This morning we began our journey from Quito, Ecuador to the Galápagos Islands. The day started with a 4:30am wake-up call to catch a 5:00am taxi to the airport. On the way to the airport, I again marveled at the beauty of the city of Quito. If you haven’t been to Quito before, the city rests in a mountain valley and the views of the city coming in from the airport and out on the way back to the airport are breathtaking.
We were scheduled to fly out this morning on LATAM airlines at 7:15am. However, before we could check-in, we had to go thru an additional customs inspection in order to fly to the Galápagos Islands. In addition to the standard items you are not allowed to travel with, the Galápagos Islands has some additional standards that are designed to protect the fragile and special ecosystem. The most consequential of which is the prohibition of any plastic bags.
We had to go thru our baggage and move a lot of items (souvenirs, camera gear, etc…) from plastic bags to other compartments in our luggage. This is something that we totally support, as we understand the negative consequences that improperly disposed of plastic can have on marine wildlife, but it is something that we weren’t completely prepared for before we arrived.
Believe me, this is something that I am going to highlight to a great extent in my Galápagos Islands visitor guide when I write it. I will also be touching on the several different fees that you need to pay to visit the islands. I will discuss these fees to some extent below in this journal entry. You will want to have some cash on hand when you arrive on the Galápagos Islands.
Once thru our Galápagos Islands customs inspection, we proceeded to the gate. Our plane today took off right on time and we landed in Guayaquil, Ecuador for a brief layover at around 8:10am. Because our plane was continuing on to the Galapagos, we didn’t have to disembark the plane, which was nice. It also made us feel a lot more comfortable about the luggage situation after the uncertainty we experienced yesterday.
The flight from Guayaquil to Baltra Island in the Galapagos was a smooth one. It took us roughly 2 hours and we landed in the Galapagos at around 10:30am MST. The Galapagos is in a different time zone then the rest of Ecuador, so we gained an hour during the flight, which was nice. It meant there would be more time to explore once we landed.
Upon arriving in Baltra, we had to go thru customs and immigration again on the island. Somehow, we were not charged an immigration fee when we landed in Quito, so we had to pay that $20 fee upon arriving in the Galapagos. We were also charged the $100 fee to enter the Galápagos Islands Protected Area.
After paying our fees, we had to run our bags thru the security sensors and were then free to meet up with our tour guide. Our guide, whose name was Teo, was waiting for us as we exited customs and immigration. He assisted us in getting onto one of the buses that would take us and our luggage to the water taxis that would take us to Santa Cruz Island. The fee for the buses is $10, but the water taxis, which is a short 5-10 minute boat ride, was free.
Once on Santa Cruz Island, which is the most populated island in the Galapagos, our tour guide Teo arranged for us to take some taxes to Puerta Ayora. You can expect to spend somewhere between $15-$20 for this taxi ride. Along the way, we were able to see Tortoises and Marine Iguanas along-side the road, which was really cool. Our first wildlife spotting!
We spent the afternoon exploring Puerto Ayora, which was very neat. They had some really cool shops to explore and some nice restaurants to eat at. We ate lunch at a little restaurant and then did some shopping and took some pictures. We got to see a lady cleaning some freshly caught fish and a sea lion waiting beside here ready to gobble up the scraps. That was really neat to see.
At 2pm that afternoon, we were scheduled to take a boat ride from Santa Cruz Island to the Island of Isabella. The island of Isabella, which is larger geographically then Santa Cruz Island, is far less populated. First we had to take another water taxi out to our boat, the Neptune, which was waiting for us off the docks. Our tour company arranged this all for us, which was nice. The water taxi just cost us $0.50 a person for us and our luggage.
Before we were able to get onto the water taxis, we had to have our luggage inspected again. This is where we discovered what the green zip ties they used to lock our luggage in Quito were meant for. If you still had this green zip tie on your luggage, it didn’t need to be inspected again. If you didn’t have your luggage inspected in Quito or cut off the zip tie to get into your bags, you needed to have your luggage inspected again before getting on the water taxi to Isabella Island.
The boat ride was 2.5 hours long, and the sea was pretty rough because it is winter time here in the Galapagos. I was lucky because I had prepared and brought motion sickness patches and Dramamine, but there were others on our boat that were less fortunate. At least two people on our boat got really sick and we felt horribly for them. I will be sure to include a packing list with my Galápagos Islands Visitor Guide so that you are fully prepared when you visit.
When we got to Isabella Island, we had to take another water taxi from the Neptune to the docks on Isabella. This water taxi cost a bit more at $1.00 per person, but was still really cheap. Our next tour guide, Ricardo, was waiting for us when we got to shore. We had to pay a $10 tax to get onto Isabella Island, and were given a pass that was stamped when we went thru the gate and onto the island.
Ricardo took us first to Flamingos Lagoon, where we got to see Flamingos feeding in the brackish water of the lagoon. This is one of the largest coastal lagoons in the Galápagos Islands and it is the main reproductive site for Flamingos in the Galápagos Islands. It was really cool to see them feeding and interacting with one another. What we didn’t know is that Flamingos are not native to the Galapagos. Some had accidentally landed here from Central America in the past and have become trapped on the islands.
When we were finished checking out the Flamingos, we headed back to our hotel to check-in. Our hotel is very nice and comfortable, so we were pretty happy about that. Tomorrow we get up at 6:00am to take a tour of the Sierra Negro volcano and the Volcan Chico, which is a still active volcano. After our tour of the volcanos, we will pack a lunch and spend the rest of the day snorkeling in Concha Perla with colorful fish, sea lions, and sea turtles. We brought some wet suits because the water this time of year is supposed to be between 69-72 degrees. This isn’t too cold to swim in, but it can be just cold enough to be uncomfortable if you are in the water for long periods of time.