Galapagos Land Based Trip

image1 copy
Visiting the Galapagos is such an adventure no matter how you do it you will have a wonderful time. We had a hard time deciding how to “do” the Galapagos whether by cruise or by land. Cruise is the more popular and well known way to visit the islands but it costs a lot of money causing many people to forgo a trip to the Galapagos. There are ways to get cheaper last minute cruises but they still cost a pretty penny. In the end we decided to do Galapagos by land and here’s our experience.

We had 7 days to spend in the Galapagos Islands. There are only 4 islands you can spend the night on and those are San Cristobal, Isabela, Santa Cruz and Floreana. With only 7 days we decided to split that time between two islands. We chose Santa Cruz because it was the easiest to get to and Isabela since the ferry ride didn’t seem too long.

We booked our flights through LATAM Airlines to fly in and out of Santa Cruz from Quito. We then purchased our ferry tickets early through Galapagos Transfers  which I would highly recommend doing as we did not have to stress about getting ferry tickets for the times we needed.

Staying on the islands was great because it really allowed us to get to know that island. We were able to hit all the stops as apposed to only having time for a few. We were also thankful because the week we were there the seas were rough and we didn’t think it would be a good time to be on a boat 24/7. Although, that did make for very rough ferry rides.

While on Santa Cruz we stayed at Hostel Baltra which turned out to be the perfect accommodations for us. We were a group of four traveling together and they have several different sized apartments available. We booked the two bedroom and it was great. The location is on a main street just minutes from Academy Bay. We were also really close to the road full of tables and delicious street food. Another pro to doing a land based tour is the ability to scuba dive where many cruises are not able to accommodate diving. We had an amazing dive where we saw tons of sea life including hammerhead sharks!

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 12.55.17 PM

We got to visit all the main sights of Santa Cruz while there and I think one of our favorites was Las Greitas. When we arrived we had it all to ourselves(another pro to not being on a cruise). This is a gorgeous blue waterhole in the middle of big black rock cliffs. We spent hours here without any sort of time restraint and loved it.

We were warned ahead of time that the ferry rides could be rough and it’s no joke.You’re packed on to a boat for a few hours and with rough seas it’s pretty bad. We did learn on our second ferry ride that sometimes there’s a seat up top with the captain and you can ask to sit up there which me and my girlfriend did. It made for a much more enjoyable trip.

When we arrived on Isabela we learned quickly how small of a town it was. It has dirt roads and really has the feel of an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 12.56.23 PMWe loved Isabela and found it extremely charming. We walked on the beach and ran in to a family running around grabbing things out of the sand. After asking what they were doing and them explaining they were catching little crab things they showed us how and we spent quite a while helping them catch these little guys for dinner.

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 12.55.45 PM

While that was a blast our favorite experience was the sea lions. We went snorkeling at Conche De Perla and while admiring the brightly colored fish a sea lion swam right up to us and started playing. Soon another one joined.

We just swam in place as the sea lions flipped and swirled in front of us. Often swimming fast at our faces and then diving away at the last second.

While on Isabela we stayed at Hotel La Gran Tortuga which was a very clean hotel with very friendly staff and great breakfast. They do take credit card but I would highly suggest paying in cash since the internet is spotty, during check out we had a hard time paying by card and THERE ARE NO ATMS ON ISABELA. Come to this island prepared with cash.

Overall, if you can’t afford a cruise it is still worth it to go! There are plenty of adventures to have. Cruises give you ability to see more islands and have a naturalist with you on your excursions but if you can survive

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Visiting Ecuador and the Galapagos

Hola mi amigos! I’m still mourning the end of our trip to this gorgeous country. This was my first time in South America and it did not disappoint.

We arrived in Quito late at night and headed to our hotel in the historic center of downtown Boutique Plaza Sucre and went straight to bed. The next morning we hit the ground running. We started by walking around the historic center seeing the beautiful old buildings and churches. We stopped inside and really enjoyed Compañía de Jesús which is covered in gold on the inside but you can’t take any photos. We ate snacks from street vendors throughout the day including delicious candied nuts, fresh mango and passionfruit juice.

IMG_8437

When we were done seeing the historic center we caught a cab to Basílica del Voto Nacional. This turned out to be quite the treat! We climbed to the top of the clock tower and looked out over the city we then walked to the back of the basilica on a wooden plank and climbed a steep ladder to the top on the north side. It was quite frightening but worth it for the views. We heard from several locals to be careful while doing this since most foreigners are not used to the elevation. Make sure you go at a slow pace and don’t out do yourself!

IMG_1897

That evening we grabbed dinner on the busy street of La Ronda and while our food was nothing to write home about the view of El Panecillo was gorgeous. After dinner we grabbed a taxi and went up to El Panecillo and looked over Quito in the darkness with all the lights gleaming back at us. Quito has no lack of stunning views.

The followings day we had to get up early and meet our driver, Victor Alban. He picked us up from our hotel and we headed south to Banos. Along the way Victor pointed out all the different volcanos, let us stop at view points, took us to a local food street cart and even bought us some local ice cream!

When we arrived in Banos we were all pretty exhausted but we powered through and took a cab up to The Swing at the End of the World. This was something I had seen photos of and had been dying to go to no matter how much of a “tourist trap” it seemed to be. We were so glad we went. It was gorgeous and absolutely worth it.

EF53109D-309B-4D46-A65D-E5882968B574

After getting our fill of swings in we headed back to our hotel where Victor picked us back up and took us on a little tour. We first stopped at a waterfall that was across a valley, we thought we were just looking and taking pictures but Victor told us to go on the cable car and we thought, why not? So we paid $1.50 each and rode this fast, seemingly unstable cable car across the valley. It was such a thrill and absolutely beautiful.

37FE8ECA-8DF6-4DAC-B04B-D400E0E487C0

We then went to Pailon de Diablo, a stunning waterfall. We walked down to the falls and crossed some swinging bridges to get up close and personal to this gorgeous spot. On our way back we watched the sun set over the the mountains and the beautiful colors of the sky change to darkness.

IMG_8729

We left Banos the following day heading to our jungle lodge, Itamandi, we first made a stop at a zip line and paid $10 a person to do the most thrilling zipline I have ever done. No one spoke english and they just strapped us in a harness and pushed us over the valley to the other side over a waterfall. It was fast, beautiful and terrifying.

IMG_2052

Victor dropped us off on the Arujuno river and our english jungle guide, Octavio, was there to greet us. We hopped on our canoe and zoomed away to our lodge. It was an incredible feeling to be in the amazon and we were excited when we reached the lodge and were served guyusa and empanadas.

That evening Octavio took us on a night jungle walk and we were terrified of the creepy crawlies we might see. While it was really cool we were creeped out by the scorpion spider, wolf spiders and other big bugs we came across. It was quite the learning experience but I can’t say it helped me sleep that night.

The next morning we awoke early to go and watch the parrots at the clay lick. We took a canoe over to the spot and quietly hiked a short ways and then say and watched. After 30 minutes or so hundreds of parrots made their way over and started eating at the clay. It was a blur of bright greens and yellows, a really cool experience over all.

We then went on a three hour trek through the jungle. Octavio told us all about the rainforest and what it meant to him as a native and the native communities. We learned all about the plants and the animals and the spiritual meaning of the jungle. It was an experience that will not be forgotten. While on the hike Octavio made us a swing from a vine and we had a lot of fun swinging around running in to trees and just having some good old fashion fun.

IMG_2274

That afternoon we went and visited a Kichwa community. The children danced for us and the women shared food with us. We learned about their day to day life and got to see their school and other community buildings. It was a great experience. I wish we would have had more time to spend with the children, they were so fun!

IMG_8863

The following day Octavio hooked us up with some inner-tubes and while we were a little nervous about floating down a river that has known to have anacondas, Octavio assured us he hasn’t seen one in several years. We had a blast floating the river and ended in a spot with a rope swing where the boys had a blast swinging into the river.

Our next stop was Amazoonico, an animal refuge. This was a cool experience but a sad one. Amazoonico saves animals from people who illegally try to domesticate them. They then try to prepare them to go back in to the wild but often it’s just not possible for the animals to be re-introduced in to the wild so Amazoonico tries to give them a good life in captivity.

After visiting the animals we tried our hand at a blow gun, fed some camen, and went to a butterfly farm.

IMG_8948

It was a busy day and at the end we had to say goodbye to Octavio. In the little time we were with him we really came to enjoy his company. We missed him dearly after we dropped him off!

IMG_8956

The next day was a travel day as we made our way all the way from the jungle back to Quito to catch a flight to the Galapagos.

Our first day in Galapagos we went on a dive with Academy Bay Diving. We dove at North Seymour Point and Mosquera. My main goal of this dive was seeing a hammerhead shark. If you’ve read my previous posts you know I love diving with sharks and hammerheads are one’s I had yet to see. We were lucky and my goal was achieved. We saw a good handful of hammerheads and we also saw Galapagos sharks, white tip, and black tip along with rays, turtles and so much more.

DCIM123GOPRO

The following day we trekked out to turtle bay and did some snorkeling around there. The visibility was pretty bad but we managed to find a HUGE sea turtle. We then made our way to Los Grietas. Los Grietas did not disappoint. Bright blue water in between black rock cliffs. We swam through and climbed our way to the back pool and saw beautiful sunset fish. We had a blast just swimming and diving down in the clear blue water.

IMG_2220

After a good nights rest we took a ferry to Isabella. The water was choppy so this ferry ride was pretty rough. We arrived in Isabella to find that the main town is teeny tiny. We walked around rested a bit and then went snorkeling at Concha de Perla. While snorkeling a sea-lion got curious and came right up to us. Dancing and swimming in the water and even booping my camera with it’s nose. This felt like a once in a life time experience and we enjoyed every second of playing with that sea lion. That evening we walked along the beach and saw locals running around in the sand grabbing things. We asked them what they were doing and it turns out they were catching little shrimp like things. The boys wanted to give it a shot so we hung out for awhile trying to help them catch these little animals.

The following day we had a tour to snorkel at the lava tunnels. We came across countless turtles, white tip sharks and rays. It got to the point where seeing a sea turtle was no big deal. We then walked across the hardened lava and looked in the different lava pools. When we got back to town we rented bikes and rode on the trails. It was pretty hot but we saw flamingos and beautiful views over the island.

The next day was our last day on Isabella and we only had the morning. We decided to go back to Conche de Perla to see if we could play with another sea-lion, and it was a good decision. When we got in the water we had three different sea-lions come play with us but then as we were leaving a sea-lion stole my snorkel off the deck and threw it in the water! It then played with it for awhile and finally, thankfully, brought it back to me. It was pretty funny.

After Isabela we made our way back home. We loved our adventure in Ecuador! I plan on going in to more detail on some of our adventures in the future. Please leave a comment with any questions. Happy travels!