Landing in a parallel universe: First impressions of Galapagos, and what to know before you go

Dry black solidified lava forms an uninviting rock scape. Green stick-insect like trees, rambling thorny vines and cacti with round flat leaves… Its life Jim but not as we know it. Just like stepping into a parallel universe where everything looks familiar but nothing is quite as you would expect it to be.

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1st impressions of the Galapagos Islands as you get off the plane at Seymour Airport

As a huge David Attenborough fan the Galapagos Islands have always been high on my bucket list, and as such were a big part of the decision to choose South America as our “grown up’s gap year” destination… And now we have finally arrived! Over the next few weeks I will be writing regular reviews and updates to report on what we have been doing and seeing. We have arrived with nothing booked. To prepare we simply booked a flight about 2 months in advance for the bargain price of $220usd return (Guayaquil to Baltra), and from here we will be winging it. I’m hoping to disprove the myth that Galapagos is crazy expensive, but lets see how we go.

Tame is one of 3 airlines operating in and out of the Galapagos. The other two are LAN and Avianca

Things to know:
The main airport is Seymour which is situated on Baltra Island, near Santa Cruz. There is a second airport on the island of San Christobal which is much more conveniently located, and if I’d known then what I do now I would have booked flights too and from San Christobal, or into Seymour and out of Christobal. We spoke to 2 other couples who had decided to change their flights to depart San Christobal and experienced different prices from $30 each to $120 each. San Christobal doesn’t seem to be promoted in flight sales, also the airport was closed for 5 years while the tarmac was renovated. However to get from here to the Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (the islands main town) only costs $1.50 in a 10 minute cab and as you will read below the trip from Baltra takes much longer, costs more and is a bit of a fiasco.

The only flights allowed to the Galapagos are domestic flights from Quito or Guayaquil. Make sure to get to the airport at least an hour prior to your flight because you have to wait in line to get your check-in bags inspected (fruit, vege, nuts, seeds and animal products are prohibited, but other food is generally ok). Then you have to wait in another line to buy your traffic control card which costs $20. Only after all that malarkey can you actually proceed to checkin, go through security etc.

The flight is as can be expected, until they fumigate the overhead lockers by spraying them with a can of bug spray before landing. It’s also interesting being on  a flight consisting only of tourists. More like a theme park crowd than your usual airport mishmash.

Once you arrive at Baltra you’ll go to the arrivals gate and pay $100 entry fee, you’ll then have your passport stamped, your carry on bag checked at customs and you’ve arrived.

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Shuttle buses waiting outside Seymour to take passengers to the ferry

Puerto Ayora is the main town on neighbouring Santa Cruz Island. The bulk of the tour companies, hotels and restaurants are here so to get here from the airport, you’ll be herded onto a shuttle bus and taken to the the ferry. On the ferry you will pay $2 and cruise across a narrow, but brilliantly blue channel where giant grey albatrosses and blue footed boobies dive for fish, and other sea birds hang around for the spoils. From the ferry you can either take a bus ($2ea) or share a taxi ($18) and make the 45 minute journey to the port.

Getting on the ferry

We booked our 1st two nights accomodation at Patty’s House through before we arrived just to be safe. We weren’t sure of a plan so we wanted to leave it open for anything. If a great last minute cruise option came up, we’d do it! If not, we would be happy exploring as much as possible on our own, taking day trips into the national park and scuba diving. Ideally we’d like to nab a spot on a liveaboard cruise because the most exciting wildlife for us is under the water. We’ve come complete with our own brand spanking new snorkels though ($65usd each from Subacqua in guayaquil) so hoping that will give us access to some additional free underwater adventures!

They say the flights are the most expensive part of visiting the Galapagos, so lets hope today is our most expensive day… It’s not even lunchtime and already we’ve spent:

Flight: $220usd
Taxi to the airport $2usd each (between 2)
Traffic control card: $20usd
Park entry $100usd
Accomodation: $38usd (Total cost for one room with a kitchenette, for 2 people)
Ferry, bus, cab: $4usd (each between 2)
TOTAL: $381.50usd each


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