interisland travel, land and creatures
06.06.2017 - 12.07.2017 83 °F
Well, I have spent considerable time and effort writing posts on planning to go to the Galapagos, getting as far as Ecuador, roaming around a bit, and finally arriving. So how to approach the Galapagos themselves in this narrative? Part of me wants to post a hundred or so pictures of the landscape, the wildlife, the sea and the rest, and call it good. Part of me just wants to say: "Take it from me, you need to go there yourself - if you want pictures, ask Mr. Google!" And part of me wants to talk about some of the practicalities, maybe to make your future trip there a bit smoother.
After much thought (and procrastination) I think I will offer a few practicalities and a few pictures and tell you that the take home message is - just go there!
OK - practicalities. I stuck 'interisland travel' into the subhead because I was able to find relatively little on this subject online and I think a simple summary would be helpful to many. First, you can, if you choose, fly between islands. This has the advantage of speed, but suffers from high cost and strict luggage weight allowances and, if you are skittish about flying, you may not enjoy smaller twin engine prop planes. I didn't choose this route myself, preferring to travel by interisland ferry.
I traveled from Santa Cruz Island to Isabella and San Cristobal Islands and back, and all of the trips had a pretty standard pattern. First, cost - the going rate for all of these trips, about 2 hours long, was $30. You have to buy tickets in a shop in town, not at the boat or on the wharf and you should buy in advance. There is typically a morning and and afternoon sailing for each island. You will need to have your luggage inspected prior to boarding. Bored, yet?
The ferries themselves are just 35 foot or so cabin cruisers with benches along both sides of the semi-enclosed interiors. They typically take about 20 passengers, and all of the ones I took were full (hence the advice to buy in advance!). You access the ferries from the wharf by means of water taxis (which typically charge their own fee of 50 cents; don't expect change for anything larger than a dollar). OK, OK, some pictures to liven this dreary narrative! Here's the wharf at Puerto Ayora and a lineup of water taxis ready to take you to your ferry.
The trip itself is not for the faint of heart. This is open ocean cruising in a small boat, and it can be rough. There are substantial open ocean swells so the boat is alternately rising and falling slowly, and then suddenly going up a steep wave and dropping back with a dramatic impact. Someone got seasick on every trip. So, first pro tip - if you are the least bit susceptible, take your meds before hand. If you are not sure, take your meds on your first try. If you are immune, you better hope you are right! Now, I'm immune and did not suffer from seasickness at all. However, the rising and falling and slamming down can also take a toll. I made the mistake of sitting towards the front of the boat on my first trip. All I can say, is that if you have a bad back or have the desire never to have a bad back, DON'T sit in the front of the boat! I literally had to suspend myself above the seat with my arms to provide enough cushioning to avoid spine-jarring impacts for two solid hours. So sit in the back of the boat, you say? Nay, I say! There are typically a few seats along the back in the open air which can be very pleasant apart from having 2-200HP outboard engines roaring a foot or two from your ears. However, on two trips, the wind and waves combined to basically marinate the folks on one side of the back of the boat in sea water.
The happy place to sit is near, but not in, the back of the boat. So how to you arrange this? Second pro tip. Use the water taxis to your advantage. Generally speaking, the water taxis are 'first on, last off.' So if you get on as one of the last passengers on the taxi, you will usually be one of the first onto the ferry and you can grab an optimal seat. Also, the taxis take about 10 people so there are two taxis per ferry. Take the first taxi! This may require judicious deployment of elbows, but try to be gentle.
Sounds horrible, right? No. I actually enjoyed all the ferry rides; just looking out at the ocean and feeling the sea move under me is something I never tire of. Just be prepared and you can enjoy it too.
OK, a little about the land. Santa Cruz Island is the most built up island and one that, at least in the parts I saw, completely vegetated. It's a pleasant enough place but I didn't do any excursions out of town on foot, focusing instead on snorkeling trips. Weather? It was typically mid 80's days and mis 70's nights. At one point Mr. Google's weather forecast for the subsequent 5 days did not deviate by more than one degree, day after day. Breezy, a bit humid, but altogether pleasant. Although I did visit San Cristobel Island, it was only to transfer from the interisland ferry to a smaller boat for my snorkeling tour so I didn't see much.
I did wander around Isabella Island a fair amount, and it was quite an interesting place. I stayed at the La Casa de Marita Botique Hotel which is right on the beach. It is a lovely place with attractive rooms and grounds. One bonus is that much of the food served in the restaurant is grown on their own farms on the island, and it was quite tasty. The beach out front is white sand, and basically used only by hotel guests. This is me working hard taken from the hotel patio.
Speaking of procrastinating, this is written about a week after the above. I found myself trying to pick out pictures; a minimal number just to illustrate a few things, and rapidly got overwhelmed. My new plan is to give you a gallery of pictures, let you enjoy them, and then simply say 'adios' to this remarkable place!
OK - here we go:
Yummy food at the Casa de Marita hotel!
Strolling on the beach, found this little guy patiently creating hundreds of b-b sized balls of sand.
More pictures of the beaches of Isabella Island.
A Darwin's finch and my first Galapgaos Tortoise in the wild, from the road to the Wall of Tears
A very calm diving bird (I haven't been able to identify the bird - any ideas?) sitting next to me by a small bay filled with hundreds of diving birds. You can find this spot by walking the road to the Wall of Tears and turning off at a sign that says "Los Tunos."
The Isabella Island Tortoise reserve is a pleasant walk from town. They hope to repopulate the Galapagos with correct species in the right numbers to replicate early days. Since tortoises often live for 150 years, with patience they may be able to achieve their goal.
OK, some underwater stuff. The fish are ludicrously tame - unlike any other place I have snorkeled. Here's a particularly unafraid little guy.
The sea lions and sea turtles are also cool with people in their space.
Visited a boat-only site called Kicker Rock; probably my favorite spot for the dramatic scenery and cool critters. Glimpsed a hammerhead shark (one of 4 varieties I spotted on the trip) but didn't get a picture. Note the bird about a foot from me in the cleft in the rock.
Here are some white tipped reef sharks chilling under a ledge. I got this picture by the guide standing on my back and pushing me down in the water and sticking my hand under the ledge to get the shot. This is a place called 'Los Tuneles.'
Everywhere I found schools of fish that were perfectly content with you diving into their midst and swimming with them. Never experienced that before! Here are just a couple of samples. Go get your own!!