When in doubt, go to Ecuador: Galápagos
January 1, 1970
why you shouldn’t skip the Galápagos during your South America travels
By the time I made it to Ecuador in April 2016, I had already been travelling for over half a year. So as you can imagine, the question what has been your favorite place so far popped up on a regular basis. Up until that time I could never really pick a favorite. I mean I absolutely loved Patagonia, the Iguazú falls were simply amazing, the trip to the Uyuni saltflats left me speechless and Machu Picchu impressed me more than I though it would. But I couldn’t come up with an answer about where my favorite place had been. That changed immediately when I returned to Quito after almost two weeks in the Galápagos. The time I spent out in the Pacific completely blew my socks off and it will probably always be my favorite place in the world. So whenever people ask me whether it’s worth spending all this money on seeing a few turtoises, I tell them to do everything in their power to make the trip happen. But what was it that made me love it so much?
Everything. From beautiful beaches, amazing and diverse landscapes, friendly people, great food and the biggest diversity in animals, the Galápagos has it all. Since I had seen my share of beautiful beaches and wonderful landscapes in different countries, what really made it for me was the wildlife. Usually, if you want to see a sealion or a turtle, you need to go to a specific beach to find them. In the Galapágos however, if you want to see something cool, all you need to do is open your eyes. Sealions lie around everywhere. And by that I mean literally everywhere. Sometimes you have to take a detour to get past them when they decide to take a nap in the middle of the sidewalk – or the entrance to your hotel. The next minute, pelicans fly over your head, sit down next to you and stare into the water in search of some lunch. Baby sharks and rays swim up to the pier as soon as it gets dark to hunt for little fish. Iguanas hang out at the beach and waddle past you like you’re not even there. Penguins show off their swimming skills in front of your goggles when you go snorkelling. Sea turtles cruise past you in Finding-Nemo-style to get some air before diving back down into the depths of the ocean. Dolphins appear out of nowhere to play in the waves behind your boat. Different types of birds poop on you while you’re cluelessly chilling out on the deck of the cruise ship and blue footed boobies do their dance to attract females right in front of you. If I still haven’t convinced you that going to the Galápagos is about more than seeing a few sealions, maybe the following pictures will do the trick.
but it’s so expensive!
I know. Especially if you’re on the road for a long time it really cuts into your budget. With the amount of money you spend on the islands, you could easily travel for another month or two in Ecuador. But there is one crucial way to save a lot of your hard earned travel cash if you decide to head to the Galápagos. Do NOT book a cruise until you’re out there!
That’s the advice I got from a fellow traveller I met when I was in Guayaquil. And I’m so happy that I followed it. It took a lot of self-restraint not to run into every travel agency I came across in Quito and book a cruise. Being Swiss and a traffic planner, I really struggled just heading out and seeing what would happen. Anyway, the day of my departure arrived and I had managed to stay clear of all the tempting offers in the plentiful travel agencies that were spread out across Quito.
Once I had arrived at Baltra airport and reluctantly paid the 100$ nationalpark fee, I headed down to Puerto Ayora and found a cute hotel with very affordable rooms. After checking in, Angélica, who runs el descanso del petrel with her husband Luís, took me to an agency around the corner where I found my last minute deal. A six day cruise on Aida Maria for 1’100$! I know, it still seems like a lot of money for a cruise but if I had booked the exact same thing in Quito, I would have paid 1’800$ and even 2’400$ if I had bought it through an agency at home. One thing you have to bear in mind though is that you need to be flexible. I’ve met people who got on a boat two hours after rocking up at the travel agency or in my case, I had to wait for four days. But even if you have to wait for a cruise, there’s plenty of other things you can do.
Are there any alternatives to a cruise?
Of course there are! You don’t have to go on a thousand dollar cruise if you really don’t feel like spending that much money. You can stay on the islands and do daytrips. I’ve met plenty of people who did that and they loved their time out on the islands as much as I did. Just keep in mind that there daytrips are usually really expensive. For a full day you can pay between 100$ and 150$ so if you do a few of those, you might actually pay the same as you would on a last minute cruise which includes food, accommodation and activities. Just saying… But there are also plenty of free things you can do. Places like La Lobería in San Cristóbal or Las Grietas and Tortuga Bay in Santa Cruz are simply astonishing and only a short walk, taxi or boatride away from the places where all the hotels are.
Whether you decide to go on a cruise or do your own thing, you will definitely have a great time and enjoy all the things you get in front of your lens. I can almost promise you that you will love your time in this amazing place – however long you decide to stay and however you decide to travel around. Give it a try! Once you’re back at home and showing off all your amazing pictures you won’t be crying over the extra Dollars you spent…