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!
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)!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
* 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.