Deciding where to go, what to do, who to book with and to cruise or not to cruise were amongst our big decisions on the Galapagos Islands. We were still investigating and deciding on our itinerary, but had basically come to the conclusion that a cruise would be very expensive and mean we would be stuck with a group, so it wasn’t for us. We felt that when coupled with day excursions, there was enough to do on Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal to keep us entertained for 2 weeks easily. We also wanted to scuba dive but a liveaboard would be around $3K each for 10 days, which was a big chunk of cash for 2 pretty inexperienced divers to cough up!
So on day 3 we headed across to Isabela because it was Friday and we had been warned Santa Cruz may be busy over the weekend. Our morning started at 6.30am when the taxi ute came to pick us up to take us to the ferry. The taxis on the islands are all white pickups and in Puerto Ayora they cost $1usd anywhere in town. The ferry across to Isabela departs at 7am or 2pm and costs $30usd, so to catch the morning one we had to be there bright and early! We booked the tickets through our new travel agent mate Richard (or Ricardo) and he was there to make sure we were getting on the right boat. Bless him. I think it’s important I add something here about the ferries between islands. They take 2 hours and can be overfilled and very rough. We had at least one person vomiting on 2 out of 4 boats we were on, so if you get motion sickness it’s a good idea to take medication before you get here!
After we hit land we went to look for our hostel (also booked by Richard). There are sooooo many tour agencies here all spruiking the same tours at quite different prices. Richard quoted us $40usd less per person for a dive we were looking at doing later in the week, so we thought we would give him a try on a couple of little things to see if his recommendations were legitimate. The boat over was fine (we made it) but the accomodation, while one of the cheaper options, was pretty average. The woman running Casa Rosada was a bit drunk when she checked us in and added the 14% IVA tax on top of the $40 per night Richard quoted, this removed the competitive edge so we negotiated her back down to $40. We’d stay one night then move on.
After dropping our bags we headed off to find food. There are 20 or so small restaurants here to suit varying budgets, the cheapest of which is around $6-7 for a typical menu (soup, meat and rice with a drink). We’d decided we would try and save a bit more on food here and headed for the central mercado. Here we snacked on ham and cheese toasties and coffees for $3.50 each and stocked up on veges, eggs, bread and pasta to cook ourselves for a total of $12.50. Next job on the list, book the famous Las Tuneles tour. The most popular day trip off Isabela. Ricardo had cautioned us that the tour often sells out so its best to book the tickets with him at Puerto Ayora for $120 each. This may be true during peak season however we had time on our side and could wait for a spot, so decided to take our chances and see what the word was on Isabella. We had no problem finding spots for the next day and for only $90 each. With that in mind we decided not to book our scuba with Richard. While we may have the opportunity to save some money it’s more important to have a good crew and working equipment and unfortunately Richards suggestions didn’t meet up to our standards.
Jobs done it was time to play! So we went back to the hostel to grab our snorkels and headed for Concha Perla to see if we could find some seal lions to swim with. Isabella has a beautiful long stretch of sandy coastline trimmed by black lava so we walked along the beach back towards the port. The lava is magnificent to behold, its wrinkles and folds give it the appearance of having been frozen in action only yesterday and black marine iguanas and crabs blend in adding a moving dimension to the curious scenery.
Concha Perla is at the end of a wooden walkway that begins at the main port. The main port is a favourite hangout for the sea lions and you can actually find them just littering the beach and the boardwalk. We had to step over two big ones in order to get to the snorkelling spot, then when we got there it seemed to be the only place the sea lions weren’t! We dived on in and went exploring anyway and were delighted by how clear the water was and how many different huge fish we could see. After a short while I saw two big grey shapes heading towards me, low and behold! It was a seal and her big pup! Hooray! They moved past in a flash but the pup came back for a closer look so I rolled over to show him I was keen to play. It worked like a charm. We had a new friend to practice our flips and dives with, and to follow us all over the place. He was so much fun.
When I’d ingested enough salt water through my snorkel playing seal tag and fetch we went off to enjoy a super chilled afternoon sunbathing and doing yoga on the beach. Later on we went to check out a local restaurant where they had a live body painting event. Something a bit different on a Saturday night! Regretfully I didn’t take my camera, but all you need to picture is a lovely young semi naked latino girl being painted by an old man using his hands, while a restaurant full of tourists continue to eat, uncertain quite where to look.
Another cracking day on the Galapagos Islands!