Galapagos journey require couple of reservations in advance but if it is not a high season, it can also be made as a last minute trip as I did. Galapagos, ‘once in a lifetime journey’.
There are 2 seasons, wet and dry; wet season means more rain, warm ocean water and more quiet waves (this is important if you are in a cruise) and the dry season means colder ocean water, more shaky waves and much less rain.
I am travelling South America since October and I came to Ecuador on 8th of May, from Colombia. I just made a quick decision to do it in May after learning May is the month between the 2 season, and it is the time for many birds to be on islands to nest and also May is off season, after easter holidays and before schools summer breaks, so there are not many tourists, so there are good last minute discounts on tours which have vacancies. So I had that chance and I used it.
By 1959, The Galapagos becomes a national park, and tourism starts in the 1960s by cruises. Very year the number of the tourist arrived Galapagos increases and from early 2000s the islands becomes more tourist friendly with hotels, restaurants and souvenirs shops. And than land based tourism increases a lot after boat services start between Sant Cruz and Isabela and between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.
There are cruise itineraries, covering different islands of Galapagos. Mine was the South itinerary and that one didnt include Isabela Island. So I started 4 days before my cruise journey.
So on 13th of May, I flew from Quito Mariscal Sucre airport (for Galapagos flights, it is required that all luggage should have been controlled and transit control document should be purchased, it was $20) to Seymour airport in Baltra Island. All flights to Galapagos have to be from Quito or Guayaquil. Total flight from Quito to Seymour airport was 3 hours, including waiting time in Guayaquil.
There is 1 hour time difference, Galapagos time is 1 hour behind.
Next to pasaport control was the point to pay the national park entrance fee of $ 100 and next to it was shuttle ticket kiosk to the dock of Baltra to take boat to Santa Cruz island. Shuttle was $5. After about 10-15 minutes we arrived to the dock and paid $1 to captain. The crew transferred all the luggages from bus to the boat.
From the dock I took a bus again to go to Puerto Ayora, the main town of Santa Cruz island. It took about 40 minutes and it costed $5. Taxis were also available for $25.
Santa Cruz Fisherman, who are the customers 😀
I had one more step on the same day, to go to island Isabela. The boat time is 14.00, and passengers required to be at the dock 30 minutes before. Because all luggages are checked and sealed. So there is always a line for that. And also boat tickets should be bought earlier, because, as I experienced, all were sold out. So I had no time and no chance. And the agency didn’t say about that at all. Later I Whatsapped her and questioned there’s no chance to catch 14 pm boat as I flew from Quito at 9 am, and didn’t she know that and she replied ‘we have a lot tourist take same flight same ferry. But Puerto Ayora is also nice, just enjoy”. She was like that.
So my flight arrival time was late, period. The best and least stressful option is to arrange going to other islands next day because there are 2 departures for other islands, one is very early in the morning (for Isabela it was 7 am), the other is afternoon (for Isabela it was 14 pm).
I had to cancel my reservation for the night in Isabela and found a hotel in Santa Cruz (I immediately checked Hospedaje Stephany, as I had a reservation after 3 nights, yes, fortunately they had a room).
Later, I saw a tour at a agency by the dock. They were selling a tour for Isabela, 3 days-2 nights, including a tour to islet tintoreras and a tour to volcan, and the meals for 2 days, boat tickets from and to Santa Cruz in total $220. If I did it myself, I was going to pay $60 for 2 way boat tickets and $70 for 2 nights stay and meals and tours. So preferred that option.
Isabela Island Dock
In the morning first we got our bags controlled (they check each bag to prevent islands from unwanted things). Than took water taxi, 50 cents per person, to the boat. The journey started at 7.15 to island Isabela and we arrived at 9.15. We paid $1 for water taxi and $10 tax at the entrance to the island. There were people from Hotels waiting for their guests, so we were transferred to hotels to put the luggages and meet our guide for the day. Then the tour started.
American flamingos.. As they grow up, their color turn into color of shrimp, as their main food source are shrimps and alg.
In the morning we visited giant tortoises breeding center, then walked on boardwalk to reach little wetlands to see flamingos. Later we went to Las Tintoreras Islet and I saw Blue Footed Boobies first time.
I saw white-tipped sharks, they were resting in a quiet canal between lava rocks (they go hunting at nights) and Galapagos penguins sun bathing on the rocks. And many marin iguanas and crabs.
We also snorkeled there. Few of the penguins just passed so quickly under me.
Negra Volcano Tour
There are many volcanos on Isabela but Volcano Negra (or Cerro Negro) is the only accessible volcano and it is one of the most active volcanoes in the region. Its last activation was in 2018 June.
We walked to Chico hill and returned and that was 16 km of walk in total.
We had another guide for this tour. They picked me and other 23 people from hotels, drove us to a certain altitude where we started walking. It’s altitude is 870 m and walking path had little bit of ups and downs.
The receptionist and the guide reminded me to take a rain coat. Mountains are always have different weather conditions but that morning was cloudy and it was certain that it was going to rain, so it started raining from the moment we started walking and took nearly 2 hours. When it stopped we were close to the summit. We had our packed lunch while the guide telling us about the history of volcanos, we had a view from the top of the hill and also saw Fernandina island. It started rain again on the way back, but generally it was a good hike. I net people from Argentina and Spain and had chat half in English, half in Spanish. The volcan tour ended around 13.30, again they dropped everyone to their hotels.
After a short rest I walked at the beach to see these beautiful birds…
Los Túneles Tour
On my last day in Isabela, I decided to go to Los Túneles for snorkeling. I paid the tour price to the acency at my first night, it was $110, but I asked some discount, we agreed for $105.
It is very important to ask exactly what are included. I remembered the agency told me that snorkels and fins were included, but I didn’t remember if it includes diving suits. The tours start very early in the morning, so it is very important when and where they provide the equipment. In the morning the tour people asked me about diving suit. They told me that If it was included they should have given me a night before. So as I dont have it, it is not included in the price, so I have to rent it from them. I said they told me everything is included, equipment and lunch and fruit. They wanted to call and ask the agent, but they couldn’t reach them and they said they would call later. They gave me the suit, but later then no one asked me to pay anything. It is also important to have the boat or tour name written on voucher in case you need to reach the agency. It’s a good idea to get the tours’ phone number too.
Boat trip to Los Túneles took about 1 hour.
We had 2 hours for snorkeling. We started to explore the underwater. I saw white-tipped sharks, sea horses, turtles. For the first time in my life, I was this close to the shark. I dived to see more closely, and the guide pushed me from the back to make me stay a little bit more. Just amazing … Full of adrenaline.
Also we saw a group of ray fish, an octopus and many other colorful fish.
Galapagos Penguins were sunbathing on lava rocks.. and there were blue footed boobies too. Wherever we took a look were endemic beautiful creatures
I was at the hotel at 13:30 to pick up my baggage and at 15:00 I took the boat to return to Santa Cruz. It was a sunny afternoon ✌️😎
After exploring Isabela Island by the land, I continued my expedition the other Galapagos Islands with Santa Cruz II
Day 1, Friday, May 17
The morning buses from Santa Cruz terminal to Baltra dock is only at 7.00, 7.30 and 8.00. A guide told that they sometimes do at 8.30 also. As I woke up so early and was ready, I took to first bus and was at the airport at 8.30.
The meeting time with all the people from Ecuador was 11 am.
Santa Cruz 2 guides were already at the airport waiting people to arrive.
At 11.30 all of the luggages with tags sent to cruise to be placed in our rooms and we were taken to Santa Cruz 2 by pangas and welcomed by fresh orange juice.
After lunch we had a nice brief about the yacht and expedition. They devided as into groups, and named by the names of birds of Galapagos. I was in blue footed boobies group 😀
Meanwhile the yacht was navigating next to Mosquera Islet, a small volcanic uplift between Baltra and North Seymour. At 3 pm we were at Mosquera for first expedition. Mosquera islet has a long and narrow sand bank surrounded by lava reefs where there were many sea lions. We had time to swim too (they provide great beach towels) and returned to the yacht around 17.30.
I saw a lot of blue footed boobies. They exist on all islands, but the largest breeding colonies were North Seymour and Espanola. Most of them were on their eggs, both male and female birds look after the eggs. Male blue footed boobies have white eyes, females have black.
We were invited to the brief of next day program and Captain’s welcome speach at 19.15, followed by cocktail and dinner at 20.00
Day 2, Saturday, May 18
Wake up call was at 6.15, and breakfast time 6.30 and 7.30 disembarked to pangas to go to San Cristóbal dock. After 40 minutes drive we reached Cerro Colorado to see endangered giant tortoises breeding center. We also saw the San Cristobal mockingbird, and the San Cristobal lava lizard, both island endemics.
Later we had some free time to walk around in the town and then went to dock to go to the yatch.
In the afternoon, at the eastern tip of the island, at Punto Pitt, we saw red footed boobies.
Day 3, Sunday, May 19
After breakfast, we went to Santa Fe shores to see the endemic land iguana that unique to this island and the giant pear cactus trees.
Around 15 pm, we disembarked on South Plaza Island, where land iguanas were beneath pear cactus trees trying to drop its fruits. The great and magnificent male frigates with red pouch were here. The most amazing bird I have seen in my life. Taking its photos were so difficult though. On our last day, we saw them again on North Seymour Island.
Much closer, he came to the yatch 😀
Day 4, Monday, May 20
In the morning we went to visit the giant tortoise breeding center at Charles Darwin Research Station and learned about Lonesome George and Diego. In 1975, the number of giant turtles (2 males, 12 females) falls to 14 and Diego and Lonesome George comes father on hundreds of tortoise.
We visited Bellavista region, El Trapiche farm, to see the process of coffee and panela.
Day 5, Tuesday, May 21
We went to Punta Suarez, Espanola Island to see Galapagos Albatross. It is the largest bird in Galapagos. They are seen from April to December and only in Espanola island.
The other important species of the island is red-green-black marin iguanas.
In the afternoon, we snorkelled at Gardner Bay.
Around 7 pm our cruise surrounded by dozens of Galapagos sharks. They were hunting flying fish. The crew told that flying fish herd were forced to swim to the light of our cruise by the sharks to hunt them. It lasted for hours.
Day 6, Wednesday, May 22
We had a tour around islet Edén and canal between Edén and Santa Cruz by pangas where we saw 6 baby hammer sharks about and a baby Galapagos shark. Around 9 am there were many pelicans and blue footed boobies having breakfast, we watched them diving to the sea to hunt fish.
At 10 am we were off for snorkeling close to Santa Cruz. There were some star fish, many parrot fish, and a very interesting transparent, only orange color eye and an orange color line at the back..
Afternoon snorkeling, swimming with pelicans was great. They were diving for fish and flying… they did it many times and sometimes very close to us.
At 4 pm we went for hiking in North Seymour to see great and magnificent frigates.
We had our last full day just like that, so special.
Day 7, Thursday May 23
After breakfast, just before leaving the yatch for the airport, Martin who were photographing us and the nature during the expedition, presented a slide show.
I met people from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Germany, Israel. I also met Ecuadorians, who live in Santa Cruz and work in the Galapagos National Park. They were guests. Santa Cruz was trying to invite them as much as possible.
It was a very special trip of my life. I was very excited at every minute of it. I saw great birds, including boobies, albatross, pelicans, frigates, sea gulls, flamingos, hawks; sea lions, lizards, iguanas, penguins, sharks, baby hammer sharks, tortoises of Galapagos. I did not see Galapagos Fur Seal, but some friends did… The Big 15 includes Flightless Cormorant and it is only be in the middle and north part of Isabela Island and Fermandina island. I also missed that one.
May 23, 2019 ✌️😎