The Galapagos was a last minute decision only booked a few days previously. We assumed it was just not doable due to perceptions on the cost but any travellers we had spoken to about it so far had us convinced we would seriously regret it if we skipped it and they were so so right!! I will do my absolute best but no amount of pictures or descriptions can do this place justice, it is absolutely magical and it just felt so surreal for the duration of our time there.
Tourists mainly visit the Galapagos by cruise but there are four of the islands you can reside on for land based tours also. We chose to fly in and out of San Cristobal, and spent three days in between in Santa Cruz doing a land based tour. Santa Cruz is the biggest, most popular and most tourist focused of the islands. We researched lots and planned each activity ourselves which left the trip doable even on a backpacking budget!
The islands are so protected and there were a number of additional checks involved in getting there. Before check in at the airport there is an additional Galapagos area you must register at. You have to pay $20 for a tourist card to present on entry and exit, and your bags must go through a special additional security check to ensure you aren’t bringing any prohibited items into the protected area. During the flight you have to complete a legal declaration with regard to the carriage of any prohibited items including fruit, vegetables, a statement if you have been in contact with animals, and you even had to declare if you were carrying your hiking boots and had worn them in the last month! Before we could exit the plane all of our luggage was sprayed with pesticide. Finally on arrival at the airport you have to pay $100 entry fee to get onto the islands. In addition many of the activities on the islands require a “naturalist guide” to accompany you. We didn’t do any of these and made all of our own plans but you had to register entry and exit along with passport number at most of the sites.
After touch down in San Cristobal which was a little over an hour flight from Guayaquil We took a short taxi from the airport to our accommodation which we had booked through airbnb. It was located just a stones throw from the waterfront. After a quick check in and change of clothes it was time to explore this magical place! San Cristobal is known for its domination by sea lions and oh my goodness I wish I could have captured our initial reactions on camera. We didn’t know where to look- they were everywhere. We were just in awe with open gobs!! When we did eventually look around there was iguanas everywhere just happily roaming beside us. I had read loads and seen the pictures before I went and it just does not capture the reality, the best way to put it is that the animals just rule the islands. You are in their way and the sea lions in particular are not afraid to make you move!! It’s very surreal but absolutely amazing.
We spent the afternoon strolling to Mann beach and then continued further to Carola beach around the island. We spent our time watching sea lions, turtles, iguanas and birds in their natural habitat followed by a stunning sunset. Without doubt, we had 100% made the right decision to come here! We found a yummy sushi spot for dinner and people watched as the groups of cruise visitors arrived and left the island.