The following is a typed-up version of some very quick diary notes I took while travelling the Galapagos Islands. For a more sensible representation of what the Galapagos Islands are like please see Sarah’s post – The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in the Galapagos.
Tuesday 18th October 2016
Today I woke up in Guayaquil Ecuador, it’s not the nicest place in the world but our Hostel is pretty good – it has a shower and everything. We had a flight to catch at 10:40am so we had organised a taxi to come and collect us at 8:15am, it only cost $5. Breakfast consisted of toast, eggs, jam and coffee.
Somehow we managed to snag emergency exit seats on our flight to Baltra, considering we only paid $210 each for return flights this was an unexpected bonus. At the airport we also needed to pay $20 transit fee per person. I don’t know what this money is for.
The flight was fine, we arrived and immigration was nice and smooth – apart from the $100 national park fee that you need to pay before you enter the islands. We expected this and made sure we withdrew plenty of American dollars from the ATM in Guayaquil airport beforehand.
We immediately got on a bus from the airport down towards the canal. Here we hopped over to the island of Santa Cruz. We paid $1 each for the ferry. We were a little tired and didn’t really want to face waiting around for a bus – so we got a taxi for $18. It’s funny but all taxi’s on the Galapagos appear to be white pick-up trucks. I’m not sure of the reason for this.
The taxi took the most convenient route towards Puerto Ayora – a straight line through the island. I suppose the government had decided that a two-lane road through the centre of the island would be the least disruptive to local wildlife, considering most wildlife in Galapagos is Coastal.
We arrived at approximately two in the afternoon and spent a little time walking around with our big backpacks. We wanted to scope out a boat trip for a few days – possibly to join it in a few days time. We ended up signing up for a 6-day cruise for nearly a thousand dollars each – two hours before it departed!
Boat trips in Galapagos are all inclusive apart from snacks and alcohol, so we went to the nearby supermarket which is right on the port next to a large white church. Here we bought rum, beers and snacks for our journey – this cost $27.
We joined the boat and had a good look around. It was called the Aida Maria. It was pretty impressive.
Wednesday 19th October
We were up early for breakfast. Last night was pretty ropey, the ship was moving around quite a bit. The cabin is quite small and has a bunk bed in it. We both slept on the bottom. We didn’t want to fall off the top. It does have a private bathroom, though going toilet while rocking is a difficult task.
We landed on Puerto Villamil on Isabella island – our 2nd Island now (or 3rd if you include Balta). Here our group jumped off our zodiacs and hiked up the pier. The water was crazy clear – we could see Sea Lions floating around and even sea turtles swimming around.
The Zodiacs are little inflatable boats that the Aida Maria uses to transport it’s guests to and from the islands. They’re pretty cool.
On Isabella we hiked to the top of the Sierra Negra Caldera Rim. This is a huge crater that is essentially the mouth of a volcano. It’s called a caldera because it resembles a cauldron. There’s another one that is bigger in the world, I think it is in Africa.
We went back to the boat for lunch at around 1pm. We then went back to Isabella on the Zodiacs again and went to the Tortoise Sanctuary. We saw baby tortoises and big land tortoises. There used to be a famous tortoise on Galapagos called Lonesome George. He’s not lonesome any more though. He’s dead. Up in tortoise heaven no doubt. With all the rest of the Giant Tortoises who were killed when man first came to these islands.
We chose to walk back from the Tortoise sanctuary down a really nice path near mangroves all the way to the beach. There were a lot of iguanas on this beach but we didn’t see them until we’d nearly stepped on them.
We went back to the boat for dinner. It was very choppy. Sarah was very seasick.
Thursday 20th October
We got up again really early for breakfast, 6am. We disembarked at 8am to go do a hike over some lava fields. These were really impressive, it was a medium hike – approximately 45 minutes in total and there were loads of small lagoons inside the lava rock. Some had flamingoes, others had nothing at all. We did see some Sharks that had somehow become stranded in one of these lagoons. I think when the tide comes up they’ll be able to get out though – almost like a chill-out area for them.After the hike we did some snorkelling, I’m not the best swimmer in the world. Last time I snorkelled, I hit my foot on a rock, then immediately stood on a sea-urchin. Then obviously swallowed a mouthful of salt-water. A “triple-whammy” you could say.
This time I was much better, we snorkelled for over 45 minutes – the water was about 15 degrees. It was cold, we had to wear wetsuits. This was good though because wetsuits and flippers make it so much easier to float and you can concentrate more on the fish. Visibility wasn’t that great though – but we did see a turtle and plenty of fish!
In the afternoon we relaxed until about 2:30pm. We then went on a trip around the mangroves and saw cow-nosed rays – these swim in tight groups around and around the lagoon. We also saw about seven thousand turtles.
On the boat trip to and from the Aida Maria, there was a rock with so many birds on it – we saw our first Blue-Footed Boobies. It’s incredible how blue their feet actually are! We also saw Galapagos penguins which was also awesome.
Dinner was once again fantastic, we had some rum and coke and then fell asleep early at around 9pm.
Friday 21st October
Getting up early (6am) is easy when you fall asleep at 9pm. Today we visited Fernandina island. This is the island with all the Marine Iguanas. It’s pretty impressive.
At 8am we left and started walking around Fernandina, the route took us all around the coast. Here we saw maybe five million marine iguanas. They just don’t move, it’s all a bit strange. It does mean you can get some good photographs though.
We walked across more lava, you have to be careful because the iguanas naturally blend into the dark rocks – especially the really small lizards. We saw a lot of sea lions here too – and their cubs. There were many turtles and also a snake.
After the hike we snorkelled again, this time the visibility was much better but the waves were pretty strong – I got bashed against the rocks quite a bit – but I did see a few turtles and many more fish than yesterday.
In the afternoon we moved islands back towards Isabella. There was an option of a second snorkel, but my confidence was shaken a little bit and Sarah and I just sunbathed instead. We missed out on some rays but we did however see some flying fish and lots of boobies dive-bombing the water which was great.
The evening cruise was a long navigation but we were going to cross the equator! I was expecting something rather special to happen but unfortunately it didn’t. What I did do was look at the compass bearing on the phone.
We spent the evening chatting with some of our new found friends on the boat. A lovely New Zealand couple and their daughter celebrating their daughters 21st (we’re going NZ soon!) and a few other youngsters on their travels.
Saturday 22nd October
Today we got up a bit earlier and docked at Santiago island, this was apparently the last island that Darwin visited on his journeys. We had a wet landing at James Bay, which is essentially jumping into the beach. Here we hiked around on a black beach and saw lots of sea lions, hawks, herons and iguanas. We also saw some Fur Sea Lions which was a surprise.
We snorkelled just off the coast, we saw lots of turtles, in fact I was a little scared that the sea turtles were going to peck at me as I was floating right above them. They weren’t bothered though, they just kept eating whatever was on the rocks below them.
In the afternoon we had a navigation towards the Isla Rabida (aka Jervis) on the south of Santiago, we saw lots of rays jumping in the ocean. On this island was a red sandy beach, there were a few sea lions just lying around as usual. We hiked up a hill and saw a lot of cactus and a really nice view over the bay.
We went straight into the snorkelling from the beach, here we drifted around the rocks, visibility was crystal clear and it was the best snorkelling experience I’ve ever had. We even saw a white-tipped reef shark which seemed very large and scary under the water.
Sunday 23rd October
Today is our last day on the cruise, we paid the bill for our snorkel hire – it was $60 for the wetsuit, flippers and snorkel – $10 per day of use each. We were up at 5:30am for a walk through the sea bird colonies at North Seymour. This was just a simple morning walk, we spent about an hour here and then returned to the boat for our journey back to Baltra and the finish of our tour.
We got off the boat and then had to go to the airport to then catch the bus back to the canal and the journey back across the island of Santa Cruz. This was a little annoying as we expected to land back in Puerto Ayora. However to save money we took the bus – it was $2 each rather than $9 each for a taxi.
Back in Puerto Ayora, we paid up the cost of our trip and found a nice place to stay for a few days. We also went to the Charles Darwin research centre. It’s ok, but once you’ve been onto the islands and seen the wildlife it’s rather plain and boring and a bit worn-down.
Internet on Galapagos is pretty rubbish, but 3 for $10 cocktails are pretty good which sort of made up for it when we went for drinks in the evening at the Galapagos Planet bar at the waterfront.
There’s an amazing street-food place just a few streets back from the waterfront on avenue Charles Binford. The food here was amazing – we had seafood and it was cheap – about $12 each.
Monday 24th October
Today we went back to Galapagos Planet for their breakfast, it was pretty good at $12 including Juice, coffee, eggs, ham and cheese with bread.
Today was a rest day, and supposed to be a cheap one – so we hiked to Tortuga bay, it wasn’t the best weather but it was worth the hike. We had bought our cheap lunch from the supermarket and ate our potato chips and sandwiches on the secluded beach. We were hounded by about fifty thousand finches. They seem to know immediately what a packet of potato chips sounds like when it’s extracted from a backpack.
That evening we went for happy hour cocktails at nighttime. Oh and we had Lobster at Charles Binford, this cheap day didn’t go so well.
Tuesday 25th October
Tuesday is our trip to Floreana. We had both read the “Murder on the Galapagos” book and knew a little bit about the history of this island. We met at the tour agency at 7:30 and got fitted into our wetsuits. There was a 2 hour speedboat journey to Floreana, but first you get a little taxi boat to the speedboat.
While we were speeding along, we saw an albatross in the water. This was the first time we had seen an albatross so this was another animal ticked off of our bucket list.
We had a really small group, a quiet Australian, two loud Germans and Sarah and I. The guide was pretty good and spoke both german and english really well. We laid on the beach for an hour before having some lunch at the dock. We then went up to the highlands for a small hike to see some tortoises up close. We then went around the rocks at the top of the island – this is where the fresh water comes from, and is still the only fresh water on the island.
There is also a small labyrinth made of rocks at the top – some with many caves cut-out of the rock. This is apparently where some of the original settlers lived temporarily while making their permanent houses.
After this we went to another Tortoise sanctuary, here we could walk right up close to the tortoises. It was pretty cool.
We also saw a red Iguana.
Wednesday 26th October
Today we had pancakes at Giardina, it was pretty good. I also had a haircut. My Spanish was pretty bad so I was asked to choose between two pictures of Justin Bieber. I chose the one on the left. We then spent the rest of the day exploring the rest of the town, including the fish market.
That night we had dinner at Coffee & Lemon. It was pretty good.
Thursday 27th October
Our final day in Galapagos, we got up reasonably early. We waited at Cafe Hernan on the bay front for a bus to come. It never did so at 9:30am we tool a taxi and started the journey from the airport in reverse.
Our flight was at 12:30pm. We arrived back at our Hostel in Guayaquil at 4pm and relaxed for the rest of the day.
I already miss the Galapagos Islands.