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Galapagos Islands Travel Blog

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Angelito moored off Sombrero Chino

For many years I wanted to visit the Galápagos: to walk on these remote islands where unique species thrive, where Darwin first developed the ideas that would change our understanding of nature, and where animals have never learned to fear humankind. And in 2012 I realised my dream. And fortunately, it more than lived up to my expectations!

A week of discovery, with each day surprising us with something new, something special.  One day, a giant manta ray languidly turning in the waves beneath the cliffs where we stood. Another, an albatross chick, already enormous, sitting watching us as we sat and watched him. On one memorable morning, we were spellbound by a group of young Galápagos hawks who clustered around a new-born sea lion pup and his mother, one of them eventually swooping in to grab the placenta which all then eagerly devoured.

Galapagos Hawk
And on another, we swam and snorkelled with a group of lively sea lions, patrolled by the watchful alpha male who tolerated our intrusion but disdained to join the fun.

We spent our week travelling the islands on board the Angelito, one of the older established boats available for tourist cruises, and one of the best value. Its itineraries and guiding are recognised as first class, but the boat itself is less than luxurious, though it has all that you need for a wonderful week at sea. No fancy cabins or leisure facilities, but a friendly and super-helpful crew, great meals conjured up in a tiny galley, a knowledgeable guide (Fabian) considerate of everyone’s needs, and enough space in which to chill and appreciate your surroundings between island visits. What more could we have asked?

We were also fortunate to find ourselves travelling with a super group of fellow explorers.

Land Iguana
Drawn from six nationalities, and spanning several decades in age, everyone nevertheless got on incredibly well, helped by a shared passion for what we were seeing and a respect for each other’s right to enjoy (and photograph!) it as much as we were.

In this and the following entries I want to share these experiences of our trip of a lifetime with you. So let’s go!

Galápagos day one

After our overnight stay at the Grand Hotel in Guayaquil we were picked up straight after breakfast for our transfer to Guayaquil’s modern airport, José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport. The airport is only four miles from the city centre and as it was a Sunday traffic was light and we were there very quickly.

Coming in to land on Baltra
The airport terminal is very new (at the time it was the newest in the country, since superseded by Quito’s new airport). It was opened in 2006 and the old terminal turned into a convention centre.

This is the nearest airport to the Galápagos and many flights from Quito stop here to pick up passengers. We found it to be relatively quiet and well-organised for the additional complications of a Galápagos flight – buying our INGALA transit control cards (INGALA is the agency that regulates travel to the islands), and having our luggage inspected to meet quarantine regulations. Both these operations went smoothly and we had time for a coffee in the bright and comfortable departures area (with good free wifi) before boarding our plane.

Arrival at Baltra Airport
Only 15 hours after arriving in Guayaquil, we were leaving already.

The flight lasted 1 hour 45 minutes, but because the Galápagos Islands are an hour behind mainland Ecuador, we arrived well before lunch-time. Our first views of the islands, from the air, were enough to raise the excitement levels further. Our dream holiday was about to begin!

But first, there were some more formalities to get through. Everyone visiting the Galápagos has to pay a $100 national park fee, and as this can’t be paid in advance, it must be done on arrival at the airport and in cash. I was pleased that in addition to the attractive souvenir ticket I also got my passport stamped.

Baggage claim consisted of all luggage being piled up in a hall to one side of the arrivals area, and once we’d retrieved ours we were able to exit to the main part of the airport where Fabian our guide was waiting for us all to escort us to the Angelito.

Waiting to transfer to the boats

Transfer to the boat

The airport at Baltra is just a five minute drive away from the small port where the cruise boats moor, and the journey is undertaken on a fleet of elderly buses whose comings and goings are controlled by the military who own the airport. Fabian directed us to the right bus, on arrival at the port, organised the transfer to the Angelito. Even the smaller boats, judging by our experience, aren’t able to moor directly at the dock, so the 16 of us crossed to the boat in one of its two small dinghies, in two groups, while the other was used for our luggage.

We were very soon all on board and looking round eagerly at our home for the next week – and at each other, our travelling companions.

In our cabin on the Angelito
It would have been good to have known already at that point that we would quickly become a tight-knit group and would thoroughly enjoy each other’s company as well as the trip itself.

Since our trip in 2012 the Angelito has been modernised, so our experiences of it won’t be quite the same as anyone travelling on it now, but I doubt they could be better! We were very happy indeed with our choice of this boat for our Galápagos cruise, as were all the others in our group it seemed. She isn’t a luxury vessel, but she is solidly built (entirely from wood), owned (and crewed) by locals, and provides a friendly, comfortable setting that we believed helped our group to gel and absolutely fitted the unique atmosphere of this special part of the world.

What matters most on a Galápagos cruise is not the comfort of the vessel (imho) but the quality of the guiding and the interest-level of the itinerary.

Fabian, our guide
The Angelito offered guides qualified to the top level (level three) and, with a great little engine, the capacity to travel to some of the further flung islands (such as, in our case, Genovesa).

Almost as important, the service we received on board was of a similarly high standard, with plenty of tasty food served by a super-friendly chef and a helpful and ever-smiling crew. The shared public areas were more than adequate for the sixteen of us, with a lounge space inside and seating on a covered aft deck and open foredeck. There was a bar with an honesty system for drinks, including a ready supply of beer, and a small reference library of wildlife guides and other reading material.

Because we spent a whole week on the boat and I don’t want to keep repeating myself in these entries, I’ll say a bit more here about life on board.

Briefing in the lounge

Meals on the Angelito

To say that meals on the Angelito are generous is an understatement! And not just meals – every time we returned on board after an island visit or a snorkelling session, a treat would be waiting for us. And with two visits each day, and snorkelling on most days, that’s a lot of treats! All meals are included in the cost of the cruise, apart from drinks other than water, tea and coffee, and also apart from those treats and the delicious fruit juices at breakfast time. So with everything already paid for, it would be a shame not to eat it, wouldn’t it?!

A typical day’s eating and drinking would be something like this:

Breakfast, usually served early (somewhere between 6.

Chef and his assistant
00 and 7.00, depending on the plans for the day) -

Fruit juice (as fresh and wonderful as everywhere in Ecuador), fresh fruit, bread or toast, jams, cheese and ham, and some sort of eggs – one day scrambled, another a tortilla, and so on. Some days there were extras – one morning we had pancakes with maple syrup, for instance, and another there were little sausages.

After our first landing (usually about 10.30), as we climbed back on board –

Snack, such as more fruit juice and mini empanadas, or biscuits

If we snorkelled after this, we would be greeted on our return with a hot drink – chocolate or a herbal tea.

Lunch, usually around midday –

Soup, meat or fish with rice, sometimes potato too, and vegetables, and a platter of fresh fruit.

Lunch time

After the afternoon landing, another snack, similar to the morning but never the same. One day we had mini hot-dogs, on another there were slices of excellent pizza.

Dinner, which might be served before or after the evening briefing depending on where and when we were sailing –

Meat or fish with rice, sometimes potato, vegetables and salad, and a dessert such as a mousse or crème caramel. On two special occasions, the dessert was a celebration cake – once for Brian’s birthday which fell on the Thursday of the cruise, and on the final night, when dinner was a buffet with a spectacular fish dish as its centre-piece.

With all this to eat, is it any surprise that despite all the walking and swimming, I put on weight during the week?!

Our itinerary

Regulations prohibit any boat from revisiting any island within a fortnight, so all the boats cruising the Galápagos offer two different one-week itineraries, which they alternate.

Ceviche
The plus side of this is that anyone with the time, money and enthusiasm who wants to, can book both and have a two week cruise! For the rest of us, short on the first two of these ingredients, there is the difficulty of choosing which to do. Every boat’s schedule is different, although of course with only so many islands to include, there is plenty of overlap.

I studied the options for ages, trying to make up my mind! I’d identified a number of islands I’d particularly like to see, but no boat (in our price range at least) covered all of them in a single week. But the Angelito had been strongly recommended, and its itinerary A covered all but one of my priority islands (Genovesa for the birds, Bartolomé for the views, Española for the albatrosses – only Fernandina was missing).

Blue-footed Booby
So that was our final choice, and a great one too! I have read that like us, everyone agonises over their choice of itinerary, and everyone has a wonderful time regardless of where they decide to go – there are NO bad itineraries when it comes to Galápagos cruises!

Anyway, the A itinerary of the Angelito which we experienced was (in 2012):

Sunday: Baltra – North Seymour

Monday: Sombrero Chino – Bartolomé

Tuesday: Genovesa: Darwin Bay and Prince Phillips Steps

Wednesday: Santiago (Puerto Egas) – Rabida

Thursday: Santa Cruz: Darwin Station, Puerto Ayora and Highlands

Friday: Española: Playa Gardner and Punta Suarez

Saturday: Santa Fe – South Plaza

Sunday: Black Turtle Cove (Santa Cruz) – Baltra

Of all the islands we visited, my favourites proved to be two of those I had especially aimed to see (Genovesa and Española) and one that I had not (Santiago), although it was Santa Fe that gave me two of my most memorable experiences – snorkelling with sea lions, and a close encounter with Galápagos hawks.

Seal pup

My following entries will cover all the wonderful places we went and sights we saw …

Toonsarah says:
Thanks - it was an amazing trip!
Posted on: May 09, 2017
jacobi says:
what a great adventure
Posted on: May 09, 2017
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Angelito moored off Sombrero Chino
Angelito moored off Sombrero Chino
Galapagos Hawk
Galapagos Hawk
Land Iguana
Land Iguana
Coming in to land on Baltra
Coming in to land on Baltra
Arrival at Baltra Airport
Arrival at Baltra Airport
Waiting to transfer to the boats
Waiting to transfer to the boats
In our cabin on the Angelito
In our cabin on the Angelito
Fabian, our guide
Fabian, our guide
Briefing in the lounge
Briefing in the lounge
Chef and his assistant
Chef and his assistant
Lunch time
Lunch time
Ceviche
Ceviche
Blue-footed Booby
Blue-footed Booby
Seal pup
Seal pup
Galapagos Islands General Tips & Advice review
Flying to Baltra from Guayquil
There are two airports on the Galápagos Islands, on Baltra and San Christobel, and we, like most tourists, flew to the former, on one of the several … read entire review
Galapagos Islands General Tips & Advice review
Concerns about seasickness
One of the things that concerned me a little before the trip was whether I would get seasick. We had opted for a cruise that included far-flung Genove… read entire review
Galapagos Islands General Tips & Advice review
Minimising the impact
In 1979, the Galápagos National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This meant that the Park’s management and staff were responsible fo… read entire review
Galapagos Islands Hotels & Accommodations review
A happy crew
Since our trip in 2012 the Angelito has been modernised, so our experiences of it won’t be quite the same as anyone travelling on it now, but I doub… read entire review
Galapagos Islands
photo by: Melboorn