One of the reasons why I’m not such a big fan of beaches is that, well, they all look the same…
To some this will sound like extreme profanity, and some will go further and list the vast differences between the clear water beaches of Fiji, to the “amazing” resorts in Cuba (yes, I added the quotation marks…I simply cannot handle the idea of resorts). But to me beaches still remain water surrounded by sand (or is it sand surrounded by water?). Crowded and with a minimum amount of options on what to do other than cooking under the sun, I have grown to be a traveller who sort of avoids beaches.
Galápagos Islands is found almost 1000KM from the South American west coast and it is part of Ecuador. There are 21 islands making up the Galápagos, all covering an area of about 7800 KM². With a population of just over 26,000, the Galápagos receives less then 200,000 visitors per year, making it one of the less crowded places to visit in South America. If you feel like getting off the beaten track and relax then you should head to Galápagos Islands.
Two main airports serve flights to the islands, one on Isla Baltra and the other on Isla San Cristóbal. From the Isla Baltra airport a bus takes passengers to a dock for a ferry to transport them to Isla Santa Cruz. Once on Isla Santa Cruz, another bus is needed to get to the other side of the island, where all hotels and tourist accommodations are. The center is so small that you can ask the driver to drop you as close to your hotel/hostel as possible. Chances are you will be dropped off somewhere on the main street and will have to walk a short distance to get there. If you get lost like I did and want to avoid walking senselessly back-and-forth under 32 C° weather, ask a local to point you in the right direction.
If your hotel is on one of the other islands, Isla San Cristóbal or Isla Isabela, you must take a ferry boat from the port on Isla Santa Cruz.
So, what’s all the fuzz about the Galápagos Islands???
Let’s start with the big one. This was my first time scuba diving, but people I met said that scuba diving in the Galápagos Islands is something totally different. Not only because of the variety of animals you can find underwater, but also because of the sea itself.
Being a few islands far from any land, the Galápagos create such water currents that it is (apparently) much harder to control your movements underwater than anywhere else. Once underwater, you can swim with sea turtles, a huge variety of fish, manta rays, sea lions, and sharks….YES…SHARKS!!!!!!
One of the things I really dislike about beaches are crowds. There is nothing more unappealing at a beach that a huge crowd of people in the look for beach chairs, which are rented at ridiculous prices by resorts.
The one beach day I had in Galápagos I headed to Tortuga Bay beach…and I had it all for myself!!! 2.5 very walkable kilometers from Puerto Ayora, Tortuga Bay beach is D.E.S.E.R.T.E.D. Many iguanas, crabs and birds inhabit this part of the beach, and if lucky you may even come across some small sharks near the shore.
Kayaking & Snorkeling
A few steps from Tortuga Bay beach, there is this little cove where I rented a Kayak for $10USD and headed to some of the smaller islands from the reef. Once there, I parked my kayak and went underwater for some snorkeling. I was lucky enough to see many fish, small sharks (at a distance) and some sea turtles.
DO NOT FORGET YOUR SUNSCREEN!!! The white sand of Tortuga Bay beach and being under the sun on a kayak can leave you with a pretty nasty sunburn, like the one I got…..the next couple of days were very hard to sleep, dress (I couldn’t raise my arms), and pretty much live because of this nasty burn on my back.
Hire a Driver and Explore Isla Santa Cruz
Unfortunately there aren’t any car or scooter rentals in the island, so the only option to visit the different sites is to hire a driver for a few hours to drive through the different sights on the island:
See GIANT turtles: Turtles so big in size they can reach all the way up to your knees!!!
Los Gemelos: Two sink holes, resembling volcanic craters, which were created after the collapsing of the volcanic roof of empty magma chambers. Los Gemelos are located side by side on the road leading from Puerto Ayora to the north of the island.
Walk through lava tunnels: A 1 KM long walk through a tunnel which was left when the outside skin of a flow of lava solidified. Torches can be rented outside of the tunnel.
Sure, fancy restaurants and hotels abound in Galápagos. But if you want to taste some authentic Galápagos Islands eatery flavor, head to Charles Binford street.
The street is packed with food kiosks and restaurant terraces. Take your pick from all sorts of fish, octopus, or a regular chicken or steak for the less food-adventurous. I’m never trying octopus again…
What I Missed
Take a day trip, or better yet stay, in one of Galápagos’ other islands. Isla Santa Cruz is nice, but as the hub of tourism of Galápagos, it still feels like a vacation town. Isla San Cristóbal on the other hand seemed to be less crowded. Damn you limited work vacation time…
Where I Stayed
Captain Max B&B: Everything is more expensive in Galápagos Islands, and accommodation is no exception, however there are cheaper options. This B&B is nice, clean, with comfortable beds and much needed A/C in every room. Breakfast is included and the staff is very friendly and helpful.