Galapagos in Style
by Bklein456 on September 19, 2011
From speaking to co-workers who have visited the Galapagos and from researching on our own, we realized that this trip was going to be spendy, even if we had tried to do this "on our own." The cost between the craziness and stress of figuring all the logistics on our own versus booking through a tour company was not that much of a difference, so we decided to go with this awesome “Choose-your-own-adventure” company, called Galapagos Alternative. The owners Jill and Javier, and their band of guides, drivers and coordinators are personable, helpful and genuinely good people! They come highly recommended from many of our friends and now personally, from us!
STAYING ON BOARD OR ON LAND
With the company we went through, we stayed on two different islands and took day trips from those points. After looking at the activities we were interested in doing, we decided the best option for us was to take day trips while staying on land versus staying on board a boat and making trips to the land.
The idea of staying on board a boat the entire trip sounded like the reasonable option at first. It’s a great way to see more of the area, however many of the boats had "cookie-cut" schedules. And if we were going to be with other people on the boat, the activities were not going to cater to each of us individually, unless your group books all the spots on the boat. It makes sense that there needs to be a set itinerary because there are a range of interests with the more people on board.
Also, we were finding it hard to make our schedules work with the packages offered by the boat. The packages offered were either too short or too long than the amount of days we were going to be on the island. The dates their packages started were in conflict with when we would be flying in. And c’mon, who really loves that constant rocking of the boat and feeling like a giant while banging through narrow walkways, small doors and such? It’s okay for a few hours, but that possibility of having one’s stomach a wee bit off just was not gelling.
And who would have known that staying on land and having a more personalized itinerary could actually be cheaper than staying on a boat? Awesome. This is why we opted for the Galapagos Alternative to help us plan out our days, choosing how active we want to be each day, which activities to do, and how those things cooperated with the season/weather.
Booking through Galapagos Alternative was so easy. They made everything run smoothly. We gave them a list of things we were hoping to do. They set up a tentative itinerary based on what information we gave them. Sometimes it is not possible to get to all the islands in such short amount of time, or if the season/weather is not good for that activity, so the schedule gets changed up 'til you decide it is perfect. Taking some time off to just chill in town is recommended. Nothing screams "VACATION!!!" than having a very leisurely meal, drinking your pina colada while enjoying the breeze, watching the passerbys, talking with your friends/family, and tapping your feet to the sounds of a salsa or merengue song coming from the restaurant.
THE GALAPAGOS IN 7 DAYS
We just had to book our plane tickets to Quito. We stayed one night in Quito because we got in really late. They booked our flights from Quito to Baltra Airport the next morning. From there, we had someone waiting for us and our luggage. We didn’t have to worry about where to go for a bus, ferry, taxi, etc., or who to pay. Everything was taken care of by our guide. We took a bus ride to the docks to get a short ferry across the channel to the island of Santa Cruz. From there, we were taken on a tour of the highlands of Santa Cruz to see the giant Galapagos tortoises, travel inside underground lava tunnels (very cool!!!!) and to check out some old, eroded lava chambers. Our guide then took us into the town of Puerto Ayora and to our hotel.
On our second day, we toured South Plaza Island and saw a large sea lion colony, frigates, boobies, and gulls. We also saw lava lizards and the large iguanas. The views were amazing with the turquoise waters. We ate lunch while on boat and then snorkeled in some cold waters to see fishes and sharks.
On day three, we hiked up to Las Grietas (a must do!!!) and snorkeled in the deep, clear waters. This was sooo much fun! Then we hiked to a nearby beach and got all dolled up in our kayaking gear and off we went! We kayaked out to the rocky cliffs, where boobies abounded and we saw lots of puffer fish in the water. The sun was shiny, the wind was cooling, and it was an amazing day!!!
On the next day, we toured the North Seymour Island and saw the nesting sites of the frigate bird and boobies. As it was nesting season, we witnessed baby boobies and frigates…so precious! After lunch on the boat, we snorkeled by Baltra Island. The water was cold, but the amount of life in the water was awesome! We saw lots of fishes, big and small.
The fifth day we did a quick tour of the Charles Darwin Station to see the turtle and tortoise nursery. We also said hello to Lonesome George, who is still under the pressure to mate with others to continue the genes of his species. We spent a few hours hiking up to Tortuga Bay Beach and then exploring the lava rocks where a MASSIVE amount of iguanas were sunbathing. We snorkeled out in a nearby bay/lagoon trying to find sharks, but the water visibility was so low, we didn’t see very much. We then took a two-hour crazy speed boat ride to Isabela Island. Thank goodness for dramamine.
The sixth day we hiked up Volcan Sierra Negra. The hike was totally doable. The temperature/climate changed from the start to the end. First, it was rainy, over cast, and cold. Within 10 minutes of hiking, the mist lifted, the sun came out and the temperature rose. This was an AMAZING hike to see the large crater that filled with lava during the volcano’s eruption. We had a very delicious lunch at a nearby farm, and we even toured and tried some of the fruits.
The last day we toured Isabela and saw a gathering of 10-15 white-tipped sharks resting in shallow waters. Today was the best snorkeling experience ever. We saw 10 or so large sea turtles just chilling at the bottom, large iguanas swimming, we saw starfishes, octopus, and many fish. This was a haven of sealife! We even spied a few penguins on the rocks. What a way to end our stay here in Galapagos!
We were taken from the hotel to the docks to return back to Santa Cruz Island, where the owners were there to make sure we got taxied to the ferry which would take us back to the airport. We had someone with us the entire time so we did not feel worried at all.
Looking back on the trip, there would be room to save money by arranging your own bus rides, taxis, hostel/hotel rooms, and day trips through local travel companies; however, at the time this seemed the best bet since it is vacation and it was just that—no worrying to be done. We just needed to remember what time to be picked up, what to bring with us and what to wear. It was an amazing trip. No matter which way you decide to travel, you will not be disappointed by a trip to these beautiful islands. Happy trails!
Note: If you’re visiting during September, the weather is drier and cooler. Bring clothes for cold weather and have a raincoat because it mists and rains on and off and it helps to break the wind when it’s getting cold. Lots of sunscreen and bugspray only if you’ll be going outside at night. All touristed sites such as national parks close at 6pm so keep an eye on the time if you are "on your own" for any exploring.