Arriving at the Baltra airport was a bit surreal, as we walked off the airplane stairs, into the tropical climate, while not seeing much around us except for the arid and dry land, and some cacti. We then walked into the airport, which was playing American Christmas music… much to our surprise.
And even though the Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador you still need to go through immigration and customs. It’s sort of its own entity in a way. The good news though is that you get your own Galapagos stamp in your passport.
Baltra Island itself is not inhabited… it’s only for the airport, so everyone needs to take a bus and then a small boat over to Santa Cruz Island, which is one of the main islands, and the one we were staying on, and then take a taxi or bus from there to town. There is also one other airport on another Galapagos island, although somewhat less used.
But for Baltra Island, when you leave the airport, you take a bus and then a boat over to the main island of Santa Cruz. The boat that crosses over is very small, and people have to put their luggage on top of the boat, and hope it doesn’t fall into the water on the way. Luckily our luggage survived, and I think everyone else’s too. However, once you’re on the boat, the first thing you notice is the beautiful blue-green color of the water, which is soothing and welcoming.
Also, many people choose to spend their entire stay on a boat while in the Galapagos and cruise to the different islands for the various activities.
We choose to stay on island though… at a small B&B in the main town of Puerto Ayora and see the sights from there. This was for a couple of reasons; one being the budget, and the other because not everyone wanted to stay a whole week on a boat. We were also told the water would be pretty rough or choppy while we were there… in December.
But many people really love the weekly boat tours. So, there are many different options for lodging and also for excursions, depending on what you want to do and depending on your budget.
Our hotel is a small Swiss and Galapagos family-run B&B called “Hotel Cucuve Suites”. It is located right off the main road in Puerto Ayora, which is in the main town on Santa Cruz Island. The B&B does not have a large number of rooms, and there are stairs, with no elevator, but it is also quite nice, and includes breakfast. The B&B is less than two years old, and the materials used and the design are quite nice, although simple. There are also good sources of air flowing and circulating throughout the building, which is useful and pleasant for a tropical hotel. The staff is also multi-lingual and very helpful. They will help you with activity and excursion ideas, as well as restaurant recommendations. We really enjoyed this hotel. Also, the beds were very comfortable and the shower (that we had anyway) was great for taller people... even “Shaq” could stand comfortably in the shower there.
But the main highlight of the Galapagos, of course, is the nature and wildlife. On one of our first walks we literally stumbled upon an iguana taking a nap. Basically just sprawled out on the warm pavement, ignoring everything else, as people were walking and driving by. It turns out we would see many iguanas sleeping, walking, or doing their thing, while we were there. They don’t seem to mind people.
Also, on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora is the Charles Darwin Research Center, with its exhibits, history, and wildlife too. We came upon some large tortoises or “tortugas” here, as well as other iguanas, and special birds, including the famous finch birds of the Galapagos.
We also visited another location on the island, about 30-40 minutes from town, called “El Chato Tortoise Reserve”, which is an enclave for wild tortoises in their own natural habitat. There were also other wildlife species there, including various birds and other creatures.
Another day we went to “Tortuga Bay”… a favorite beach. It’s close to town, although you need to walk about 30 - 40 minutes each way on a walking path to get to the beach area. The beach is not directly accessible by car, only by boat. When you get there you see white sandy beaches, beautiful water, and some marine iguanas lounging around. You can also surf, swim, or just relax and walk around the area.
One thing to note about the Galapagos though is that the WiFi can be intermittent, and the power can go on and off. One day our power was mostly off for more than half the day… one hazard of island living I guess.
I did have a surprise on the Galapagos as well. Somehow, even with the intermittent power and WiFi, I somehow got a message from a close friend, that unbeknownst to both of us, we were both on the Galapagos at the same time. My friend was on a National Geographic boat with her family touring the islands. It turns out my sister saw her post on Facebook, and told her I was there. Luckily her first message got through to me, so that we could meet up the next day, briefly at a local café. But the day their boat docked on our island was the mostly no-power day, but somehow it still worked out that we could connect at the last moment and meet up. We joked that we hadn’t seen each other recently but at least we could see each other in the Galapagos. Again… it’s a small world.
Earlier that day we also were able to take a small boat ride to a nearby island and find a cove that’s famous for snorkeling and fish. This crevice or cove is called “Las Grietas”. The water is so clear you could see the beautiful colors of the fish swimming just underneath.
The rest of the island was fairly empty and seemed remote as we walked on the dirt paths looking for the boat terminal. However, while walking back we also stumbled upon a pretty nice hotel called the Finch Bay Hotel, a five star property that looks like a fantastic place to stay if budget allows. We ended up having lunch there, at one of their poolside tables, and could view their property a little bit in the process, including their own small private beach. They were also quite gracious, especially since it’s possible they don’t usually have restaurant guests that are not hotel guests, but they were very nice to us. This was also the same day I wasn’t sure if I was meeting my friend from home, as no message could come through to me, but they wanted to make sure we got back in time, just in case, so they allowed us to use their private boat to take us back. So thank you Finch Bay Hotel! And yes, it worked out that we met up with my friend and her family. So all went well there.
And besides the amazing wildlife and nature of the Galapagos, it was also amazing to talk to the locals, try some of the amazing restaurants with super fresh ingredients, like just-caught seafood, or local fruit. There are all types of food options available, including my son’s favorite, pasta and pizza. There are options for all types of food preferences.
The Galapagos is an amazing place... that I would like to go back to, and experience even more.
- Siovonne Smith