The Galápagos Islands: My Best Wildlife Experience!
A new post again! This post is completely dedicated to the Galápagos Islands, because it has been such a unique and amazing experience. Not only do I talk about my personal experiences here, but I also provide you with some tips on how to book a Galápagos tour. Are you ready? Here we go...!
I have booked many tours during my trip, but this one was tough to book due to information overload. My friend Chris and I took a whole day off to visit a plethora of booking agencies in the new part of Quito. This is what we found out…
There is a countless amount of booking agencies with an overwhelming amount of tours, causing headaches if you quickly want to book a tour to the Galápagos. There is no such thing as "the best tour" as it all depends on your personal preferences. In my opinion, there are 3 factors one should take into account: the amount of days, the itinerary, and the type of boat. Please, allow me to elaborate…
The Amount of Days
4 days, 5 days, 8 days… I have even heard that 14 day tours are being offered. How many days you pick will depend on the amount of time and money you have. Obviously, the longer you go, the more expensive the tour will be. I did an 8 day tour and to me that was the perfect amount. 4 or 5 days might be a bit short and will not give you to possibility to relax. Some people experience sea sickness the first days, it might be wise to book a few more days just to be sure. 14 days is a long time to stay on a boat and it might be too much of the same.
There are many islands and therefore, many different itineraries are being offered. It's impossible to see all islands; choices need to be made. However, I believe it's hard to make the wrong choice here; no matter what island you'll be heading to, it's going to be amazing for sure. Some islands may be more interesting than others though. A bit of Google research should give you more insights. It will also depend on your personal preferences. If you really want to see a specific animal, then obviously you need to go to an island where that animal is located.
This is the itinerary I had: Isla Baltra, Seymour Norte, Islas Plazas, Santa Fe, San Cristobal, Española, Puerto Ayora, Isla Rábida, Sombrero Chino, Bahia Sulliva, Bartolome, and Playa Bachas.
Good itinerary, we saw pretty much everything there is to see in terms of wildlife. We only missed out on a hammerhead shark…
Type of Boat
There are plenty of different boats you can go with, ranging from humongous boats to really tiny ones. My recommendation is to take a small boat, and that is for various reasons. First, tinier boats are usually a lot cheaper than the big luxurious ones. Second, it's easier to manoeuvre with a small group. We were 8 in total and that was perfect. Not too much of a hassle. The third reason is that a tiny boat creates more intimacy. It's the best way to get to know the people on your boat. I've been stuck on a boat with an amazing group for 8 days and it's safe to say that I have made friends for life here.
When booking at an agency, always negotiate! It's usually possible to get a discount. It's not worth looking too much into flights, because prices are fixed (at least when I was there). However, it might be possible to get a good deal at the agency. They may offer you the whole package including flights and that, sometimes, can be more economical. That may be better than booking the tour and the flights separately. Ask them what you get in detail, that way you will prevent misunderstandings and potential disappointments.
It's also possible to stay at one particular island (the "civilized islands") and make that your base camp. From there you can organize day tours to other islands and come back in the evening again. A different approach, but I think you will see more if you do a boat tour. You will not be bound to places and the boat can move during night time…
Take into account that you need to pay tax of 10 dollars at the airport before you fly to Galápagos. Another 100 dollars need to be paid when arriving at the airport in Galápagos, so don't forget to withdraw money from mainland. You may have to pay for your snorkelling gear as well, but that also depends on what you have booked at the agency. I recommend arranging all the gear before you go to the Galapagos. It's possible to arrange it when you get there, but you will run the risk of booking it too late. And you don't want to skip snorkelling, because I believe you do not want to miss out on swimming with amazing animals in the beautiful ocean, do you?
My Galápagos Experience
So Chris and I booked an 8 day boat tour in Quito and took off. We had been wondering what kind of people we would meet on the boat. This is quite an important issue as we would spend 8 days on a boat with these people; you want to have some cool travellers around right?
Our boat consisted of 8 people and 4 crew members. We met our group and our guide at the airport and we all got along really well. A couple from New Zealand, Tom and Lisa, two friends from England, Georgie (that's how I call her) and Samantha, and an Ecuadorian dad, Carlos, with his daughter who grew up in the States. Carlos and his daughter left after a couple of days and we got a Swiss girl named Nicola in return. She was an amazing addition to the group.
Our guide was Leonidas and we met the rest of the crew on board: Dan "the Pirate", Mauricio the cook, and the Cap (I never caught his name, he's just Cap).
The boat was tiny, but we had already expected that as we had done some research before. It is called the "Merak", and even though it's small, it does contribute to the great atmosphere on the boat. It's really intimate and it's the best way to get to know people. However, the boat does move a lot and I experienced sea sickness the first two days. After that I was completely fine. I still prefer sea sickness over altitude sickness though.
Visiting the islands was simply amazing! The weather was great most of the time and it just seems like paradise. It was definitely my best wildlife experience so far. What you see at the Galápagos can't be seen anywhere else. I've seen amazing animals, some of which I had never seen before. I had never seen tortoises this size before. According to Leonidas, the largest tortoises are at the Galápagos.
We snorkelled many times and that was an unforgettable experience. We swam with penguins, sharks, eagle rays, sea lions, turtles and many beautiful fish. The best thing about the Galápagos is that the animals here do not demonstrate a single sign of fear. They have been isolated for a long time and have pretty much always lived in peace. There are no major predators here and everyone has been treating each other quite well. That's why you will never be able to get so close to wild animals as at the Galápagos. Even birds wouldn't fly away when you get really close to them. If you're a professional photographer the Galapagos is the ideal place for some good wildlife shots.
Still, the best thing about the journey was our group. The people I've met during my trip are indescribably amazing and they have become friends for life. They have proven again that travelling is always about the people. If you're surrounded by cool people, it doesn't matter where you actually are. Good people, good travels right?
Check out the photo section to see the amazing shots I took during this trip. Stay tuned my friends!