The Galapagos Islands are legendary. We have all heard of Darwin and his theory of evolution. Well it was refined while he was at the Galapagos. It is definitely one of the places you should check out if you are ever in Ecuador. Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap.
The amount of wildlife is endless and you will be able to get closer to wildlife here than almost anywhere else you can go.
You have to fly. The flight from Quito, Ecuador costs $400US with a connection in Guayaquil. I flew into San Cristobal, only because the main airport in Santa Cruz was under construction. That is where you would most likely fly in when you arrive.
When you arrive, all tourists must pay a $100US entrance fee. I believe they only take cash as well, so make sure to have it on you when you go.
Live Aboard Boats
This is basically the only way to do it. You are not allowed to stay on any of the islands other than San Cristobal, so you will want to be on a live aboard boat.
On my trip, our boat would be anchored during the day offshore of one of the many islands. We would take a small boat to a beach and then begin to look around. Sometimes we were free to roam and occasionally there are defined paths where you can walk along. At night we would get back on the boat, eat dinner, and then set out for the next stop. These islands are not close together really, so you might be traveling for 6 or 7 hours in the night.
My trip was 4 days and 3 nights and was $350US and I was on one of the cheapest boats (the Sulidae in case you are wondering). If you ever see a black, old sailboat, that was me. It must be the only one in service there. This price included food and accommodation. There are no other costs except drinks on the boat and a tip for the crew. So this puts the total cost at $850US per person for 4 days. You can buy the usual souvenirs on San Cristobal as well. This is quite a bit per day if you think about it, but it is the minimum to go experience it if you don’t have time.
Word of warning: The sea was rough and the fact they are motoring through the night to get to the next island means an even rougher ride. Trying to sleep was an adventure. If you are someone who gets sea sick easy, take the necessary precautions. Take sea sickness pills, sea bands, ask for sleeping arrangements that might be more suitable. Being near the bottom and the back of the boat results in less motion. I prefer open air feeling so we were at the top and the back and that worked fine for me. Seriously though, I was on the top bed of a bunk bed and I thought I would roll out in the night as the boat went up and down through the swells. Everything that was hung on the walls was on the floor by morning.
There are animals everywhere. It is really quite amazing. There are not many natural predators so the animals are extremely tame, though they will react if you get too close. Too close means actually touching them. You could literally step over the sea lions on the beach if you wanted. I stepped around half and inch from a large marine iguana and it promptly sneezed or spit a white mucus all over my shoe.
There are many birds (I mean MANY birds), sea lions, whales, dolphins, marine iguanas, lizards, flamingos, sharks, sea turtles, land turtles, rays, variety of fish, and more. I shouldn’t bypass the birds really, but there are so many. The more memorable are the albatross and blue footed boobies.
The terrain is interesting as well. I was expecting lush vegetation, but it is actually a dead looking place. Very dry looking and the trees had no leaves in July when I was there. The islands are made from volcanoes and almost look like a barren land. Kind of funny seeing that there is so much life there. If you didn’t notice the background in the flamingo photo above, check it out again. Does anything look alive to you?
In 4 days. I flew into San Cristobal and went by speed boat to Santa Cruz (saw dolphins along the way). This was only because of the airport construction in Santa Cruz.
At Santa Cruz we toured a turtle preservation area. Was quite neat. Saw some monster sized land turtles. I boarded the Sulidae and we motored to Santa María that night. The next day we had two day trips to the island. One in the morning, lunch on the boat while we motored to another side of the island, and then a day trip in the afternoon.
That night we motored to Espagñola. We did two day trips at Espagnola before sailing through the night back to San Cristobal. Boarded our plane and headed home.