Galapagos. The land that, bald headed, Santa Clause bearded, naturalist Charles Darwin made famous with his studies in the mid 1800’s. Those studies where he determined that species descend over time from common ancestors through the process called natural selection. I.E. Evolution. Anyone remember that stuff from college. No? Remember the finch’s? Galapagos Finch’s, Darwin’s Finch’s? Those damn birds…most anyone who took a biology class had to toil over these guys in labs for some extended number of hours as blood sugar ran low and your iPhone buzzed with friends asking when you were out of class for the day. Anyway, Darwin and those finches made this place famous. It’s a place that only Sir David Attenborough could adequately describe in words.
The Ecuadorian Government does a hell of job to take your money with fees to set on very foot on the island. It’s like 120 bucks or something but damn it goes to a good cause. They keep that place pristine and only 1.5-2% all the islands are used for human and tourist use. Despite the mainland being 1000 kilometers away there are plenty of rangers overseeing the ocean and land making sure no one is raising any sort of unwanted debauchery. The other 98 percent of the islands are strictly used as a plant and animal sanctuary.
If the travel bug gets yah and you decide to make the trip, there’s a couple ways to go about visiting, via land or via water. Which one you do will very much depend on how fat your savings account is. Via Yacht, from what I saw, will cost you about 3-5K without airfare but they will take you everywhere on land and in the water during the all-inclusive trip. There are a couple islands within the archipelago that can only be reached if you pony up the cash to take a Yacht also.
Via land you will fly into Isla Baltra take a short 1 dollar ferry across the channel to Isla Santa Cruz which is the main island for tourism. Once you get there you will take an hour bus/taxi ride that will run you between 3-20 bucks depending on if you take a bus or a taxi. From here you will travel through the highlands and then back down to sea level as you make your way into Puerto Ayora, the most populated area in all the islands and the main tourist hub. Here you can find Air Bnb’s for 20 bucks to 50 bucks a night with AC if you’re not trying to be hot and sticky all night. There’s plenty of street food (get those cheap lobsters) to get you through the days and keep cost low. This area will be your jumping off point to plenty of activities. Some points of interests are Tortuga Bay, Las Grietas, Tortoise Conservatory in the Highlands of the Island and Lava Tubes.
Taxi drivers on Santa Cruz seemingly double as tour guides which is nice for those of us who are stubborn, think we don’t need a guide and would rather just go out on our own. The drivers will take you to the highlands and wait for you while you explore for the day which will usually cost you around 40 bucks as he drives you from spot to spot and waits on you. The drivers that we encountered were also very patient with our broken Spanish, or could also speak English.
While Santa Cruz offers a lot of activities if you want to get off the beaten path Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago, will satisfy your craving. Getting there will cost you 30 bucks for an hour to an hour and a half boat ride where it’s almost guaranteed that someone will lose their lunch so be ready with that Dramamine if you’re prone to a weak stomach.
The second you get into the harbor area you’re bound to catch a glimpse of sea lions, marine iguanas, eagle rays, penguins, and any other sort of rare seabird. Most of the local dwellings are made of cinderblock and mortar so you might have a couple lizards cruising about your room from time to time.
On Isabela, like Santa Cruz, you can book an Air Bnb and pay next to nothing for a night’s stay. Some points of interest here include a tortoise conservatory, where the government has set aside land to raise young tortoises before they let them into the wild.
On the way to this you’ll pass through lagoons full of pintail ducks and flamingos feeding. Isabella also provides some of the best opportunities to get in the water. Take a quick tour of the harbor and you can find anything from sea lions to penguins cruising around the clear blue water.
Los Tuneles is a must see, it is a short boat ride into a labyrinth of submerged lava tubes that have become a breeding ground for sea birds and home to many green sea turtles and white tip sharks.
The Galapagos a place ode to that of Jurassic park. A biologists wonderland. It’s worth the trip if you can stand eating all the plantains and seafood you can stomach. Any last bits advice? Watch where you step, that rock might be an Iguana, bring sunglasses and sunscreen, pack light, don’t flush the toilet paper, walk instead of taking taxis and don’t take any shit from sealions they bark but they don’t bite. Follow these or don’t and you’re bound to have a hell of a time.
-Erik Hoffman Staff Photographer / Graphic Designer @erikhoffmanphoto