Galapagos archipelago – the Tortoise islands.

In Destinations, Ecuador, Galapagos islands, South America by FreestyleLeave a Comment

Galapagos is an old Spanish word for tortoise. The archipelago is composed of more than 120 islands and it’s located 1000 km from the mainland. The majority area of the islands remains inaccessible, there are no roads and it’s not possible to travel across by your own. There are signs no entry on many walking trails. Here you’ll find all useful information you need to know before flying to Galapagos and exploring the islands on your own. Major part of Tortoise islands’ territory is inaccessible, the area remains a National Park protected by law. The main three Galapagos islands and most developed are: Santa Cruz, Isla Isabela and San Cristobal.

Transport between the islands.

  1. Fast boats are the only way to travel independently between the islands.
  • Tickets are easily available in harbour offices and travel agencies in port towns. Prices are between 25-35$ per single ticket/depending on a season.
  • It is only possible to travel from Santa Cruz to Isla Isabela (2h) and from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal (2h). There are no boats between Isla Isabela and San Cristobal. The boats run twice a day – depending on a season and weather. You would need to be much earlier in the harbour before a boat departure, it’s because there are different companies and there’s only one boarding at a time. Don’t leave your boat trip for a day before the flight, as you might get stock on the island. The airports are only on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. Santa Cruz remains the most developed island from all archipelago. If you are wondering if it’s possible to take two boat trip one day – the answer is yes. We did this although you need to know that boats are fast, jumping on waves for 2 hours causes a lot of people get sick. If you can stand two trips like this there should not be a problem.
  1. Multi-day cruises will take you around major islands. 4-5 day trips usually cost around $3000. In October they had a last minute which means you will pay half price: $1500. If you are a passenger of this trip you will be able to travel on a luxury boat to north-west part of Isla Isabela. They told us it’s the only way to get there. I was dying to visit Isla Fernandina and it was not possible by a regular/tour boat. This part of the island is magic and undiscovered.

Fast boats schedule between the islands – please note times might change depending on a season +/- 1 hour. You will get all information on your ticket. Don’t loose it as you might not be on the harbour list!! Our agency forgot to pass the information to the list kept in the harbour and we almost didn’t get on board! Once you get into the port check if you are on the list and collect your pass. You won’t get on any boat without a pass!

from

to

departure time

arrival time

Santa Cruz

San Cristobal

7.00 am

9.00 am

Santa Cruz

San Cristobal

2.00 pm

4.00 pm

Santa Cruz

Isla Isabela

7.00 am

9.00 am

Santa Cruz

Isla Isabela

2.00 pm

4.00 pm

Isla Isabela

Santa Cruz

6.00 am

8.00 am

Isla Isabela

Santa Cruz

3.00 pm

5.00 pm

San Cristobal

Santa Cruz

7.00 am

9.00 am

San Cristobal

Santa Cruz

3.00 pm

5.00 pm

How to get to Galapagos islands?

The only way to get to Galapagos islands is flying. You would need to pay visa fees – 100$ only cash for an entry fee and 20$ for a travel card. All accessible to purchase on the airport before the flight. There’s no possibility to do on-line check in. Neither accommodation confirmation or travel insurance was needed, although the main Galapagos website says you need to have those confirmations with you. Shame, as from my practice best is to book accommodation once you are in the place – it’s much cheaper. The airports are only on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. Santa Cruz remains the most developed island from all archipelago. Book your flights in advance. Please note extra charges might appear on the airport. Luckily we didn’t have to pay but there was a girl ahead us and she had to pay extra money in the check-in point. She was shocked and asked for an explanation. They said it’s because the on-line prices are for residents, non-residents have to pay extra charges.

Volcanic islands.

Volcanic activity contributes to the unique landscape of the islands. As the plates gradually move some of the islands are sinking while other are uplifting. Almost all volcanoes on Galapagos islands are active. All the islands are among protected eco system. The income from visa entry fee you pay when flying to Galapagos supports environment protection and animal conservation actions.

Behind the developed harbour picture there’s also another scenery of local life. Most of the inhabitants are quite poor. The citizens enjoy the steady revenue from businesses within tourism industry like tour agencies, restaurants, pubs, boat trips and guesthouses. But if you’re not an owner of any of those businesses there are not too many work places in the islands. In Santa Rosa, a small town in the middle of Santa Cruz island, people are enjoying simple but peaceful life. When having coffee in probably the only cafe in this town we noticed that majority of inhabitants suffer from different disabilities. It might be a result of too many blood relatives in small communities.

Exceptional wildlife.

Due to its remote location, Galapagos has its own unique wildlife. Exceptional wildlife that has evolved with little human presence caused the animals have never developed a natural fear for humans. Although it’s a rule here to keep at least 2 metres distance from every animal, they are absolutely not afraid of humans. You notice that when walking along the lava shore and suddenly you see iguana lying just next to your feet. Or while swimming the  sea lions come and play just in front of you.

Giant tortoises.

Tortoises arrived from the mainland to the Galápagos Islands about 3 million years ago. The Galapagos giant tortoise spends an average of 16 hours per day resting. The rest of their time is spent eating grasses, fruits and cactus pads. In XVIII century the pirates redounded the population of giant tortoises decreased significantly. It’s because the tortoises provided a source of fresh meat which could be kept alive on a ship for several months without any food or water. Then in 1978 volcanic eruption destroyed almost all life on Isla Isabela. Only few turtles were rescued, thankfully most of the last 30 appeared to be males and withing couple of years they managed to reproduce hundreds of new representatives of this unique species.

Marine iguanas.

The only iguana in the planet adopted to live on the land and sea environment lives in Tortoise islands. Thanks to it’s nasal glands the salt is filtered from their bodies and pumped out through their noses. Marine iguanas can be found on most of Galapagos islands. During a day they warm on a rocky shore to cumulate the energy and swim in cold ocean on the afternoon for a supper consisting mostly seaweed and algaes from the rocks. Marine iguanas are great swimmers and while diving they can hold their breath for a very long time, over 40 minutes.. Their colour is exactly the same as surrounding lava. It’s probably because the dark colour absorb the sun light.

Blue booby.

The young boobies have light blue legs. The blue feet are attractive to females, so foot colour appears to be a sexually selected trait. Galapagos islands is an area largest concentration of Blue Boobies.

Green turtles.

Galapagos green turtles is similar to Pacific green sea turtles. They say similar as it only lives around the archipelago. Go snorkeling anywhere and you’ll see plenty of these. When snorkeling in Isla Isabela west coast I had 3 of them around me at the same time.

Sea lions. 

Sea lions are delightful! Sleeping everywhere across the islands, benches, beaches, boats. They move around on land by propping themselves on their front flippers. Watch my swimming with these exceptional animals.

Sally lightfoot crabs.

One of the most colourful crabs I’ve seen so far. They are everywhere across the shores. Their characteristic red and blue colour and again they are not too much afraid of humans. This crab is not considered edible for humans.

Lizards.

Once you step toward the mainland you’ll see lots of different lizards. My favourite one was with the orange neck.

Best snorkeling spots in Galapagos.

Isla Isabela: Concha Perla in Puerto Villamil. West coast of the island on Lava tunnels tour.

Santa Cruz: Tortuga bay  near the mangroves. Surprisingly one of the most amazing snorkels from the beach.

Las Grietas – one of the most popular snorkeling spots of the island.

San Cristobal: La Loberia beach. Taxi taking from the harbour 2$ per person. A very nice cliff walk, amazing beaches. The sea was to rough to snorkel when we were there. Only the small beaches along the cliff walk were ok.

Puerto Chino, 25 minutes drive from the main harbour. Beautiful beach and nice snorkeling spots.

Do’s and dont’s in Galapagos islands.

Do’s:

  • keep 2 metres distance from the animals.
  • stitch to the paths where you are able to walk alone
  • be there for early morning or late evening to observe unique species
  • enjoy one of the best sea food in the world

Dont’s:

  • do not touch the animals, don’t try to catch them
  • do not pick up any fruits or flowers – it’s a wild area and some them are highly dangerous to your health
  • do not chase animals
  • don’t bring plastic to the island
  • don’t through out trash
  • do not fee the animals, it can destroy animals natural breading habits
  • do not swim in open sea, the currents can be incredibly strong
  • don’t act loud

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