9 days in Galapagos
Galapagos Islands Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
June 18th, 2010 – by: chris-in-sf
I was also a bit worried that the cruise scene would be like Ha Long Bay, where the 16 passenger boats play smash-up derby trying to get all the tourists out on the water. The boating equivalent of a Wal-Mart door the day after Thanksgiving. Thankfully, it's far from that.
The weather has been fantastic and I am so much happier in shorts, barefoot, and slathering up in SPF 15 every day than I am in jeans, jacket, and dealing with the San Francisco-like weather of Quito and Cuenca.
I've seen darn near every animal too.
First off, sea lions EVERYWHERE. You can't throw a lava rock without hitting one, and 10% of babies die of natural causes too. They are the same type we have in California, but still fun to be so close to them and swim with them. Yesterday was the highlight of the cruise to Espanola island and it didn't disappoint. Mating boobies and waved albatross, close ups of hawks, lava lizards, and the green and red iguanas. Today was 'flamingo day' on Floreana island and it was looking to be a bust. The lake where they live was empty and our guide said, they sometimes fly to lakes on Isabella when food is low. Well we rounded another corner, and there was ONE lonely flamingo, a juvenile, who I guess had been left behind.
Today was going to continue to be a bust, as it's my last day on board, and I hadn't seen a penguin. I'd was hoping to, and amazingly… as I sit here writing this on the back deck, I look down and see a black bird in the water. But instead of flying up, he dives down and doesn't come back. I SAW A PENGUIN! (hopefully they'll be more on shore.)
(added later) We went ashore for our afternoon activity and saw another fishing. Got some pictures! They are lightning fast, and Galapagos penguins are the second smallest in the world.
This boat was a great option. Compared to others I see, all guest rooms are above deck. So you can open your windows and everything. It's rated a first class boat, and it's fine, nothing super fancy.
Also getting my fill of salad and green vegetables on the boat before returning to another 2 weeks of rice and chicken. blechh. My friend Romina who I dove with, has been traveling South America for a year. She said she can't even LOOK at a plate of rice right now.
I realize I got lucky again, with the economy being down, and being able to book this the night before I got on board. Our guide said 2-3 years ago you'd have to book months in advance, but now they are struggling to have boats full. My boat started out with 15, 7 different traveling groups, but 8 Americans and 7 Israelis.
Thursday however, was changeover day for the rest of the boat excluding me. 4 passengers got on! A young couple from Switzerland, and an old couple from… wait for it…. San Francisco (actually Sunnyvale.) The old couple have brought an unfortunate 'grandma and grandpa element' to this leg of the trip. oh well, gotta give em respect for adventuring.
Here's a typical day on a Galapagos cruise boat:
6:45 wake up bell, 7 am breakfast
8 am board the dingy (panga in espanol) for the morning island excursion
10:30 back on board, prepare for snorkeling
11 am quick snorkeling excursion
12 pm lunch
1 pm siesta while the boat moves to a new location
3 pm load boats for afternoon excursion
5 pm back on boat
6 pm briefing
8 pm boat departs for next island
All can vary a bit depending on the island and distance between islands.
Our naturalist (guide) Jaime, has been doing this work for almost 20 years and was born in Galapagos. He really knows his shit. I'd read horror stories of guides on budget boats sounding like they were making stuff up as they went along. Not the case here. When Jaime found out the boat was only going to have 5 passengers this weekend, he asked the manager if his kids, ages 12 and 14 could come along, so they did. Very cute.
So provided they don't kick me off the boat in the next hour or so, I will have gotten an extra night on here. The travel agent kind of screwed up with the schedule, because they were adding me at the last minute i would guess.
Galapagos on a smallish budget
It can be done. When you search online from the states it looks like it will cost a small fortune. You can pay that if you want, or you can do what I did. Rough Guide also outlines this on their website in more detail, and I found a 4 page guide someone wrote and updated on the Lonely Planet forums in fine details including bargaining. I will keep it simple.
Flight from mainland: a ridiculous ~ $370
(it's a 1 hour flight... a 1 hour flight from Quito to Cuenca is $43.
Entry fee: $100
Hotels can be as cheap as $10 per night but I chose $15-25.
5 day cruise which by my luck turned into 6 days, 5 nights: $700 on a first class boat.
(that $140 per night includes water, tea, coffee, great food daily. didn't include tips or fins for snorkeling $10)
So if you want to do this trip cheap, DON'T book in advance, don't even book in Quito. Just come during low season, allow extra time, there are cheap places to stay and it's gorgeous so you won't regret it. If you've only got limited days, then I guess you should book in advance.
Visiting here really does give you the feeling that you are having a National Geographic moment in front of your own eyes, especially when you're in a small group. I'm glad I can say I came and saw it myself than on the big or little screen.
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