The Galapagos were originally not on our travel itinerary because we thought they were only accessible for elderly people with way deeper pockets than us. However, as it turned out, they also welcome modest backpackers like us!
Our adventure started in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second largest and probably ugliest city, which nevertheless still receives some tourists, as it is the best place to book a last minute tour to the islands. Luck was on our side and so it only took us a day to find a reasonable last minute deal – and off we flew to paradise.
The Galapagos Archipelago encompasses more than 50 islands of volcanic origin of which just a few are open for tourists to visit. The still ongoing volcanic activities together with the secluded geographic location some 800 kilometers off the coast of the Ecuadorian mainland have made these islands a showcast of evolution as well as a living museum of some of the most extraordinary creatures inhabiting this world.
We started our island hopping tour on Santa Cruz, the main island, where already on the first day a highlight was waiting for us: we went to look for giant tortoises – and found some! To be fair, it wasn’t so difficult to track them down because they leave huge tracks and cannot really move too fast. Also, they are simply too gigantic to be easily missed. But still, we felt super lucky, as you might be able to see in our picture collection.
The next day we took a ferry to the biggest of the islands, Isla Isabela. This one just recently hit the news quite hot, as Volcano Wolf erupted spectacularly. Sadly, we were not allowed to get close enough to get a glimpse of it, but we still had an awesome time spotting flamingos and penguins as well as snorkeling with white-tipped reef sharks, giant rays, loads and loads of colorful fish, many very friendly sea turtles and of course the famous swimming iguanas. We also tried to hike up one of the islands smaller volcanoes, but on the way there Nicky tripped and messed up her ankle which quickly swell up to a size that expressed quite clearly that she would not be able to make it to the crater that day. In fact, she didn’t walk anywhere at all anymore that day, so Patrick had to carry her back until an ambulance horse came round for help. It turned out that the leg could still be used for snorkeling, so our exploration program could continue. Therefore, over the next days, we hopped on “our” boat Esmeraldas III to visit Isla Bartolome, Isla Plaza and Isla Santa Fe.
Each of these islands had its own special highlight and each of them was so very different from the others that we really got to understand quite well why the Galapagos where Darwin’s “mystery of mysteries”: fauna and flora are simply incredible here! We saw cactuses grow next to mangroves and iguanas paddle side by side with penguins. We swam with sea lions that wanted to play with us, had to watch our step closely everywhere we went to not trip over one of the iguanas that were lazily chilling out and walked on picture-perfect beaches.
After 11 days, perfectly sun tanned and full of incredible and probably unforgettable memories, we boarded our plane back to the continent. However, the farewell will probably not be one for too long, there are simply too many more islands to explore! So we will be back for sure, but next time definitely with a scuba diving license!
When on the Galapagos
Where to sleep: Hotel Ninfa – we stayed here as it was included in our package and we totally enjoyed it! Awesome staff, great breakfast buffet, a pool and proper hotel style rooms, amazing for backpackers after 4 month of hostels! If you rather want to save the hotel money for excursions, there are also lots of budget options!
Where to eat & drink: Isla Isabela is famous for the local cocktail Coco Loco, make sure you have some! We also had a delicious “encocado de pescado” (that’s fish cooked in a rich coconut sauce) at the kiosco de Renato.
What to do: Make sure you see a couple of different islands, no matter if you choose island hopping or a cruise. We booked our trip with Ninfa Tours and were completely satisfied.