The Galapagos on a backpackers budget
Replies: 20 - Last Post: Feb 1, 2013 11:11 AM Last Post By: dbuonam
Jul 18, 2009 6:03 PM
The Galapagos on a backpackers budgetAn oxymoron? Well yes, but we were able to do a lot on a fairly tight budget. By design, the Galapagos are expensive in order to keep the majority of people out in order to limit the impact of mass tourism. The target demographic is middle age travellers with deep pockets who will visit for a week and dump a ton of cash. The hope is to fuel the local tourist economy enough to deter other more destructive economies such as illegal fishing and farming. While we think this objective is honourable, we, and many we have met are not deep pocketed middle age travellers and likely never will be.
The reasons that ultimately led to our decision to take the plunge were:
-this was something we really wanted to see and so we were willing to skip other attractions in South America in order to make it possible.
-we decided that we would never be closer and it would never be cheaper than it is now.
-we had heard that despite the best efforts of the authorities, the ecosystem that makes the Galapagos so unique is constantly being destroyed by the human impact. Therefore, if we waited until we could actually afford to go (maybe never), it may not be as beautiful as it is now.
Until we actually handed over the money for the flight we were not sure we would go.
This post will include our experience in the Galapagos between June 11th - July 6th 2009. We will focus on things we were able to do on our own, but will also include the prices we paid for some organized tours to places inaccessible without a naturalist guide. There are lots of local, national and international tour companies for the Galapagos and prices fluctuate from season to season so it goes without saying that what we quote here will become quickly outdated. We are including the prices as a baseline since we had a hard time getting current information before actually booking. We therefore encourage other budget travellers who visit the Galapagos to keep this post current with prices and activities.
One of the hardest things we found about the Galapagos is that everyone (including the majority of the residents) are quite wealthy. Therefore, people were basically insulted when we told them we could not afford to do something. Other than that it was one of the most amazing places we have ever visited, and if you are truly passionate about going and you can afford the flight, we think you should try to make it work. If, on the other hand, it is sort of a last minute thought, you can certainly spend a couple of months seeing other parts of this amazing continent for the equivalent price of a couple of weeks in the Galapagos.
-The Galapagos are extremely expensive, but once you get there (i.e. once you have paid the flight and park entrance) it is possible to spend not much more than you would in some other South American countries and still have an amazing time.
-Getting there is one of the most expensive parts so in our opinion, you may as well enjoy it for as long as you can once you are there. The cheapest hotels that we encountered will charge you between 15.00-20.00 US per person. We always walked a little ways out of town and found a furnished apartment which was being rented by the month, then persuaded the landowner to rent it to us for between 4-8 nights (a bit of Spanish helps). Doing this, we never payed more than 15.00 per night (double occupancy) anywhere in the Galapagos. This way both the landowner and we win. The landowner has tenants paying more per day than they would if renting by the month and we pay less than we would be paying per day in a cheap hotel.
-Camping is another option but often prohibited or expensive in most areas around the towns. Where it is possible you will be on private property and often charged the equivalent or more than a hotel. There are a few parks you are permitted to camp in, but you require a permit from the parks office, for which you must apply in advance. The transportation to get to these parks is also usually more expensive than one night in a hotel.
-There are lots of things that you can do on your own, but few people are going to tell you about them since tourism is the primary industry.
-Food is more expensive if you eat at the tourist restaurants, but if you eat the menu del dia away from the main streets, you can expect to pay between 2.00-5.00 US per person with varying degrees of quality. We would normally eat one meal a day and supplement that with bread, cereal, and yogurt. We brought some instant pasta and other easy to make foods from Guayaquil which we were able to cook ourselves in some of the places we stayed. On our first day in Puerto Ayora, we bought a 20 litre returnable bottle of water which has a deposit of 6.00 US. Once you have this bottle you can exchange it for a full one on any of the islands for between .75 US - 2.00 US. This is a good way to save some money and keep garbage out of the landfill because a 1 litre bottle of water also costs around 1.00 US and most of them are not recyclable. We would just leave the large bottle in our room and use it to fill up a smaller water bottle as needed. At the end of our trip we returned the bottle and got our 6.00 dollars back.
OUR COSTS FOR TOURS AND GETTING THERE:
We did a lot of reading before we booked and from what we read most of the truly amazing things about the Galapagos are on the uninhabited islands. We read that the best place to get last minute deals for cruises was in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, but we also read that it may take a week or more to find one, in which time you'll have spent the money you save on the last minute price on food and accommodation. For this reason we booked a 5 day last minute tour from Quito on a tourist superior boat for 675.00 US (this price was cheaper than any of the tourist class boats). This price does not include the 110.00 US park entrance fee and immigration card, or the 325.00 US flight from Guayaquil (the current cost of the flight is roughly 385.00 US from Guayaquil or 425.00 US from Quito since it is no longer the shoulder season).
Therefore just to step foot on the islands without a tour or accommodation will cost you roughly 500.00 US per person (This is more than we spent in a month travelling through Colombia). It was possible to stay on the same boat for an 8 day tour for 1020.00 US instead of 675.00 for the 5 days. But we decided that with the money we would save in only doing 5 days we could spend more time doing things on our own and therefore stay for longer.
Day tours to the uninhabited islands range from between 80.00-130.00 US if you book in Puerto Ayora. Therefore, you are better off to book a 3 day cruise instead of 3 individual day tours. The reason for this is that it will cost the same, but on the cruise you will get three full meals, snacks, and accommodation, and you will have more time at the sites since the majority of travel is done at night. If you only do one organized day tour we would highly recommend Seymour Norte (if your visit corresponds with frigate bird breeding season). This day tour costs 120.00 US (we paid 100.00 US, so go around to the travel agents in the evening and barter hard). On Seymour Norte we saw wild land iguanas, nesting blue footed boobies with their chicks, and mating frigate birds with their chests puffed out with their chicks. These are three things you will not be able to see on any of the inhabited islands, and few if any of the other uninhabited islands. Española was also amazing, but when we were there it was only accessible on a multi-day tour.
From Quito or Guayaquil you can fly into Santa Cruz and out of San Cristobal (or vice-versa) for a couple of dollars more than arriving and leaving from the same airport. If you plan to visit the 3 inhabited islands we would strongly suggest that you fly into one island and out of another to save you one extra water taxi trip. There are no flights from Isabela to the mainland (only Isabela-Santa Cruz). We flew into Santa Cruz, took a water taxi to Isabela, then another water taxi back to Santa Cruz, then another water taxi to San Cristobal (there are none direct between Isabela and Cristobal), then we flew out of San Cristobal.
Transportation between the three inhabited islands officially costs 35.00 US p/p one-way on a water taxi. However, the price that everyone pays between Santa Cruz and Isabela is 30.00 US so ask for that. The price between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal seems to easily go down to 25.00 US p/p (we payed 23.00 US p/p by waiting until the last minute).
Water taxis depart daily at 2:00 pm from Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz) destined for both Villamil (Isabela) and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal). Water taxis depart from both Villamil (Isabela) and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno destined for Puerto Ayora at 6:00 am. The trip takes between 2-2.5 hours so it is possible to travel from Isabela to San Cristobal (via Santa Cruz) in one day. Note, there is a $5.00 US dock charge to exit Villamil.
THINGS TO DO ON YOUR OWN:
Here are some of the things we did on our own and enjoyed. You can do any of these things in a tour too but expect to pay between 15.00-50.00 US. By providing this information we are by no means encouraging you to bypass the naturalist guides. If you can afford a tour with a naturalist guide they are extremely well organized and educational.
When you arrive in Puerto Ayora, we suggest you familiarize yourself with the national parks Plan de Manejo (management plan), which you can find a copy of in the public library. It is a good resource for the places you are and are not allowed to visit on your own.
Remember, there are few or no sources of freshwater on any of the islands, so when doing things on your own always bring a sufficient supply of drinking water (food and a compass are also useful). Most of our times and distances are rough as writing this post was an afterthought. The cost to rent snorkelling gear around the Galapagos seems to be 5 dollars a day for mask, snorkel, and flippers. We made our own snorkels out of electrical conduit and used swimming goggles with no flippers most of the time, however, renting proper gear or bringing your own may be more enjoyable.
Centro de Interpretacion: (free)
An extremely informative museum with information in Spanish and English on the geographic and human history of the Galapagos, definitely worth a visit. An easy, short walk from town.
Las Tijeretas: (free)
This is the area behind the interpretation centre. There are several paths leading to various lookout points, as well as a snorkelling area where sea turtles, sea lions, and herons can be seen. There is also a sandy beach (Punta Carola) with a sea lion colony. You can see blue-footed boobies diving, as well as on the rocks, pelicans, marine iguanas and frigate birds flying (also in the trees from the higher lookouts).
Playa Mann: (free)
A popular sandy beach right at the edge of town, across the street from the university. There are often sea lions here, and the water is calm for swimming. Boobies can be seen flying and diving here.
La Loberia: (free)
About a 30-40 minute easy walk from town. Walk towards the airport and turn left at the corner right before the military school (ask directions along the way). You will pass a gravel pit before reaching the sign for the entrance. This is a mostly rocky beach, with some sand,
with a playful sea lion colony. Marine iguanas can also be seen here.
El Junto: (free)
A lake in the crater of a volcano where frigate birds can be seen fishing and bathing. To walk here all the way from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno takes about 3 1/2 hours, or on weekdays there is a bus which runs about 5 times a day (first two buses leave at 6:30 and 7am) to the village of El Progreso, and then from there you can walk for 2 - 2 1/2 hours along the main road to reach the lake (ask directions in El Progreso, then once you are on the main road you cannot get lost).
Punto Chino: (free)
This beach is another 10km past El Junto, and other than walking, hiring a car or taking a tour is the only way to get there. We did not go out this far, so are not sure what a car would charge to take you out there.
El Chato tortoise reserve (free)
This is part of the park where we saw over 30 giant tortoises in the wild. Transport from Puerto Ayora in a collectivo costs $1 US p/p each way (if there are 5 of you) to Santa Rosa and then a 10-15 km round trip walk through the reserve and back to Santa Rosa. Ask for directions in Santa Rosa if you are unsure.
Bellavista tuneles del amor (3.00 US p/p)
These giant lava tunnels stretch over 1 km. Transport from Puerto Ayora to Bellavista in collectivo is 0.25 US p/p each way, and then a 2.5 km round trip walk (ask directions in Bellavista).
Darwin research centre (free)
Has a Giant Tortoise and Iguana breading centre. 2 km round trip walk from Puerto Ayora. Ask anyone in town to point you in the right direction.
Bahia Tortuga (free)
A nice sandy beach where you can see marine iguanas, crabs, and birds. 12 km round trip walk from centre.
Garrapatero Beach (free)
A sandy beach suitable for swimming (and camping with a permit from the parks office). Marine iguanas, endemic poison apple trees, crabs, mangroves, and lots of birds can be seen here. Transportation from Puerto Ayora costs $10-15 each way (for the whole truck, so best to find a group), also arrange pick-up time with the driver because not many vehicles come out this far. This beach is also set up with a beautiful campground though a permit is required from the park entrance Puerto Ayora in advance. Day and night there are lots of bloodsucking bugs. Bring drinking water!
Volcan Sierra Negra: (free) *This could be a little complicated so see endnote.
This is apparently the second largest caldera in the world and a beautiful hike, with spectacular views of northern Isabela on a nice day. Transport from Villamil in a city bus is 1.00 US p/p (.50 US for Ecuadorians) and leaves at 7:00 am every day. Tell the driver you want to be let off at the entrance road to el volcan. Then it's a 6 km walk to the park entrance (but try hitchhiking, as workers are often driving up at this time and may take you for free) then a 16 km walk up to the caldera and to Volcan Chico, and then back to the park entrance. From the park entrance it is a 18 km walk back to Villamil (again try hitchhiking, it is unlikely that you would not get a ride, but possible) any truck back to town will cost 1.00 US p/p.
Las Tintoretas: (free if you swim, $15 for a "Bay Tour")
These are some neat islands just off the harbour where we saw sea turtles, white tipped sharks, manta rays, seals, hundreds of marine iguanas, a penguin and many other sea birds and marine life.
Transport: we rented some flippers for 2.50 US and swam out there (it took us 2 hours to get there, at a leisurely pace, looking a sea life, and 45 minutes to return, at a fairly rapid pace). We recommend you go with at least one other person and at low tide. At high tide the water gets quite rough as the reef is submerged. When swimming, try to follow the shore/reef since it is an active harbour with boats coming in and out. If you are not a strong swimmer we do not recommend you do this.
Wall of tears: (free)
The wall itself is not that exciting, despite its interesting history, but the walk along the beach and between the lagoons to get there is beautiful. We saw the largest Marine Iguanas of anywhere on our trip on this beach.
Transport: walk about 15 km round trip along road beside beach (you can walk the first part on the beach)
National park tortoise reserve: (free)
Not as interesting as the Darwin centre, but to get there you can follow a nice boardwalk through some lagoons which is a pretty walk. This reserve also has tortoise species which you can't see anywhere else. Transport: walk west along the main road out of town, then turn right (north) at the sign where the boardwalk starts (before the road forks), you will see a very red-orange lagoon, follow the boardwalk about 1 km until you get to the parking lot.
Laguna Salinas: (free)
Nestled between urban development, one street back from the main street you will likely see flamingos here between about 5:30-6:00 am or pm.
Laguna Concha Perla: (free)
Located right beside the port, there is a little boardwalk to get out to it and it is a good place to snorkel and see rays, seals, penguins, sea turtles, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and many fish.
*note regarding Sierra Negra on Isabela
Before we went we had mixed reports of whether or not it was possible to hike without a guide and since the park office was closed for the weekend, we decided to go and find out. We caught the bus to the road head and then hitchhiked to the park entrance. When we arrived a park official told us that we were not permitted onto the trail without a naturalist guide because we would get lost and then it would be the responsibility of the President of the Republic to rescue us. We explained that we were under the impression we were allowed to enter, to which he responded that if we tried he would have the police officer who was stationed up there arrest us. He told us that if people didn't need a guide then anybody could come and walk around on the trail!! When we asked him what was wrong with that he changed the subject. Despite our pleas for him to call the park office to ask he refused (claiming he had no cellphone reception).
Frustrated, we walked back to town and went straight to the park office to speak to Isabela Island's Park Director. We told him that we could not afford an organized tour ($45 per person) but would still like to walk the trail to Sierra Negra. He told us that while the park encourages the use of a guide, there is nothing they can do to stop people who are not in an "organized group" from entering. Another park official in the office tried to contradict him but he patiently explained that it is clearly written in the Plan de Manejo. We asked the director for his name and phone number and he told us to have anyone who gave us a problem call him.
We returned to the park entrance the next morning. Upon our arrival the park official came out and angrily yelled at us that he had told us the day before that we were not allowed in. We calmly produced the phone number of his boss and after a 3 minute conversation on his cellphone he sheepishly waved us through.
There are two trails to hike but we only hiked the one that leads to Volcan Chico. Despite being quite cloudy and misty at the entrance, it was beautiful on the other side. The trail is very well marked and sometimes larger than a road but there are 2 places which could potentially cause confusion. For the first 6-7 minutes you will walk along a dirt road; turn left off the road at your first opportunity. There is no sign here but you will see one a couple of minutes into the trail with an arrow pointing up to the left for the foot path and straight for the horse path. We suggest the foot path, as you walk along the edge of the caldera for longer. The second area which could cause confusion if you are not paying attention is once you enter the lava field beyond the big tree. We found the trail to be well treaded and marked with white painted arrows, however we were warned by several people that a naturalist guide got lost here a couple years back and had to be rescued.
We thought the hike was scenic and we are glad we did it. The steepest and most difficult part is probably hiking up to the park entrance from where the bus drops you off. Hopefully you will not have the same problems as we did at the entrance but if you do, politely insist that it is clearly written in the Plan de Manejo that you do not require a guide unless you are part of an organized group. If they don't believe you then insist that they contact el jefe de la parque in Villamil.
We are uncertain why this confusion about the rules exists but it sounds like Isabela's former park director may not have understood the park rules properly and as a result neither did his staff. Again, photocopying a couple of relevant pages in the Plan de Manejo could save you a headache until hiking this trail on your own becomes more common.
We hope this post has been helpful and we encourage you to add your experiences as a budget traveller in the Galapagos.
Jul 18, 2009 6:17 PM
Jul 18, 2009 9:48 PM
Jul 19, 2009 5:19 AM
Jul 19, 2009 10:31 AM
Jul 19, 2009 7:25 PM
Thanks for your prompt additions!
We were also surprised when we had to pay the $5.00 US dock exit tax when leaving Villamil, but the INGALA bag checkers, security guard, exit tax ticket sellers, and watertaxi crew would not let us pass until we payed up (so if it is a scam unfortunately everyone is in on it). Our $5.00 US bought us an expensive-looking receipt decorated with Galapagos wildlife. We learned later from a park official that foreigners pay $5.00 US and residents of Ecuador pay $2.00 US. Apparently the tax is new and controversial, especially since it only exists on Isabela. If the tax has been removed since we left than that is great news, but would you mind verifying this for us?
The reason we posted that it is possible to swim to the Tintoretas was because we did it successfully. We also confirmed with the park office that we were allowed to do this and according to the Plan de Manejo you are free visit the trail on these islands without a naturalist guide when not in an organized group. Swimming there is obviously not the easiest method to reach the islets, and the bay tour is one of the cheaper tour options, so may be worthwhile. However, we enjoyed our swim because we were able to observe rich sea life along the way. We were quoted $15.00 US for a 2.5 hr bay tour with 1 hr of snorkelling or $10.00 US for a 1 hr bay tour without the snorkelling.
All the best,
Josh and Laura
Jul 20, 2009 6:37 AM
Jul 28, 2009 10:30 PM
Absolutely excellent write up and spot on. I go to Isabela about every other month and have always been under the impression that it is illegal to go to Sierra Negra without a Naturalist Guide, so I am surprised to read your report and would love the name of that Jefe! Having said that, at most of the open sites in the National Park, two people can go where groups are not allowed to go unless accompanied by a naturalist guide, so it does make sense.
And yes, the $5 dock tax is on the books and they charge everyone. I have Ecuadorian residency and still have to pay. Only Galapaguenos get out of paying.
Jul 28, 2009 11:03 PM
Jul 28, 2009 11:03 PM
Jul 29, 2009 9:08 PM
Thanks for the positive feedback and clarification about the Isabela dock tax. We considered posting the name and contact info for the jefe on Isabela so travellers could produce it if they encountered any problems at the park entrance, but then opted not to for privacy reasons. What we can tell you is that everything you need to know about where you can and cannot visit (with and without a guide) can be found in the management plan in the public library in Puerto Ayora.
We found the jefe quite approachable and if a potential "unorganized group" of hikers is in Villamil on a weekday it probably would not be a bad idea for them to go and ask him in advance. We are hoping that the rules have been clarified to the park staff after our encounter. Though, because the majority of people on Isabela seem to be under the impression that hiking Sierra Negra on your own is illegal without a naturalist guide, it still might be a bit of a hassle until this becomes more common-place.
note regarding the Tintoretas (on Isabela)
We forgot to mention in our original post that if you swim to the Tintoretas we highly advise towing along some form of footwear, as the volcanic rock trail will first tenderise then slice up your bare feet something fierce.
Jul 30, 2009 8:01 AM
11Hey Josh, thanks for all the info. i´m trying to set up a trip in the next few days, i know its all last minute but thats how i like traveling. originally i planned to do something similar in which i set up a short boat tour, flew to the island, and then spent extra days doing my own thing. after doing a little research i´m not so sure the boat tours are necessary for what i want. i was hoping you could give me some insight.
basically i´m more interested in the marine life and will be doing some dives as well as looking for good snorkeling sights. as far as terrestrial animals go, i´d like to see the tortoises, land iguanas, penguins, maybe a few boobies, marine iguanas, and some sea lions. i´d also like to snorkel with marine iguanas, penguins, and sea lions. from what i gather though i can see all of those without a cruise. i realize you say the best places are the uninhabited islands but how so? the fact that 4 and 5 day cruises cost well over $500 combined with the first and last days seem to not really be sightseeing days at all but rather transport days make the boat tours less and less appealing. your opinions and insight would be helpful. cheers,
ps, thanks for all the cost saving tips, will add to the list once i finish my trip!
Edited by: wolfpack
Jul 31, 2009 6:26 AM
The majority of our travel is "last minute" too. We understand the appeal. We intended this to be a brief response to your questions but it seems to have turned into another short novel. Hope some of it is of use. You can certainly see most, if not all of your preferred list of animals without going on a cruise, however, the land iguanas will almost certainly be in captivity. Our prime ambition for writing the original post was to demonstrate to people on a tight budget that it is possible to see and do a lot on your own when visiting the inhabited islands. While we had numerous amazing experiences on the inhabited islands, some of our most memorable encounters occurred while on the close to pristine uninhabited islands which felt unique to the world. We will try to elaborate below the reasons for this.
Here are the best places where we saw the wildlife that interests you, while on the inhabited islands. Of course it goes without saying that the wildlife is seasonal and unpredictable.
You should not have any trouble seeing giant tortoises as there are breeding centres on Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal. We also saw many "in the wild" in El Chato tortoise reserve on Santa Cruz which was in our opinion much cooler, however this is apparently seasonal so check first.
There is also a breeding centre for land iguanas on Santa Cruz (but the coolest place we saw them was in the wild on Española and Seymour Norte).
We saw penguins in the Laguna Concha Perla on Isabela, and apparently you have a good chance of seeing them in the Tintoretas as well, though we did not see any there.
There were a few large sea lion colonies on San Cristobal so you won't have any trouble seeing them there. Our most enjoyable encounter was when about 2 dozen very playful sea lions followed us for about 45 minutes on our swim out to las Tintoretas.
Blue footed boobies:
Without question, the coolest place we saw blue footed boobies was from the lookouts of Las Tijeretas on San Cristobal. We made a habit of walking down there for sunset every evening while on San Cristobal to watch groups exceeding 30 blue footed boobies dive in unison from about 200 metres above the water. The sound they made when they hit the surface echoed off the cliff faces and could be heard 5 minutes before you could actually see what was going on. You will also likely see them resting on the rocks around this area.
Like we mentioned in our post, the largest marine iguanas we saw were on Isabela near the entrance to the park which houses the wall of tears. We also saw some big ones on Bahia Tortuga on Santa Cruz. Las Tintoretas, on Isabela is probably one of the most accessible places where you can witness a vast number (in the thousands or at least high hundreds) of marine iguanas without taking an expensive cruise to a distant uninhabited island. Though these were some of the better places we saw them, you should be able to find a least a few basking on the shore-side black volcanic rock on all the islands.
Value of multi day cruises:
The first and last day of the tour are certainly filler days though how much so depends on the itinerary. We are by no means experts on this and can only relay our limited experience, but we will try to provide an example.
If the first half day of your itinerary includes a visit to Seymour Norte and Bachas bay, you will be spending exactly the same amount of time at these sites as you would on a $120.00 full day trip from Puerto Ayora. Not to mention, you will likely be paying the same amount for your half day (which includes two meals and accommodation) as the day tripper pays just to visit the site with one meal. The reason you get to spend an equivalent amount of time at these sites is because the day tripper spends a significant portion of his/her day in transport (bus and boat) whereas, the port where you board after arriving from the airport is quite close to these sites meaning less travel time for you. Also, unlike the day tripper, you don't need to worry about getting back to Puerto Ayora before dark. If you look at it this way your first day is still pretty good value.
The last day of our cruise included breakfast and a tour of the (free) Darwin centre. This day was the worst value as we could have done these on our own for a fraction of the cost, but, we were aware of this when booking so were prepared for it. No matter how you look at it it is extremely expensive, but if you try not to divide the price of a multi-day cruise into equal per-day portions it makes it a bit easier.
The majority of travel time on multi-day cruises is done at night. This is probably the most appealing attribute of the multi-day cruises, as you have more daylight hours to visit more sites than you do on a single day tour. Our primary motivation for booking the 5 day cruise (of which 3 were full days) was so we could visit Española (only accessible on multi-day cruises).
Why we liked the uninhabited islands:
The uninhabited islands have more abundant wildlife which is less skittish than on the inhabited islands. In short, they allowed us to uphold the magical illusion of the Galapagos which motivated us to visit in the first place.
You have likely read that the primary characteristic that makes the Galapagos so unique and amazing is that the endemic wildlife that live there evolved in an environment free of humans for much longer than most other regions on the planet. Though you can see some of this wildlife on the inhabited islands, these animals are the survivors who for the last couple hundred years have had to compete with humans and their hoard of cats, rats, ants, dogs, goats, agriculture etc etc.
While the endemic animals on the uninhabited islands have also had to deal with these adversaries to a certain extent, it is not to the same degree as on the inhabited islands. It is also significantly easier for the park officials to control the negative impact of humans on the smaller uninhabited islands.
Highlights which we saw on the uninhabited islands and not elsewhere:
-Nesting waved Albatross with egg or chick (Española)
-Varying species of land iguanas (Española, Seymour Norte, Plazas, Santa Fe)
-Nesting frigatebirds with chicks or eggs (in particular, males with their chests puffed out) (Seymour Norte)
-Nesting blue footed boobies with chicks or eggs (Seymour Norte, Española)
We are not scuba divers:
Though it is on our list of things to do, we are not scuba divers. Therefore we probably shouldn't even mention this, so take our next comments with a grain of salt. A friend of ours who works at a dive shop in the Galapagos told us during our visit that while there is nice sea life in the Galapagos, the marine park it is not extraordinary. He explained that there are many other places around the world where you can see the same stuff (e.g. whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles) in more abundant numbers for a fraction of the price. Because you are paying a premium for everything on the Galapagos simply because it is the Galapagos, if you are one a tight budget, it may be better value to allocate your money to things which you cannot see anywhere else (i.e. the terrestrial life). That said, since you are a diver, and you've said your primary interest is marine life, obviously you are going to want to look into doing at least one dive.
Our favourite snorkelling sites:
We did not snorkel in a lot of places but here were some of our favourites:
-The Devil's crown (off Floreana)
-Las Tintoretas (Isabela)
-The coves around Las Tijeretas (San Cristobal)
Good luck with your trip. Whether or not you book a cruise, it will be a memorable experience.
Jul 31, 2009 11:23 AM
Sep 12, 2009 3:29 PM
I just decided to take a trip to Ecuador for 2 weeks at the end of november. I really want to go to the Galapagos. It's so expensive, but I think I can find a way to swing it. I know that I want to do a 8 day cruise. Do you have any recommendations on certain boats, or a certain class of boat. I'm not too picky. I would just like to have a clean bed, hopefully a hot shower (because I hear the water is pretty cold that time of year) and maybe some space to lounge around on the boat. Most importantly I just want to be on a boat with good people. I'm 25 and would like to be on a boat with a lot of backpackers rather than families. I have heard good things about the seaman and the yolita II. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Also, do you recommend that I just get a round trip ticket to Quito, and then book my cruise and flight to the Galapagos from there, or should I have everything prearranged before I get there.
(0 star Hotel)
From US$17.17 per night
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From US$12.02 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$11.44 per night