As the lockdown in several countries is going to an end, restrictions are going to be lifted one step at a time so that travel planning seems to be an activity worth our time again right? In fact, I have noticed that several travel bloggers are updating their bucket lists and share them with us. There is one place that pretty often appears as a favourite destination for many of them: Galapagos. Since I’ve recently been there I decided to share some suggestions and recommendation which will probably make your travel planning a bit easier.
Galapagos are an incredible natural treasure!!! Is there any other place on earth where you can feel you’ve travelled in time and moved back to a pre historic era when humans were yet to appear and the planet was at its major splendour? Certainly not.
Thus, if you want to discover your own roots and live a “jurassic-like” adventure, Galapagos is the right place to go!
Before planning your trip to Galapagos be aware that the archipelago is one of the few places still left unpolluted on earth, thus making its extraordinary biodiversity pretty fragile. Although the number of visitors increased in the past few years, there is a cap to the maximum number of tourists allowed on the islands on a yearly basis. Therefore an “entrance fee” has been introduced a while ago to support the local conservancy fund. Also note that you are not allowed to roam around unaccompanied on the islands: a ranger must always be with you. There are just few beaches where you can go on your own by car or even on foot on Isla Santa Cruz.
Be also aware that the wildlife of Galapagos is not afraid of humans, they don’t even see you and do not feel human as a threat, thus don’t get scared if they will approach you quite often.
To get to Galapagos you have to take a flight from Guayaquil in Ecuador to Santa Cruz. There are several airlines flying there, although the most reliable one is Latam. Galapagos are an all year round destination. However, you have to keep in mind that the local summetime is pretty hot, while the sea is quiet, making islands hopping pretty easy, while during the local wintertime it’s cool, it might rain quite a bit (too cold for bathing in the ocean) while the sea is pretty rough making boat transfers from one island to the next quite uncomfortable.
Once in Santa Cruz you have a choice of 2 to visit the island:
- Book an inter-islands cruise (several durations are available up to your budget). Cruises are usually very expensive although some budget cruises are also available but accommodation on board is not refined and cleanliness may lack a bit. Although I am not fond of Cruise as they are highly polluting, I recommend them only during the local summertime to avoid sea sickness and travel discomfort.
- Independent travel. This is to me the best way to visit Galapagos because the time you allocate to each activity is up to you. Once you land in Santa Cruz you can book a set of individual excursions (there is quite a number of tour agencies where you can collect prices, info and make your choice) to explore the Islands and do activities. To visit the other islands you can keep Santa Cruz as a basis and do full day excursions or you can sail to another Island and overnight there. For independent travellers who can spend more time on each Island I recommend to avoid trying to cover all of the them as it might be too pricy and useless. Overnight are possible only on Isla Santa Cruz, Isla Isabela and Isla de San Cristobal. The rest of the archipelago is untouched, thus no accommodation is available and you can visit them only via full day excursions.
Pros and cons:
if you opt for a cruise you probably will see more islands but the time you spend ashore on each is very short and weather conditions, especially in wintertime, might prevent docking (don’t forget that you’ll be right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean). If you are and independent traveller you definitely will see 2 or 3 islands but you can spend as much time as you want on each. This is definitely my choice.
Basically all the excursions are worth all the money you spend, especially if you are a nature lover. Among them you shall not miss North Seymour Island for the extraordinary red ruby vegetation that is not found elsewhere on earth and the very rare Land Iguanas that only live here. If you enjoy snorkeling an excursion to Los Tuneles on Isla Isabela is also highly recommended. On Santa Cruz Island you can enjoy bathing in the ocean’s water at Las Grietas (the “crakcs”), a walk through the Lava Tunnel and El Chato Reserve to see the Giant Turtoise. For those of you who are not fainthearted and want to experience something literally breathtaking and scary at the same time, you definetly cannot skip the excursion to Kicker Rock (also called Leon Dormido), just off the coast of San Cristobal Island. This is the place where you can bath in the ocean with dozens of bull sharks. Bathing is not manadtory obviously as it’s not a risk free activity, however, the rangers will always be with you in the water and will tell you when it’s time to move and board back on the boat. Not for fainthearted.
When it comes to food there is basically one thing to try: fish, fish fish!!!! If you stroll around in the villages stop at a street food kiosk (the best known is Los Kioskos) where fish is grilled right before you and is the freshest ever. For a local food discovery, don’t skip the fish market on Santa Cruz Island.
About the Photographer
Beside being my travelmate, Gabriele Merlo is also a specialised Travel Photograpers, winner of the contest organised by the London Photo Festival on the theme of “Dunes”. Most of his pictures have also been displayed at personal exhibition in Torino and Alessandria (Italy) as well as the Photo Schweitz Festival (Switzerland). He uses a professional Canon Camera and he releases his pictures without any photo adjustment of any sort. Visit his website if you want to see some of his most impresive shots.
As we always trave together he allows me to use his pictures for my posts.