After 3 hours on board an AeroGal plane and a short stop in Guayaquil we finally saw the Galapagos archipelago in the middle of the Pacific ocean. The big splurge of our 7 month travels is a cruise in the Galapagos with G Adventures and we didn’t have a clue what was really awaiting us..
The bus door opened and an awful stench met us as we arrived the dock of San Cristóbal, one of the main islands of Galapagos. The stench came from 100-something sea lions that had found the shadowed benches on the dock to be the perfect place to relax during the hot hours. They were literally everywhere and didn’t mind 16 amazed tourists hurrying by to get to the boat “Daphne” for a 5-day Galapagos cruise.
This was only a preview of what was to come. We spent the next 5 days on 7 islands and saw enough sea lions, iguanas and boobies (heh) to last a lifetime. The real magic of the Galapagos is how close you get to the wildlife, as if they just recognize us as another friendly species living along them on the islands. Many of the species don’t have any natural predators and so they don’t mind us coming as close as half a meter, even sticking our big cameras in their faces just evoked curiosity of seeing their own reflection in the camera lenses.
Even though Galapagos is a major tourist destination they have many regulations on the islands to keep the natural fauna. All visitor sites (about 50) have certain paths that you are allowed to walk on, and they only cover a small part of the island, and in addition only a limited number of visitors are allowed on an island each day (one island we visited was only 2 boats and 16 tourist per day).
The marine life in Galapagos is also spectacular and we got to experience it with snorkeling trips almost every day, where we got to swim with sea lions, marine iguanas (and see it feast on the algae on a rock), sea-turtles, a lot of fish in different sizes, and even a couple of penguins swimming past us as fast as torpedoes. We saw some sharks and dolphins in the waters, but didn’t get to experience them close-by underwater (though others in our travel company did with the sharks).
Our Galapagos itinerary was as follows:
- Day 1: San Cristóbal with hundreds of sea lions everywhere
- Day 2: Santa Fé island with lots of sea lions and cactus, snorkeling with sea lions and turtles, sailing to South Plazas island with one of the largest population of iguanas
- Day 3: Genovesa island (Darwin bay) with thousands of birds (mostly Frigate birds, Galapgos seagulls and various Boobies), snorkeling (unfortunately no hammer-head sharks that day, but a conveyor belt of sting rays), more bird-watching at Prince Philip’s steps where we saw a ton of Masked Boobies and some owls.
- Day 4: Santiago Island (Sullivan bay) with giant lava formations and lots of red crabs, snorkeling with marine iguanas and penguins, sailing with the dolphins to Rabida island with the red sand and green, toxic, brackish water, some lazy sea lions and some Pelikans, more snorkeling with sea lions and turtles
- Day 5: early morning boat safari at Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz Island, where we saw the lots of rays venting their fins above water, baby sharks and turtles swimming in the mangrove
About traveling in the Galapagos
There are mainly two ways of seeing the Galapagos. Either you book a tour with a company like G Adventures, where you can cruise to several islands, or you can fly to one of the four inhabited islands of the Galapagos and take day-trips from there. The first option is the most expensive, but either way you have to pay the 100$ entrance fee to the Galapagos national park.
The luxury you get with a cruise is that you easily can see a lot of the Galapagos islands, even the most remote, while doing day trips will be in proximity of the inhabited islands (the bigger islands). You can also book a cruise once on the islands, but we heard that the best ones are usually booked in advance so it can be difficult to find a cruise and you’ll probably end up with the economy option, which means dorms, fewer amenities and not as good guide
We were very happy with our cruise (Mathias could even want to do the 8-day cruise) as we had good cabins in the boat (slept very well), good and varied food, good itinerary and a good guide. It was the big splurge of our travels and we’re happy we did it!
Even more photos from the Galapagos can be found here.