Baltra island airport (GPS) is located just north of Sata Cruz island. We flew into here (like most people), got a bus to the port and a short boat across before getting another bus to Porti Ayora. It might sound like a hassle but everyone has to do it so it’s pretty straightforward.
On visiting the Galápagos Islands you have two choices: A boat cruise or stay on land (In Santa Cruz, Isabela Island or San Cristobel Island). 95% of people choose the cruise but after some research we felt it would be cheaper to do it ourselves and stay on land. There are pro’s and con’s though. Cruises are more expensive but you will travel to more islands than a DIY land trip but you will spend less time on land exploring if you are on a cruise. A DIY trip allows you to tailor what you want to do, what day you want to do it, and for how long. If you do book a cruise I would recommend waiting until you arrive in Santa Cruz as it will be cheaper than the mainland but you do run a risk of the tours being sold out so give yourself an extra day or two just incase if you can.
I had heard that booking hostels in advance was a waste of time as you could get cheaper ones when you arrive. Based on that we shopped around but there wasn’t really any savings to be made we found. One place was $12.5o per night but everywhere else was $15-$20 dollars and not really worth the hassle of spending time looking around for a couple of dollars. Once we got settled in we went for a bite to eat and starting planning the details of what we wanted to see for the next few days. After we had our ideas listed out we went across the road to an agency (Eagle Ray Tours), as we need to get boats between different islands etc. and after a long discussion we rehashed our ideas and came up with a new and more exciting plan!
We originally wanted to do two days in Isabela Island, one in Santa Cruz and One in San Cristobel but after meeting the agency and tailoring what we wanted to see with the day’s the we had we decided on skipping San Cristobel, squeezing in some extra time in Santa Cruz and also incorporating the uninhabited island of North Seymour. With all that sorted and deposits paid for I was beyond excited for the days ahead.
We got the ferry at 7am next morning to Isabela Island from Santa Cruz. 2hours of my trying not to get sick! I needed to invest in some sea sickness tablets soon!! When we arrived we hadn’t left the pier and already had been greeted by some iguanas and even a sealion sunning himself on a bench!
I had a feeling it was going to be a good day. After a short walk into the town we found the agency (Natural Selection) that our agency in Santa Cruz had set us up with for our trips on Isabela. Our snorkeling tour didn’t start until the afternoon so we got set up in a hostel/hotel just around the corner and rented some bicycles to explore the island by ourselves.
First stop was the tortoise sanctuary where different young breeds were reared before being released back into their natural habitat and older breeds brought to encourage reproduction. It was cool to see.
After this we headed back towards town before detouring and taking a trail behind the beach towards the ‘wall of tears’. We didn’t have time to make it that far but we met someone on the way who said it wasn’t worth it anyway. We stopped at some lava tunnels and bumped into a few more marine iguanas just chilling out (it’s all they seem to do!).
After that we made our way back, we dropped off the bicycles and waited to get picked up for our tour. The tour took us for a quick look in the bay to see some blue footed boobies and penguins swimming before we went on land to see the iguanas close up.
After all this it was time to finally get in the water and snorkel! This was something else, I found myself swimming with turtles, sting rays and even sea lions (my new favourite animal!). The sea lions are so friendly and just want to mess about. Big smile on my face after all this! We got back at 5pm in the evening. Shower. Food. Bed.
The next morning we hiked up to Volcán Sierra Nerga volcano. It’s the second largest crater in the world and is still an active volcano. It last erupted in 2005 but on parts of the trail there are some hot vents and some other smaller volcanoes to see too. The views above the clouds are fantastic too. Another life goal of mine was to trek a mountain that gave you a the view from above the clouds, I had planned on doing this in Mount Fiji, Japan some day, so it was a nice surprise to get that view on the Galápagos Islands too! The whole trek took about 5 hours and was more of a walk than a hike but very enjoyable.
After the trip it was time to head down to the pier and get back to Santa Cruz. Just as we were greeted by iguanas and sea lions, they were there to say good bye too! I had grabbed some seasickness tablets and was good to go this time! Back on Santa Cruz it was similar to Isabela… Shower. Food. Bed.
The next morning we were collected at 7am and bused it to the north of Santa Cruz. At this point our guide explained that after the hike on North Seymour, we would be doing some snorkeling off Baltra Island, I didn’t realize we signed up for that so it was happy days! we got a boat that brought us to North Seymour and walked for about 90 minutes. The walk was a bit drawn out if I’m honest but it was still cool to see some more sea lions, frigate birds nesting, blue footed boobies incubating their eggs, land iguanas (yellowish in comparison to the darker marine iguanas) chilling out. After the wall we had lunch on the yacht and headed to the south side of Baltra island for some snorkeling.
The snorkeling turned out to be a bit of a let down as there wasn’t much to see but the reality with any of these things is that it isn’t a zoo. Animals move about freely so some days you get lucky and some days you don’t. The beach was still fantastic and we had another gander at some flamingos feeding in a nearby pond too.
After we got back we headed to our agency to sort the equipment for our dive the next morning. The week had went so well to this point and considering the tablets had worked for the ferry crossing I was feeling confident about tomorrow’s dive. This was the first time I wasn’t anxious about diving. But, and there is always a but, while we were there we got chatting to two others in the office who had dove a few days ago in the area we were going and they said it was really tough and the currents were really strong (the main reason we were not going to dive in Galápagos originally is because we had heard the currents were dangerous. Our agency assured us previously that in this area it was completely fine… The anxiousness was back). The original plan was to leave at 7am and be back at 1:30pm so we would have the afternoon to explore some more but this was now changed to 9am. To cap it off our agency was no longer taking us because some others pulled out and they hadn’t enough passengers so they organised for us to go with another agency.
We got picked up the next morning at 9:30am or so, and had to fit an extra person in the car for a 45 minute journey to the port. Great start… The company we were offloaded to seemed a bit disorganized and that theme continued through the day but the dives themselves had no issues. Our first dive was off Mosquera island and it was really good. The water was a bit murky but there some really colorful fish and I found myself swimming along side a spotted eagle ray before seeing a hammerhead shark!
My heart skipped a beat, it was surreal to be swimming with a shark, another life goal complete. It was at the end of the dive when I saw him and I thought I started panicking as I was finding it hard to breath so I was trying to relax myself when my instructor indicated to me to check my air supply and I realized I was was actually nearly out and not panicking at all. So I had to borrow his emergency supply and we ended the dive. The training course covers this sort of thing so it wasn’t much of a danger and I was still buzzing from seeing a shark!
Even though I’d taken the seasick tablets I found myself feeling awful again when we surfaced. I skipped the second dive, again, it was very frustrating but I couldnt help how my head was feeling. I was made for land not the sea it appears!! After the others did the second dive off north Seymour we headed back. We arrived to the hostel at 6pm so no afternoon exploring for me! After dinner I had a look around the local market as I still hadn’t got a souvenir from Ecuador and time was running out. I had contemplated taking some volcanic rock but it was against the rules to take anything from the island so I picked something small up from the market instead.
I told myself I’d get up early in the morning and go check out the lava tunnels and Tortuga bay.When I woke up I didn’t much feel like exploring but forced myself to get up and went for a run out to Tortuga Bay. The beach was really nice and I seen a couple of turtle trails but no turtles unfortunately. It was still nice to check out the bay.
In the airport while grabbing no some food, my name got called out over the PA system.. Security wanted to search my bag but as I checked in with Sinead, they had actually mixed up our bags and it was hers that was being nice checked. Turns out she did take some volcanic rocks, but forgot to take them out when I told her it wasn’t allowed! They were very nice about it all and it was no big deal. With all that sorted it was time to head to the gate.This time we were flying to south Ecuador (Guayaquil) to get an overnight bus to Mancora, Peru, country six on this adventure!
Tips and Prices:
Flights to/from Galápagos Islands go from Quito and Guayaquil. For our trip it suited better to fly from Quito and Return to Guayaquil as its closer to Peru. The next destination.
Flight to Galápagos Islands from Quito cost 160 Pounds sterling.
There is a fee of $20 to have your bag scanned to ensure you are not bringing any plants/foods to the islands that will disturb the ecosystem. This is paid and the scan conducted at Quito Airport before you check in. Cash only.
There is a fee of $100 to enter the Galápagos Islands. This is paid when you arrive at the GPS airport. Cash only.
Once you land on Baltra Island – Main Galápagos Airport (GPS) a free bus takes you to the boat which costs $1 to cross to the main land – Santa Cruz. From there to get to Porto Aroya a bus costs $2.
There are ATMs on Santa Cruz Island (and maybe others) which worked fine for me but it is advisable to bring what you need from the mainland just incase.
You could spend weeks exploring the Galápagos and depending who you meet and who you talk to every island has its advantages and disadvantages. There is plenty to see for free on the three main islands and there is uncountable tours from different agencies to every island. It all depends on what you want to do money wise and time wise.
Taxi to ferry (to get to airport). $18. You can get a bus to the ferry but the last one leaves at 8am so it depend what time you flight is. Ferry across to Baltra island is $1 and the bus to the airport is then free.
(Monday) Ferry to Isabela Island. $30. 2 hours. Leaves at 7am or 2pm. Need to book in advance with any local agency just in case it sells out.
(Monday) Snorkeling Trip to Tintoreiras $50 including wetsuit and snorkeling gear. 3 hours. Need to book in advance.
Bicycle rental on Islabela Island: $3 per hour or $15 per day.
(Tuesday) Hike to Volcán Sierra Negra. $40. 6 hours.
(Tuesday) Ferry to Santa Cruz Island. $30. 2 hours. Leaves at 2:30pm.
(Wednesday) Trip to explore uninhabited island of Seymour $165 dollars. 7am to 4:30pm round trip.
(Thursday) Scuba Diving Trip off the coast of North Seymour and Mosquera. $160 dollars. 2 dives.
(Friday morning) visit Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island. Free.
(Friday afternoon) Flight from Galápagos Islands to Guayaquil cost 169 pounds sterling.
(Friday night) Bus from Guayaquil to Mancora, Peru. $31. 9hours.