I wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands. I have wanted to go for a very long time. You see, ever since I was a little girl, I have had a fascination with seals and sea lions. I used to collect all sorts of toys, figurines and pictures of them. Rooms full of the stuff. Honestly, I think it is the most neurotic personality trait that I had as a child and thankfully I grew out of it in my later years…..or so I thought. But when I heard that there were islands in the Galapagos, where you could get up close and personal and swim with these beautiful creature, nothing was going to stop me.
Problem is, that getting to the Galapagos Islands isn’t cheap. In fact, I nearly died when I saw how expensive a short 5 day excursion would cost. And to see all the animals that I wanted to see would mean I need to go on a longer cruise which grew exponentially more expensive. But I still really wanted to do it. So I got my nerd hat on, and researched for how to get a better deal. Read all the blogs about the Galapagos Islands that I could find, hunted through all the tour companies that went there and search through all the last minute deal search engines that I could find, and at the end of it I had decision paralysis. They were all really costly.
I had a short time frame to work within and from what I had researched, flying to San Christobel Island and winging it most probably would have landed me with a missed opportunity of a lifetime. So I caved and secured myself a space on the Galaven Cruiser through lastminute.com which was the most reasonably priced and covered the most ground.
It wouldn’t say it was cheap, and I hesitated a lot when transferring the money to the agent, but I just took the leap and told myself that I was ‘investing in experience’. Now I know it is really repulsive to talk about money, but the price you pay is justified by the service. I had a wonderful time aboard the ship. The staff were super friendly, the space was comfortable and the itinerary was designed to be a jaw dropping experience.
We saw Marine and Land Iguana’s by the hundreds, Sting Rays, Turtles and Tortoises, Hiked volcano craters, got up close with a Blue Footed Bobby and Penguins. But for me, the highlight of the trip was jumping in the water and ‘playing’ with the sea lions.
Watching them swish and spin in the water was like watching ballet. Effortless and athletic. The were both curious and attention seeking. With the personalities of a family dog, these sea show ponies were demanding the sole attention of everyone. Playfully mouthing the ends of my flippers in a game of tug and war. Then they would swim off and swirl back in a daring game of chicken, always coming within an inch of my body before skilfully darting in a different direction. If another animal came in to the vicinity and attempted to steal their limelight, they would pester the new arrival until it went away again. It was magical!
I think this won’t be the last time I visit the Galapagos Islands. But next time I am coming back as a volunteer. I found myself really inspired about the careful attention that the rangers placed on preserving the ecosystems, ensuring the animals remain stress free and educating the population.
Standing in a place where Charles Darwin decreed his theory of evolution was a soul satisfying moment.
If you are wanting to go to the Galapagos Islands, there are a few things that you should know:
1. It is expensive
Yes tours are always expensive, but the Galapagos Islands are next level expensive. Hostels like Community Hostel in Quito act as a travel agent for some last minute bookings for the shorter 4 and 5 day tours if you want a taste of the islands, but to really see everything that the Galapagos has to offer, you need to go on at least an 8 day journey.
Apart from the tour costs, everything on the island is expensive as well. So prepare to pay twice as much for water, food and souvenirs.
2. Flights to and from the main islands are unreliable
Depending on the airline that you are flying with, most of the budget airlines have two morning and afternoon flights to San Christobel. These along with the flights from Baltra, often get delayed or consolidated into a single flight, so be sure not to schedule a connecting flight from Quito too close to the Galapagos flight…you most likely will miss it.
3. If you are not time poor, you can snag a deal
If you are able to linger on the main islands of the Galapagos for a number of days, it is possible to snag a tour deal for nearly 60% less the original cost.The risk with this is that you might not get the itinerary you want.
4. Prepare to be amazed
If you go on a tour, there is a lot of activity. You won’t be sitting on the boat just floating in the sea. You get up and get going from 7AM and snorkel and hike twice daily. The water is cold, so wear a wet suit and don’t skip any of the dives. As uncomfortable as the water can be, missing the opportunity to be amazed by Mother Nature is far more painful.