiac, so I think it’s sound advice to speak to Silversea or whichever cruise provider you may choose to see how they may be able to accommodate you specific requirements.
@Jandot – I can only speak about a smaller boat.
It might depend how impaired he is – can he manage stairs? (The cabin are down narrow stairs – and the bunks are narrow with not a lot of turning-round room in the cabin). Getting into a boat to go to the islands also involved stairs, and on some of the islands we went over the side of the boat into the water, carrying shoes – putting them on on the beach. The islands vary, some stonier or with easier walking than others. Can he swim? If he can’t walk so well he might be able to snorkel – provided he can get into the small boat (and get back into it from the water). Having said all that, the bigger boats might be easier. My advice – talk to a tour company and ask direct questions about access, and really pin them down on what is possible and what isn’t (some might hum and ha and you get there to find he can’t do much).
He could be land-based – staying on one island, or possibly two. There will still be plenty to see, if you are think about where you want to stay, but you don’t get to see just how varied all the islands are.
A place I’ve always wanted to visit – however as my husband is mobility impaired I’m not sure whether it would be suitable for him to visit. Any advice would be welcome.
Every island is different – they are volcanic and some are very old and green and established while others are little but stones and boulders. In addition, the wildlife differs from island to island – so you’ve find different species of iguana on different islands.
So, if you decide against a cruise, there are several things to consider:
- how much, and what variety, of wildlife are you hoping to see, and how are you hoping to see it (walking is strictly controlled – I don’t think there are any islands where you can wander where you like. This keeps the environment as unpolluted as possible, even by our smells and footprints!).
- do you want a beach? If so, it makes sense to think about a beach-front hotel.
- how much are you hoping to do other than look at the wildlife? If you just want to sit and read and look about, then one of the less populated islands will suit you. But if you need shops and people around, then you probably need to look at Puerto Ayora.
The bigger cruise ships can do considerable damage to the environment. But the smaller ones – much less so. I went on the Beagle (honest!) – 13 berths, plus crew. Smaller boats can also go much closer to the shore. I loved it – but if you are at all unsteady you might be better on land. You need to be able to scramble in and out of small boats, even more if you snorkel.
Having said that – I’m going back to Ecuador next year but am not going back to the Galapagos. Why? Because it was so unrepeatably wonderful.
My wife and I are interested in spending more time on the islands and taking our time to independently see the islands instead of the usual cruises. Which islands would people recommend, what are highlights and accommodation recommendations would be appreciated.