Galapagos Islands

 

 

5th – 14th of August 2013

Going to the Galapagos Islands wasn’t one of the things I felt I had to do in Ecuador. Not because I didn’t want to see it, but because cruising the Galapagos Islands would cause a massive hole in my budget. Because of that, I decided to see if I could get a super last minute deal in Quito. Often spaces are sold at a cheaper price close to the departure date if agencies have not managed to fill up the boats. I booked my trip four days before the scheduled departure and paid 795,45 € (US$ 1.050) for an 8 day / 7 night cruise and another 388,64 € (US$ 513) for the flights from Quito to the Galapagos Islands and back to Guayaquil. On the boat I met quite a few people who had booked their spot in Puerto Ayora on the Galapagos only one day before the departure. The prices they paid varied from 681,81 € / US$ 900 (also 8d/7n) to 378,78 € / US$ 500 (4d/3n) and 568,18 € / US$750 (5d/4n). The agency (Golondrina Turismo; golondrinaturismo@gmail.com) I booked with in Quito was really helpful as well as friendly and offered me several boats leaving on different dates. I chose the King of the Seas (cormorantexpeditions@yahoo.com; Skype: reservasyateking), an economy class boat which holds twelve guests, five crew members and one guide. Going last minute might save you some $$$ but obviously only works if you are flexible enough and willing to risk not getting a spot at all. The article “Galapagos: Cruise or Island Stay?” might help you decide if you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place when making the decision on whether to spend the money for a cruise or not.

 

Day 1: 5th of August 2013

After reaching the Galapagos Islands at 11am, we were quickly taken to our boat to drop off our things before we went to see giant land tortoises and lava tunnels. The giant land tortoise became a protected species after hundreds of thousands of them had been killed in earlier days in order to use their fat as lamp oil. Today, more than 26.000 live on the islands reaching ages of 200 years and up. Some of them are absolutely massive and definitely deserve the name “giant”. When they walk, they barely seem to be able to support their own weight. My first thought was, of course, to jump on one of them and take them for a ride. Unfortunately you have to maintain a distance of 2m which makes that impossible.

Afterwards we went for a walk through an old lava tunnel. These tunnels form when a volcano erupts and the lava stream flows into the ocean. The outer layer is then cooled by the ocean water and becomes solid whereas the lava continues to flow on the inside. The actual number of those tunnels on the Galapagos Islands is unknown, but it is suspected that there could be hundreds of them.

 

 

 

Day 2: 6th of August 2013

We reached Isabela Island early in the morning after a fairly bumpy overnight ride (thank god I don’t get seasick). Following a quick breakfast we headed onto the island (Admission: 15,15 € / US$ 20) to see the volcano Sierra Negra, the second largest crater in the world by diameter (10km). At first it seemed like the weather wasn’t going to be in our favor but once we reached the top, the sky was clear and we were able to enjoy the amazing view. On the way to the crater we were fortunate enough to see two Vermilion Flycatchers, a type of bird of which only 49 are said to be left on Isabela Island (if we would have driven a bit faster, only 48 would be left by now).

The plan for the afternoon was to go snorkeling. Already on the way to the lagoon we saw countless sea lions and marine iguanas. After getting into the water, it didn’t take two minutes until we saw a big puffer fish and a pretty massive sea turtle which didn’t mind us snorkeling next to it at all. After we got out of the water, we spent some more time on the beach with the marine iguanas and the sea lions, one of them being a mum feeding her pup. The amount of wildlife we saw on Isabela Island without actually having to put any effort into searching for them at all is just out of this world. All the animals are just there.

 

 

 

Day 3: 7th of August 2013

On the third day the wildlife-madness continued. The first stop was Bahia Ballena, a beach packed with Sally Lightfoots, a crab with a colorful red shell that was sitting everywhere. But the highlight of the morning was definitely snorkeling at Isla Eden, a small island which consists out of a collapsed volcanic crater. First we were entertained by a sea lion which kept swimming towards us just to turn away at the last second before almost smacking us into our faces. It seemed to enjoy doing its barrel rolls and loops just as much as we enjoyed watching it. Under water the variety of wildlife was just as big as above the water. Other things we saw included stingrays and a Scorpion fish (better not step on one of those or you are done). In the afternoon we landed at Cerro Dragon, a beautiful beach with a large quantity of marine iguanas, a descendant species of the land iguana, which can also be found at Cerro Dragon. After a short walk over the island we again went for a snorkel. We were almost instantly joined by a young sea lion playing and swimming around us.

The day ended with us enjoying a couple of drinks on the boat while watching the beautiful sunset.

 

 



 

Day 4: 8th of August 2013

The fourth day started quite early in the morning with a visit of North Seymor Island, a breeding ground for Blue-footed Boobies, Fregate birds and many other kinds of birds. Since it was mating time for those two species, we were not only able to enjoy the big red sacks the male Fregate birds were blowing up to impress the females but also witnessed the sexy-time of two Blue-footed Boobies. Needless to say that there was loads of other animals there, too. But since I have mentioned all of them before, I won’t name them again. The rest of the day was pretty mellow since the flight of the new group members who were supposed to join us was delayed. Once they arrived, we went for a quick walk and snorkel on Woodpecker Beach.

 

 

 

Day 5: 9th of August 2013

On the fifth day we went to visit a 125 year old lava field. For a change this meant no wildlife. The patterns the lava had formed as it cooled down are quite unique. Especially the Darwin’s Toilets have a very interesting shape. The rest of the day mainly consisted of snorkeling with a short visit of a viewpoint on Bartolome Island with a stunning view over the Sullivan Bay and the lava field we had visited in the morning. Under water the main attractions were penguins and a White-tip reef shark.

 

 

 



Day 6: 10th of August 2013

On the morning of our 2nd last day we, big surprise, went for a walk on Espumilla Beach, a beach which is known to be habitat for large amounts of Galapagos hawks. Although the daily program was very repetitive (walking and snorkeling in the morning, and then the same thing in the afternoon) every day, it didn’t get boring at all. This is why we were quite excited to visit James Bay, a beach with loads of marine iguanas, sea lions, seals and sea turtles. Here we were also able to look at one of the cutest things we had seen on this trip so far: To little seals playing in a pond of water. On the way back one of our group members managed to get bitten by a snake. This is quite an achievement considering that there aren’t many snakes on the islands. In addition to not being very numerous, they are also not poisonous.

 

 

Day 7: 11th of August 2013

The last full day on the boat was probably one of the best ones I had had on this cruise. In the morning we went to Rabida Island which has a beautiful red beach. Needless to mention the large amounts of sea lions and other wildlife we were able to spot whilst there. During the morning snorkel tour a sea lion bull was patrolling the beach making sure, that we weren’t going to steal any of his 20 wives (they weren’t quite our types anyway). Also very entertaining was a little penguin that was going after some fish right in front of my camera.

In the afternoon we visited Sombrero Chino, a small island with a little volcanic crater that resembles a Chinese hat. Apart from the beautiful white coral beach and the tropical blue water the main attraction were definitely a small group of baby sea lions, some of them only a couple of weeks old. Their cute little faces just make you want to give them a cuddle which sadly isn’t the best idea considering that that would most likely mean their death. Once they smell of human, their mothers stop feeding them and abandon them. Underwater we were finally able to see large amounts of white-tip reef sharks that were hiding under the reef.

 

 



All in all the Galapagos has been one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Although the landscape is stunning as well, it is of course mainly the ridiculous amounts of wildlife in this area.

But since there is always room for improvement, here’s what I would do next time: Plan 12 – 14 days on the Galapagos Islands and fly into Baltra Airport, this is the main airport on a small island next to Santa Cruz Island. Then go to Puerto Ayora and find a last minute 5 day / 4 night trip. Like I said above, I did an 8 day / 7 night trip but 5 days would have been sufficient to see most of the things (don’t go shorter than 5 days because you lose time on either end of the trip already due to boarding the boat and leaving it early in the morning on the last day). If your cruise doesn’t leave immediately, spend a couple of days around Puerto Ayora, there is some cool things to do/see there, too. When you get back to Santa Cruz Island, take a ferry to San Christóbal Island and do day trips from there (e.g. to Kicker Rock). Once your time is over, fly back to the mainland from San Christóbal Aiport.

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8 Comments

  1. the best of your trip till now!!!!

    Reply
  2. Megan

     /  15. April 2014

    Enjoyed reading your post! I have been looking into a cruise for July and don’t really have the flexibility to book one last minute–but I’ve been talking to a travel agent about the king of the seas. I haven’t found many reviews online about the cruise ship. Just wanted to ask if you were pleased with the ship and the excursions?

    Reply
    • Hello,

      The King of the Seas is a small ship in the Economy Class, nothing fancy but it certainly gets the job done. The food was excellent so no worries there (the chef used to be on one of the big luxury ships so you get way better food than you would normally get in that price class). The guides that join the cruises are normally freelancers so not really part of the “crew”. All in all I had a very good experience on the King of the Seas. If you book the 8 day cruise you will almost certainly spend “half a day” (that is what the crew says but in reality it is a fully day) in the harbor to pick up new people. That is quite common but I found it rather annoying since you loose one day and the cruise is really expensive. So I wanted to make the most of it. If I was you, I would buy a 4-5 day cruise and spend the rest on the islands doing daytours (accomodation is quite easy to find and not always expensive).

      Hope that helped with your decision. If you have any further questions, let me know. I am happy to help. Hope you’re going to enjoy the Galapagos. They are truly an amazing place 🙂

      Safe travels.
      Sebastian

      Reply
  3. Hi Sebastian,
    Great Article! I will be visitng the Galapagos Island in September 2016 and really looking forward to this trip.
    cheers
    Stefano

    Reply
    • Hi Stefano,

      You’ll have a blast. It is a truly amazing place to visit.
      I’m hoping you’ll have a good time.

      Cheers, Seb

      Reply
  4. thank you so much, this post inspired me to visit there one day.

    Reply
  5. Gabriela

     /  16. November 2015

    Hej! We are thinking about visiting Galapagos next spring and I was wondering about your experiences with the cruise as such, i.e. accommodation (whether it was comfortable, clean, etc.), food, quality of tour guides, etc. Thanks!

    Reply
  1. Galapagos Islands | empathy75

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