Heaven on Earth…that is, if you are an animal/planet lover. It is a life changing experience! We booked our travels thru Galapagos Natural Life. We selected the Galapagos Intensive 5 days tour “The Hideout of the Tintoras Sharks”. It was definitely intensive, and if you only have a short vacation time, it was definitely worth it! We went during the high season, which is Christmas week. You must book in advance, otherwise, everything is sold out! The tour consisted of being at both Santa Cruz and Isabella Island. We split our week almost evenly between the two. Isabella Island was our favorite! There is a lot of snorkeling involved with this tour and being on a boat, so you must be comfortable with both. Even though the end of December starts the summer months in the Galapagos, the waters are still a little cool, and the ocean can be very choppy for those boat rides. Still the majority of snorkeling activity is done in calmer and most shallow areas. The Galapagos are very unique in that it’s heavily regulated to protect the animals and the islands. The animals themselves have constitutional rights! Because of this protection and the way the animals have evolved here, the people and the animals can coexist by keeping some distance from one another, and still appreciate each other. Usually, in at least America, and within close encounters, these similar animals would either bite, be attacked by humans, or the animals themselves would run away, but not here in the Galapagos. To see these animals in their natural habitat actually living and being is an amazing sight to see. And I hope that it will be preserved forever. We have taken some unbelievable pictures, and videos of our journey and will share each day with you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Day 1: Arrival at Baltra Airport: It’s a small airport. We flew from Guayaquil to Baltra. We flew on Tame. If you can choose another airlines, I would recommend it, as they are very pricey and penalize for any delays, even though they always have delays themselves according to locals. When you arrive at Baltra, it’s like being in a desert, as you see a lot of cactus and dry land. But the skies are beautiful! You will have to pay $100 each to get into the Galapagos Natural Park. Before you even get there, you have to pay $20/each for a tourist certificate of entry. And then once you get into Baltra, you pay $5 each for a bus ride to the Ferry Boat. Here’s a picture of the airport. Once we got off the Ferry Boat which is $0.50/person, our guide took us to El Chato Ranch, a Tortuga Crossing Private Ecological Reserve. The beautiful giant Tortoises run free here. They are nature’s farmers of their own habitat, tilling their own soil. The reserve has a lava tunnel made of cooled, hardened lava. Highly recommended sanctuary! These giant tortoises in their natural habitat move as fast as any human being doing the crab walk on four legs. We witnessed this as a female tortoise took off when being approached by a male tortoise. In the evening, we were back at our hotel, called the Flamingo. It’s right in the middle of town. The customer service is very good here and the room/bed is very clean and comfortable. Breakfast is included.
Day 2: We took a ferry boat to get on the actual boat which goes to Isabela Island. The boat ride there was close to 2 hours. The boat likely goes 50 mph. The waves were very choppy. But it was a beautiful day! You should still bring a rain jacket with you, because you will get wet on the boat ride and it is likely to rain at some point. Entrance onto Isabella Island is $10/person. When you get to the beach, you will see sea lions just hanging on the beach. All the benches will be occupied by the sea lions. And you will also see marine iguanas. It’s the only place in the world you will see these types of iguanas. They are huge but gentle. You don’t want to pet any of the animals. You should keep a certain distance between you and them at all times. You’ll see in our photos though how close we got. Sometimes I had to zoom out to take the photo just to get a picture of their entire body, in particular the marine iguanas tail. We went kayaking this day and saw our first blue footed booby sitting over the lava rocks. We were so excited as we didn’t think we would see another. We also saw our first penguin here, very unique in the Galapagos, as they are very thin. We learned that their survival rate is declining due to global warming. We then jumped into the ocean, and snorkeled right off the kayak. Here we saw a lot of sea turtles, marine iguanas swimming in the water hunting for algae on the sea bed floor. It was an amazing experience to say the least. We also saw Galapagos flamingos which are different from other flamingos in that they are significantly smaller, exhibit differences in body shape and lay smaller eggs.
In the evening we stayed at Casita de la Playa. We really liked this place especially as the ocean and beach were right outside our first floor room.
Day 3: Los Tuneles visit. This was my favorite tour! We again hopped on a boat which drove about an hour and 40 minutes to the Tunnels. Another rocky boat ride, but I think more fun this time, as our stomachs were getting use to it, and the crew on board were amazing! Actually, along the way, the captain who had spectacular vision stopped after going 50 mph in the middle of the ocean because he spotted Galapagos turtles mating. How he saw this was beyond me. Here’s a snap.
The Tunnels are an uninhabited islet in the middle of the pacific ocean. These lava formations look like tunnels and over hundreds of years have become a marine paradise with a variety of endemic species. It’s an amazing sight to see. The water is very calm, turquoise, and clear. Our amazing captain parallel parked the boat, we hopped off and walked around all the tunnels. And on top of these lava formations are cactus and blue footed boobies!! And this time, we got so close to them, you could reach out and touch them. The best part about the blue footed booby appearance was we got to see the amazing courtship ritual that I thought we wouldn’t be able to see since it usually happens in April. What a delight and we caught it on video (although I had to shorten it to post here)! We were also lucky to see baby blue footed boobies too! These guys don’t have blue feet yet. 🙂 Here’s are some beautiful snaps. Enjoy!
Day 4: We got a free day on Isabella Island. Let’s talk food. For breakfast, people in the Galapagos eat some bread, eggs, and fruit…lots of fruit! In fact, everyday, we had the fresh tropical fruit juice of the day. No high fructose there! The coffee is not very strong. Thankfully, the pure happiness of being there gives you enough energy to get through the day!
Lunch…we ate at the Endemic Turtle, they accept credit card. This is important as you end up spending a lot of cash in the Galapagos, as most places only accept that. Ecuador currency thankfully for us is the American Dollar. We ended up eating a shrimp, garlic pizza and fish tacos. Note: when something on the menu says “fish” anything, you won’t know what kind of fish it is, unless I suppose you ask. Happy hour by the way is all day long! And they have their own Galapagos Beer, which is pretty good and I am not a beer person. Bonus!
Dinner: Thankfully, we are pescatarians…as fish is plentiful here! By evening, we were in Santa Cruz and there’s an entire street of fresh seafood on tables out in the open. We ordered seafood paella. It was the freshest paella we have ever had…amazing! Dessert was limited, but we had banana bread and passion fruit parfait….both very tasty and fresh!
Before we got to Santa Cruz that evening, we spent the day hanging out with the sea lions, birds, and marine iguanas! It was a peaceful day!
Day 5: This was Pinzon Island day, snorkeling, looking for white tipped reef sharks, galapagos sharks, sea lions, marine iguanas, and sea turtles. Galapagos sharks are huge, they can grow to be 12 feet long. We met Francisco, yes, our guide named him that. He was about 10 feet long. And he was very active in the water to say the least. And yes, we do have video. 🙂 The waters in the Pinzon island is VERY clear and turquoise. You could actually see all the marine life while on the boat.
As you can see, it was an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G vacation!! Our trip to the Galapagos was a very memorable time, one we will never forget!! We learned so much, that it was truly an ecotourism experience. We miss being there.