The Galapagos – where to start! First things first, if you are thinking about going, or have ever thought about going – Go! You will not regret it.
I wasn’t sure whether to go! I’m on a backpackers budget, every other backpacker you meet isn’t going because it’s too expensive and you really have to do a tour ( even if you fly to the islands, you still have to do tours as your day trips so it still works out the same). In hindsight, I don’t know why I ever wondered or hesitated. Of all the travelling I have been lucky enough to do in my life, it’s probably my highlight. It’s like nowhere else you will travel and it’s most definitely a rarity. Caveat to that, in case people go and then don’t love it like I did. I’m a big geography geek and I love being at sea/snorkelling so it basically combined all my interests – maybe that’s why I loved it so much.
For animal/bird lovers it is a rarity – I walked around for a week with David Attenborough’s voice in my head at all times. Only place in the world where birds feel safe enough to nest on the ground, not on tree tops or cliff edges ( they do that too), where animals feel so safe they don’t even care when you are 2ms from them. That’s the policy, 2 metres from animals/birds at all times and the guides enforce that at all times. The guides have to be from the Galapagos and they are passionate about what they do and where they come from. Which is so nice to see.
Ok so enough waffle –
Day 1 – So day 1 of the tour isn’t actually on the island, it’s in Quito and they put you up in the Hilton. For someone who has been in 10/12 bed dorms for 3 months it was incredible. I was sharing a room as I hadn’t paid for the solo option but it was still amazing and my roommate Robyn was lovely. I spent the day by the pool, and in the jacuzzi feeling like I was on holiday. The first night you have an Induction meeting, to understand about the tour and to meet your group. I was really lucky with my group. It was myself, Robyn (an Aussie lady from Adelaide), Liam (another Aussie but from Sydney) and Constance/Heidi – mother and daughter from Germany. We were a really nice mixture which I think makes your trip in itself.
Day 2 – At 5am we had breakfast and headed off to the airport. The flight was just over 2 hours and stopped at Guayaquil on the way. The flight out of Quito was so turbulent as you are flying over the mountains so if you are a nervous flyer, hang in there it’s fine! The airport has been moved to the outskirts of Quito but apparently it used to be in the city centre and only a handful of Ecuadorian pilots were trained to land there.
We arrived at San Cristobal island, paid our $100 dollars to enter the Galapagos ( you pay $20 dollars at Quito airport too) we found our tour guide – Alejandro and we were transported to the hotel to dump our stuff. Note they only take cash and dollars!
After having a lovely fish lunch, we headed to the interpretation centre (basically a small museum about the Galapagos) and to the see the giant tortoises that are being protected in the breeding centre. I have always wanted to see giant tortoises in the wild. I saw them when I was really little in Kenya and I’ve had a fascination ever since. Whether I actually remember them, or I remember the photo I’ll never know but either way it’s been a dream of mine to see them. So when we saw them, even in the breeding centre it feels like they are in the wild,I was so happy! Big smiles across my face 😊. The tortoises that are breed are released aged 5 to the exact place they were rescued from as eggs.
Later that afternoon before dinner and watching some local dancing we went to the sea lion colony on San Cristobal! We were lucky enough to see a pup being born and hang out with the sea lions at dusk. It was pretty special
Day 3 – Up early to get to the boat for snorkelling!!!! I’ve done quite a lot of snorkelling before but never EVER as amazing as this day! I think Sunday 15th October 2017 may always be one of my favourite days ever! It’s also quite exciting to not know what I will be doing on October 15th 2018 ( which coming from someone who likes to plan and hates change; I’ve come along way). Anyways, we started off snorkelling by the shore of one of the islands. The water was pretty bloody cold but so clear and within minutes we were snorkelling with turtles and playful sea lions. I’ve never seen anything like it, the sea lions are weaving in and out of you, grabbing on to your fins and generally incredibly inquisitive. I thought this was pretty spectacular – little did I know it was going to get better!
Next stop – Kicker rock.
A giant rock in the middle of the sea that we were told if we were lucky we might see a shark! We saw a hammerhead, black tip reef sharks, white tip and also a Galapagos shark. Bucket list item ticked – swim with sharks! For those of you who are my friend on Facebook you will have seen the go pro video. The underwater world around Kicker rock was beautiful. Giant turtles feeding with no care in the world, a manta ray, hundreds of fish and feeding sea lions! About an hour in to snorkelling I was exhausted and feeling a bit sick. It was very choppy and swimming was quite difficult (not to mention cold). I was about to ask Alejandro when we were going to be done and he said, 10 minutes just follow me. We swam between a crack in the rock, which was challenging as the waves were attempting to bash you into the sides. Our guide told us to dive down, so dutifully I did and just below us there was a giant shole of fish 🐟 and all of a sudden they split in two and swam at us – I didn’t have time to panic, just to observe a sea lion feeding which was sending the fish into a frenzy! I actually said wow through my snorkel and then had to go up for air as I’d got water in my snorkel. Once I’d finished choking I dived down again to watch them feeding.
By the time we got back on the boat I was exhausted and feeling a tad sick from the waves but it was totally worth it. Fantastic experience and it wasn’t even lunch time!
That afternoon we transferred to our boat for the next three days – Xavier III which was much nicer than I expected if I’m honest. I booked through G Adventures which was the cheapest I could find so I wasn’t expecting much from the boat but it was lovely. I got a bottom cabin to myself, the crew were really friendly and the food they made us over the next couple of days was delicious.
That afternoon we went to Isla Lobos to see the sea lion colony and blue footed boobies ( what a name!) . You would think Fabian ( our new guide) planned it – we get onto the island and first we see a week old blue footed boobie, then a 4 week old one, then a juvenile and then a fully grown adult! That doesn’t happen in the animal world!! Just happily sitting in age order for us, so we could see how it grows up!!! They even danced for us when it was the wrong season – so lucky!
That night I think our group was in bed by 8! All absolutely exhausted and drained from our incredible day!
Day 4 – Lovely breakfast at 7 and then time for some more island exploring and snorkelling. We’d sailed during the night to North Seymour island. We spent all morning exploring on the island. Seeing frigates and land iguana’s. The frigates were out of mating season yet we still saw their incredible red chests inflate when trying to attract a mate. It takes 20 minutes for it to inflate to a size that the female would find attractive – once again I was walking around this island, coming across all different types of creatures and birds with Attenborough in my head! I felt like I was in a documentary- especially as you can get so close and they don’t remotely care!
After our trip to the island we went snorkelling again, this time seeing incredible fish and more turtles. By this point I was pretty cold so it was nice too warm up by visiting a small sand bank island with yet another sea lion colony and also whale skeleton for us to see.
Everything on the Galapagos is left as it is, so there are bodies, skeletons everywhere.
That night there was the most incredible sunset
Day 5 – Off to Santiago the Lava island and then Batholome island ( the iconic view of the Galapagos in the travel brochures)!
The lava island was awesome, I was in my geography geek element haha. All my knowledge came flooding back and I found it so interesting. Unfortunately all the good photos I took are on my Camera so they will have to wait. On my phone it just looks like a black stone island ha!
After the island there was more snorkelling ( our final day of snorkelling) and we saw a penguin!! That was it, I could go home, I’d seen everything I came to the Galapagos to see. I was happy! The penguin was whizzing through the ocean and even the people who didn’t want to snorkel again got to see him as he swam right up onto the beach. The Galápagos penguins are tiny and super cute.
That afternoon, after our walk up the old volcano to see the iconic view of the Galapagos, we were lucky enough to get very close to a penguin and her chick. The others had all snorkelled off and Robyn and I had stayed back and they just sat on a rock in front of us and let us quietly observe them interact with each other. The perfect end to our last snorkel and something I will never forget! 😍
( not a great photo of the Penguins but you can see us all just hanging out)
Day 6 – Time to see the tortoises in the wild before heading back to Quito in the afternoon.
I bloody love them! Crazy, spectacular creatures
Back in Quito to enjoy my night of luxury, before an overnight stay in Lima airport on my way to Cusco. Fun! Heidi took us all out for dinner which was so lovely. We all protested but she kindly insisted. Perfect end to an incredible week.
Next addition – Machu Picchu and Cusco