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Friday, 31 December 2010

A Land Based Tour in the Galapagos - Page 6

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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For dinner I went to The Rock and had their ‘Lonesome George’ fish that was good and a pina colada. They draw people in with their ‘2 for 1 cocktails’ sign out front, but then only honor it for rum and cokes or caipirinhas. Anyways, the place had a nice atmosphere though it was mainly filled with foreigners (the locals have already figured out their false advertising). Early the next morning I took a taxi across the island to the ferry crossing to Baltra for my return flight.


There are many more day trips that could be done from Santa Cruz – there is Floreana which you can visit every day and is as little as $65 for the full day tour including transport, lunch, and gear. Then there are North Seymour ($90) and Plazas ($90) which go a couple times a week. North Seymour is the place to go for the blue footed booby, especially during mating season when they do the cutest mating dance; it is also famous for diving. Plazas is better for marine iguanas and unique fauna. Then there are highland tours where you see the tortoises in the wild ($35), bay tours on glass bottomed boats ($30), and you can hire a taxi ($25) to take you to Garrapata Beach with its translucent water and salt lagoon with flamingos.


If you decide on an independent itinerary, I’d advise you to leave at least a little flexibility in your schedule – perhaps a couple unplanned days at the end, so you can spend a little longer on whichever island you’re most drawn to and re-adjust your schedule to deal with any flight delays. My flight from New York on Lan was delayed 10 hours which meant I missed my flight to the Galapagos, had to stay in Guayaquil and didn’t get a flight until the following day, as they only leave once a day. Also, this meant I could no longer fit North Seymour into my schedule, though it would have fit in perfectly if I had arrived when I was supposed to, so I was very disappointed about that. If you do decide on a cruise you should plan to arrive at least a day before, as if you miss your flight there is no way the boat will come back to get you.


As for costs, day trips are very reasonably priced from $20-120 (with most being around $50) and those are per person, so if you happen to be traveling alone like I was you don’t need to pay some exorbitant single supplement like you would on a cruise. Nice hotel rooms like the ones I stayed at the first 8 nights will run about $100-150 a night (with budget options in the $20-30 price range). Most ferry rides are $25, taxi’s in town are $1, food costs are less than the US, but more than mainland Ecuador as almost everything needs to be imported.


So, for example, if you have two people and took the exact trip I did you’d pay $515 each for the 10 nights in hotels, $315 each for day tours/activities, and $115 each for ferries and transportation for a grand total of $945 each. If you were able to get the flight deal I got that would price an amazing trip at under $1500 pp from NY. By comparison an 8-night cruise (without flights) on a mid-range boat averages $2-3,000 per person (for double occupancy) and if you were to look at the high end options (or single occupancy) they would be off the charts ($4-7,000). The advantage of cruises is that much of the travel is done at night while you’re asleep, so first thing in the morning you’ll be at your first site to explore. Of course, if you suffer from seasickness then that would be a tough week for you.


Even land based tours can be very expensive if you buy them as a package, GAP Adventures which focuses on students and mid-range tours charges $2,699pp for a 10-day (9-night) ‘adventure’, or $1,999pp for its ‘Galapagos on a Shoestring’ package which is similar except you stay in ‘basic’ lodging and tents. You take the same ferries I took and go on the same (but far fewer) tours, and no meals are included, so I have no idea what the huge markup is. You’re better off arranging it yourself or through a travel agent who doesn’t charge a premium. Add the $100 Galapagos National Park fee and the $10 tourist card to whichever option you choose.


The Galapagos is one of the most incredible, unique, authentic places anywhere. If you love seeing interesting species that are not afraid of humans this is the place for you. Though development has been way too fast on Santa Cruz, the other islands (especially Isabela) have an untouched quality even though they have many hotels and restaurants. The uninhabited islands are pristine and some have wooden pathways built as to not disturb the vegetation. In most places the guides have done a good job telling people not to feed or disturb the animals, so they act naturally and their habits haven’t changed. There are exceptions to this, though the only one that I saw was at Tortuga Bay where I pulled out some crackers on the beach and was inundated with Darwin’s finches who have obviously been fed by humans, but this is one of the few places where you can go without a guide, as to go to all the uninhabited islands you’ll need a naturalist guide.

Galapagos photos

All in all, my trip was fabulous – the Galapagos are truly a unique paradise. I wish I stayed longer and made it to a few more of the uninhabited islands, but when I return I surely will.



©Christina Kay Bolton


Details:

Hotels:

Galapagos Suites, Santa Cruz: http://www.galapagossuites.com/, $100-175

Casa Iguana Mar y Sol, San Cristobal: http://www.sancristobalbb.com/, $100-250

Hotel Albemarle, Isabela: http://www.hotelalbemarle.com/, $100-250

National Park:

http://www.galapagospark.org/

(Page 6 of 6)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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