What is the difference between a naturalist and multisport trip in the Galapagos Islands?

Cerro Brujo Beach, San Cristobal (Galapagos)
Biking with Tortoises
Biking with Tortoises on an Ecuador Adventure Multisport

There are two main types of trips in the Galapagos: naturalist tours and multisport tours.  Naturalist Tours are the standard type of guided trip in the Galapagos wherein you go for guided walking and snorkeling excursions each day.  Multisports are the more active and adventurous alternative to this standard tour.  Both tours are geared towards wildlife viewing and each has their own advantages.

So here are the basics to know about each trip.  On Naturalist tours, you overnight either on a yacht or in land-based lodges.  Multisport tours are only land-based, so you overnight in lodges on one or usually more Islands.  There are all sorts of trip lengths for both types of trips, from 5 to 9 days (or 15 days for the cruises).  Naturalist tours are a bit more sedentary since your guided walks are pretty slow and your snorkeling excursions are demanding – that being said, you’re still out and about all day, so you’re always bus.  Multisport tours are much more active, in that you’re exploring by hiking, stand-up paddling, biking, sea kayaking, and snorkeling.

Frigate Bird
Male Frigate Bird Courtship Display

Beyond these basics, it can be difficult for travelers to figure out what will really be different in terms of wildlife and scenery.  For our explanation below, we have detailed the differences between a weeklong Multisport and a typical naturalist cruise.

The wildlife you see is a bit different on each type of tour.  Weeklong multisport trips tend to have better snorkeling because they have access to sites that cruises do not, therefore you’ll be seeing more underwater wildlife like sea turtles, Galapagos Sharks, rays, Galapagos Penguins, sea lions, tropical fish, etc.  The cruises visit places with bigger populations of birdlife, so you’ll see big colonies of blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, and flightless cormorants; plus they visit a more diverse array of Islands, so you’ll see more subspecies (like different finches on different Islands).  However, on both trips, you’re going to see both birdlife and go snorkeling, it’s just that the Multisport’s true advantage is the snorkeling (even though you still see colonies of frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, etc.) and the cruises’ advantage is seeing more diverse and bigger populations of birdlife (you still do a lot of snorkeling, but the boats just don’t have access to the very best sites).  There are two snorkeling sites in particular that are completely restricted to cruises groups and are considered the top snorkeling destinations in the Galapagos: Kicker Rock/Leon Dormido and Los Tunneles.

Land-based naturalist trips don’t see quite as much wildlife as cruises or multisports – but are still a nice way to get out and see the major species and sites.

On a multisport or naturalist trip, if you’re interested in wildlife, you certainly won’t be bored.  The Galapagos is an exciting destination no matter how you explore the islands.