Whenever I thought of the Galápagos Islands, I always put them in the holiday category of ‘once-in-a-lifetime’, ‘remote’, and ‘very expensive’.
Especially if travelling from Australia!
Then the chance came up for a holiday to South America, and suddenly the far away dream of visiting the Galapagos seemed much more real!
Firstly I was surprised by how quickly you can actually get there. I travelled Brisbane – Sydney – Santiago (Chile) – Guayaquil (Ecuador) – this took pretty much the same travel time as going to Europe, just a couple more flights!
Guayaquil is the city in Ecuador where the flights to the Galapagos leave from and typically you would spend a night there before and after flying to Galápagos.
Sooo anyway once I knew that yes I could go to the Galápagos, I did what any animal-obsessed travel nerd did- I googled. I discovered the best way to see the islands was by boat, and then I spent hours looking at itineraries, what was on each island, animal seasonality, tide times, boat size, how good was the food, will the stars align on the 10th hour of the 10th day… you get the idea. After many many many hours I finally found the perfect boat with a perfect itinerary which was more on the ‘indulgent’ side of my usual travel budget, but hey Galápagos!
So a few months later I find myself in Ecuador having a grand old time exploring the country before the planned Galápagos trip – cloud forests, traditional mountain villages, hummingbirds galore, horchata tea, oh and a fun gastro infection! Yes lucky me picked up a bug which made me sick enough that I had to recuperate in Guayaquil for a few days – and my perfectly planned boat trip went ‘poof’ into a puff of where-did-my-dream-go smoke!
But all was not lost! Flights were rearranged! I got back my energy! The boat trip may have left without me (literally) but goddamit I was still going to step foot on those islands!
This is when I discovered just how accessible and reasonably priced and easy a trip to the Galápagos can be if you end up staying on the islands instead of a boat trip.
What surprised me the most:
– You forget that the Galápagos are actually islands- like white sand, clear water, pina-colada lying-on-the-beach relaxing islands
– the majority of tourists were Ecuadorian who seemed to really enjoy the island vibe
– There are animals EVERYWHERE. Like hey I’m just eating lunch at this little cafe on the harbour and oh look at the giant ray swimming next to our table, and the albatross flying overhead. Even the trip from the airport to town included a display of hundreds of dive-bombing booby birds, it was like being in the middle of a wildlife documentary.
– It’s really easy to walk to amazing beaches. There is also a fantastic taxi service to take you further afield and every driver we had was so passionate & knowledgeable about the islands and their wildlife.
– It’s much less touristy than I expected. I had this idea that the main town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz would be a Galápagos-theme-park kitschy nightmare but it was actually a great place to hang out. The island of San Cristobal is even more laid back and a relaxing place to stay.
– It’s not expensive at all to fly to the islands, stay in decent accommodation (about AU$50/night for 2 people), and eat amazing food especially if you find where the locals eat.
– Oh and the best thing about the islands – seals! So many seals I think the islands should be renamed Sealapagos! You could easily spend all day everyday watching them snooze, do aquatic acrobats, argue, chase each other, swim in the water with them… heaven in other words. I did actually cry when I had to say goodbye to them, but don’t worry Sealapagos, I will be back!