Galapagos (May 25 to June 1, 2016)

Galapagos has an awe-striking view. At the waterfront you have clear, blue water as far as the eye can see. We stayed on the main island, Santa Cruz. There is a lot of activities you can do here and then do day trips to do on nearby, smaller, uninhabited islands. These unpopulated island would be the dream home location for my introverted travel buddy who didn’t hide his thoughts from me.

 Santa Cruz Waterfront

Santa Cruz Waterfront

Charles Darwin Research Center was our first main destination. The center is an easy 15min walk away and totally free (my favorite price). Here we learned a little more about how Galapagos got its fame and what society is actively doing to preserve the islands for nature and the domestic animals. They also have a giant tortoise breeding station and we got to see some of the turtles and iguanas.

In the evening the waterfront dock is a hotspot. The lights mounted under the dock attract fish, which in turn lure small sharks, sting rays, and pelicans. All the wild animals is my favorite part about Galapagos. I’d be walking to my destination and suddenly I come across a creature and they get reaching-distance close. Perfect selfie conditions.

The sea turtle I swam next to the following day gave me butterfly-excitement. We took a snorkeling tour to La Fe and Pinzon Island. So I was in the midst of many swarms of tropical fish and encountered a blue footed booby as well. Because of the clear water, spotting the different fauna was easy and I got to get a good look at them. Definitely go snorkeling at least once if you get the chance.

But if you go snorkeling during cold season, don’t let the tour operator tell you that you don’t need a wetsuit! Some others on our boat booked their tour with a different agency and got a lifesaving wetsuit. My friend sat out the third spot in fear of hypothermia. I could have used one, a little bit because I was cold, but mostly to shield my back from the sun because I got a huge, strong sunburn on my back, even though I applied sunscreen multiple times. (Yay for white people problems!)

On the second snorkeling spot, we came across a huge current. I’m an experienced, fit swimmer and I struggled swimming past. The guide wasn’t very good at making sure all his flock were together. There were two stragglers in the back and I thought they were taking their sweet time observing the fish. My friend on the other hand mentioned that they yelled something across the water. So we swam our way back and I asked them if they were ok. They were not. Being fatigued, they couldn’t make their way past the current. I grabbed the hand of the one Chilean woman and prayed that I could push through a second time while taking along another person. Pure joy when I arrived at the boat. And a mini hero was born.

Recovered from the swimming, the next day we headed to a lava cave as well as a tortoise ranch. In the name of on-a-budget, we tried to be smart and take a local bus instead of an expensive cab. Everything seemed to go smooth until we got to our stop, Santa Rosa, and still had to go to the next town over with no second bus or cabs available there. Without us asking, the local lady sitting next to us inquired where we were going and tried to get a cab arranged because she thought on foot would be too confusing direction wise and too far. Super friendly, but we ended up walking anyways. I think the stretch took us 30min? Not so bad. Leaving our destination we had to walk the same stretch and then hitchhike on a random, bypassing bus that was going to our town. Check out my post on ‘Baños and Guayaquil’ to see how the busses work. We did end up saving $28 each for not taking the cab.

At the actual ranch, we meandered and got to see turtles that were bigger than me if I rolled into a ball. They were huge! Takes a turtle at least a century to get that size. These turtles are not fenced in. If I ignored the signs, I could have easily touched every single tortoise I encountered. At the same location, the lava cave were nice and cool. There were three separate small caves to go though. Before and after our sightseeing there, we drank complimentary tea and coffee at the ranch, relaxed and enjoyed the ambiance.

 On the way to the ranch

On the way to the ranch

The next and last excursion on Galapagos was to Isabela Island. Isabela Island is another larger, populated island and there is only 1 method of transportation offered to get across the water, and hence overpriced at $30 USD for a one-way, 2 hour boat ride. This does not include the water taxies you have to take from the dock to the boat. In the end we each paid $63 USD and a surprise $5 USD entry fee at Isabela.

Most tours offered on this island are day tours which don’t come back until the evening. Unlike us, I would suggest that you spend a night on the island to get to savor the scenery to the fullest and get to explore parts of the island which are further away from the dock. We took a stroll down a pathway where we saw flamingos. This way contained various plants and gave the feeling as if we were meandering through many different ecological systems, and at the end, we stopped at a tortoise breeding center.

Galapagos overall is extremely exorbitant and not a place for people without deep pockets. Even the food is triple the price compared to the rest of Ecuador. In hindsight, maybe a future trip separated from my budget-conscious backpacking trip would be better so I’m less sensitive of my dwindling wallet. I’m still glad I went and to have all these precious memories I can keep with me forever.

Cost breakdown of Galapagos in USD:
• Housing: $87.5 (7 nights)
• Transportation: $408.47 (includes flight)
• Food: $45.53
• Activity: $238
• Miscellaneous: $11.9 (Aloe Vera)

Average Daily Cost: $113.06