The Galapagos Islands: Santa Cruz ‘n

Days: 240-241

Total distance travelled: 46,687.6 kilometres (28,998.51 miles)

When we began researching our flights to the Galapagos Islands, they were surprisingly much cheaper than was expected (always a good thing), so we began to monitor flights to see if there was much price fluctuation (either further from or closer to the flight date).

Ultimately, we chose to fly from Guayaquil, simply because it was cheaper but the reality is that most flights from Quito go via this, Ecuador’s largest city in any case.

The savings made easily off setting the small cost for us to bus it from the capital, so we were ultimately pretty happy.

Our Guayaquil time was brief, most memorable for a ridiculously hot 5 kilometre walk we made from the bus terminal to our hostel, and for a rather delicious bacon & spinach pasta I whipped up  for dinner the same evening.

Come morning we were just killing time until our flight the following day, when we happened to meet a departing Irish couple (Neil & Elsa), also headed for the airport, also destined for Galapagos and also on the same flight!

Had we known sooner, we could have shared the one car, but as it was, ours had already been arranged, and it wasn’t long until we all found ourselves at the airport, taking care of a few points of business before the flight (we’d checked in online the night before).

The main point of business referred to was making sure we had enough cash on us to cover the $100.00 US Galapagos National Park entrance fee (payable on arrival, cash only), and procuring for ourselves the $10.00 per person tourist card (which was very simple, as there is a separate baggage check area as well before you can check your bags onto the flight).

With that sorted, we dumped our bags, went through security and before long we were enjoying the 2 hour flight out into the Pacific.

On the landing approach, I got my first glimpse of the islands (for Sarah, this was her 2nd visit) which to be honest, didn’t look like the sort of place that would be harbouring much life at all, let alone so many unique species!

On the landing approach to Baltra Island. All this anticipation to see... a barren rock?

On the landing approach to Baltra Island. All this anticipation to see… a barren rock?

Whilst not a country, I was happy to see this little stamp!

Whilst not a country, I was happy to see this little stamp!

Still, we were quickly on the ground, collecting luggage, sadly, handing over $200.00 US in cash for our park entrance fee (at least it’s for a good cause) before bustling our way out to catch one of the several buses that waited, part 1 of our journey from Baltra Island’s, Seymour Airport down to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.

A mere 10, or was it 15 minutes later we were arriving at our first stop, where we’d change to a boat for the brief crossing between the 2 islands.

We hadn’t yet spotted any of the famous Galapagos wildlife, but we had however run into a lovely American couple, Jeremy & Risa who believe it or not, we’d first crossed paths with back on our journey to Villa de Leyva (back in Colombia).

Moments before the bus ground to a halt, this all changed (the wildlife situation that is, our American friends hadn’t suddenly turned on us).

First we spotted some of the famed Marine Iguanas, seconds later, we spied a Sea Lion lounging beneath a bench seat and then, much to my delight, we were able to take in a large flock of Blue Footed Boobies relaxing on the rocks (and let’s not forget the gorgeously coloured Sally Lightfoot Crabs as well)!

15 minutes on the islands and we can already see boobies!

15 minutes on the islands and we can already see boobies!

That $100.00 each already felt like it was delivering in spades!

Minutes later we were across the divide, on board a 2nd bus, and beginning the final leg of our journey to Puerto Ayora, the weather looking increasingly worse the further into the heart of the island we travelled.

We didn’t relish the prospect of trying to find lodging in the rain (we’d arrived with no accommodation or island tour booked), but thankfully, as we got closer to the south side of the island, the weather fined up considerably.

Our 1st choice for our lodging (who we’d also emailed only to receive no response) turned out to be full, and it was around the time that we discovered this, that we also ran into the Irish again, Neil & Elsa who’d somehow managed to contrive their way into missing the shuttle buses from the airport, and consequently the onward buses.

This had forced them to taxi it the whole way to town!

We decided to hunt for a place to stay together, and shortly found a place that both parties were happy with.

A brief period of our late afternoon was spent trying to garner information about last minute boat tours, before we capped the day (after a late lunch, we opted out of dinner) with an evening stroll along the waterfront and its pier that stretched well out into the harbour.

Here the wild delights of Galapagos continued to impress, as we were promptly wowed by a huge school of Golden Rays as they cruised the turquoise waters of the harbour.

A beautiful school of Golden Rays

A beautiful school of Golden Rays

The following morning was all about hitting some of the tour agencies yet again to try and snare ourselves a cheap, last minute deal… the flaw in our plan being that we were up and about long before any of the offices were open.

So after consuming a quick lunch of croissants with jam & taking in the morning’s animal action, namely Sea Lions and Marine Iguanas, we were finally able to continue our search for hopefully a great bargain.

Marine Iguanas wrestle for... well, who knows what!?

Marine Iguanas wrestle for… well, who knows what!?

Queue a couple hours of disappointment, where it didn’t seem a case of there not being many last minute deals, there didn’t seem to be many tours available full stop!

We’d even contemplated splurging on an 8 day tour around the grandest Galapagos Island, Isabela (at $1,600.00 US per person), but even this had since sold out, so it was seeming like it may be a day purely full of frustration.

By this time we were sat at one of the many dive shops (this one also arranged cruises), waiting as a Canadian couple were briefed on one smaller 5 day cruise that took in some of the southern and western islands, which, after the briefing, all 4 of us decided to commit to.

The only catch, it started that very day at 2pm!

This saw us quickly race back to our hotel (it was already 11:15 by now) hoping to grab our bags and make our 11am check-out!

Thankfully, this wasn’t an issue with reception, although it did mean we unfortunately weren’t able to properly say goodbye, or even exchange details with our 2 new Irish friends.

We met Dave & Cyd (the two Canadian’s whose trip we felt we’d tacked ourselves onto) back at the dive shop at the agreed time, where we were then led to the main pier to await the boat.

Only… we wouldn’t be getting on board. When the zodiac which belonged to the Floreana (that’s the name of the vessel on which we’d be cruising the islands) did finally arrive, our bags were collected, but we were not.

Instead our tour started with a short bus trip into the highlands to El Chato, a reserve where the famous Galapagos Giant Tortoises can roam freely.

A Danish family of 4 joined us from the Zodiac (they’d been picked up by the vessel directly from the airport on Baltra) and we were on our way.

We didn’t even need to wait until we’d departed the bus, in fact spotting several of these land behemoths on the drive in which was certainly a thrill.

Minutes later this was trumped completely, when we came face to face with the real thing.

These amazingly beautiful animals, looking so wise with their wrinkled features, and ponderous movements across the earth.

It became even more special (and a whole lot more David Attenborough like) when we were even privy to so wild love in the animal kingdom. We didn’t think this such a momentous event, until our guide, Victor, began to snap wildly with his camera as well!

Maybe this was indeed something special…

Up close and personal with an ancient giant

Up close and personal with an ancient giant

It goes without saying that a multitude of photos were snapped all throughout this excursion, which do a far better job than any superlatives I could think of.

What they don’t however do, is capture the feeling of the moment. The wow, the awe we felt to be in such a place.

This was iconic Galapagos, and this was in the first hour of our tour!

Our explorations continued, taking in more of these gentle giants, as well as a brief period beneath the lands surface as we explored an old lava tube.

A look so wise (left) & exploring an old lava tube (right)

A look so wise (left) & exploring an old lava tube (right)

Towards the end of the wander around the park, we had about 15 minutes free time in which to indulge in a beer or coffee if you desired (not free of course), but Sarah and I decided to stroll just a little further, as I’d spied from afar what looked like some action in a muddied pool.

Turns out it was worth foregoing the beer in this instance!

Happy as a...

As happy as a…

Evening found us back on the Floreana, where another 3 couples joined the vessel, bringing our complement up to 14.

Our 2 new Canadian friends, 4 Americans, 2 more Canadians, 4 Danes & of course ourselves (2 Australians).

We all dined together for the first time, and it was late in the night (2am we’re lead to believe) when we finally slipped out of the harbour, headed for our first full day of adventure.

Ending our day on board the 'Floreana' in Puerto Ayora's harbour

Ending our day on board the ‘Floreana‘ in Puerto Ayora’s harbour

 

Notes:

* Our one way flights from Guayaquil to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands cost us $190.00 AU Per person.

* Before it is possible to board your flight, it is necessary to pay $10.00 US per person for a tourist card.

* An additional $100.00 US per person park entrance fee is required on arrival in Galapagos (payable in cash only).

* The shuttle bus from the airport to the dock is FREE, however it will cost you $1.00 US per person to be ferried between the 2 islands.

* The bus service that run us onwards to Puerto Ayora cost an additional $2.00 US per person.

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20 Responses to The Galapagos Islands: Santa Cruz ‘n

  1. natalietanner says:

    What a wonderful experience. The yellow rays look a little like fallen leaves. The turtle with a mud mask is so happy! Love this post. Natalie, The Educational Tourist

  2. twoscotsabroad says:

    I don’t know why I am always so surprised when I see travellers so close to animals! Very jealous of your travels guys. What an experience.

    • Chris says:

      It’s a bit surreal, they have no concept of fear when it comes to humans, and just wander all about. Humbling and sad at the same time (when one considers the relationship around the rest of the world with animals)

  3. traciehowe says:

    I’ve been dying to go to the Galapagos for a long time. I found it surprising how you arrived and booked your tours. I always thought that it was ridiculously expensive (which maybe it is) and that you had to book everything on the mainland. I am curious about the cost of your 5 day boat cruise considering the cost of the 8 hour tour!

    On another note, as a kid I also witnessed such a romantic act between these turtles at the zoo. The loud sound of it drew people from everywhere. Ever since I have been wary when I hear strange sounds at the zoo. Haha!

    • Chris says:

      Apparently the most uncommon thing that we did was arrive on a 1 way ticket (normally it’s not allowed)! I’m pretty sure the details for the cruise are in the following posts, but if not, I’ll dig it up for you! Many are sold online now, which is why we had the difficulty in finding much on the ground…

  4. I love the photos! Especially the blue footed Boobies and the Golden Rays. Looks like it was a great trip!

  5. David Black says:

    Great photo of the golden rays. don’t think we saw them when we were here.

  6. What a start at Galapagos!!! So many wild life in just 24 hours. Great tips, I thought it wasn’t easy to book áll the activities there, it’s good to know that you don´t need to arrive in the island with everything pre booked and arranged…
    Curious to hear about your next days!
    Safe journey!
    Nat

  7. LaVagabonde says:

    What an incredible experience. Those golden rays look like autumn leaves in a pond. And the muddy turtle…worth the missed beer indeed. That’s a great photo both of you two. 🙂

  8. A truly amazing experience! The Galapagos islands are at the top of our list of places we’re dying to see! It sounds like you had such a great time and the photos are incredible!

  9. Not cheap but worth the experience huh!?

    • Chris says:

      Surprisingly cheap just to be there (if you’re prepared to hunt around), but gets expensive once you look to get on a boat and visit the islands.

  10. theglobewanderers says:

    Hi Chris – what an amazing trip! I really hope we make it to the Galapagos one day… that is one fantastic experience! So pleased you saw so many animals! I had to look twice at the golden rays… they looks like fallen autumn leaves floating in the water :). Good to know it’s relatively easy to rock up and get stuff booked also. Will commit that to memory for when we make it there one day :). Great post,

    Gabby

  11. Anne Howard says:

    Ooo we just missed you in the Galapagos. We were there in early July! What an incredible place. Loved hanging out with those giant tortoises and marine iguanas.That school of gold rays you saw was quite the lucky find!

  12. I was recently on the Galapagos Islands as well! It is absolutely amazing and I would go back in a flash, in fact this blog is making me miss the beautiful Puerto Ayora already. We decided not to go with one of the boat cruises though, we wanted our own relaxed schedule and pace I mean, who couldnt use more days at Tortuga Bay. ps. did you check that night market out in the = town where they block of the streets and fill them with tables of DELICIOUS sea food. ohhhh sooo goooddd.

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