I WENT TO THE GALAPAGOS AND IT WAS AWESOME!
Knowing I'd be in the right part of the world to visit these islands it had been at the back of my mind to try and get there during the trip. But since it's such an expensive place to go and our trip isn't exactly a brief one I assumed it wouldn't happen. When Oli announced his ideas to rebuild Janelle's engine in Quito himself, the idea of waiting in a hostel room for that to happen immediately sent me to the travel agents.
The money involved was still a worry. At this point it would be the difference between going home with some level of financial independence or going home flat broke to live with the parents indefinitely. So being a biologist and it being the Galapagos I obviously opted for the latter (hi mum).
I'll tell you how I did the trip and then give you some top tips for things I hadn't considered when doing the Galapagos on a budget. After asking around numerous travel agents I came to the consensus that they do generally all offer the same things. it's always worth asking around a few but there was no huge variation. I wanted a trip that would leave within the week and be a budget option. All travel agents came back to me with the same boat tour options and hotels for the same price so it was just a case of choosing the people I liked best. I chose Shine Galapagos, a small company with two very nice ladies sat in a office doing all their work over the phone rather than online. I don't know why but I found them endearing and they clearly wanted to find the best trip for me.
On the Tuesday I went shopping for a holiday, booked on Wednesday and left on Friday. I would say that in general it rarely pays to book in advance in Latin America. We've never been unable to do an activity because it's been overbooked but we have met people who have payed up to double the price for booking in advance. That being said if you have a limited time on holiday you're quite right to get your time organised in advance.
I booked a 5 day tour on a small boat (10 passengers) called The Flamingo. Flights to the Galapagos from Quito are a standard $480 for foreigners (cheaper for citizens of Ecuador) and the park entrance fee is $100. So before you leave the airport you've spent $600 that can't be avoided. The 5 day boat tour with meals included set me back another $700.
|Escaping the mechanical worries|
|Chillin' on the boat|
To finish off the day we took a sunset tour around Isla lobo (sea lion island) and saw the colonies and pups as the sun set. It was hard to believe that morning I'd been in Quito.
|Sunset on Isla Lobos|
|My new puppy|
|Chillin' on the beach|
|Star of the show|
|Blue Footed Booby (stop giggling Oliver)|
|Giant Tortoise survival meeting|
1. Fly from Guayaquil.
Flights from Quito are about $200 more expensive so if your travel plans take you to Guayaquil, it's worth flying from there.
2. Book a cruise when you get to the Galapagos.
Don't be afraid to fly to the Galapagos without having booked a boat trip. Others on my cruise had done just this and it turns out there are very reasonable hostels on the Galapagos (some for $10) so not only will you get to explore the islands at your own pace but also you can get better boat trip deals from within the islands.
3. GO NOW!
I went in October 2013 when flights from Quito are $500 and the park entrance fee is $100. Both are set to go up, according to Alfonso they want to double the park entrance fee this year. Also there is increasing pressure from the 'galapagon mafia' to do away with small affordable tour boats and just allow the wealthy Jacuzzi clad cruise ships permission to tour the islands. It would be a shame to limit this amazing place to the wealthy retired and Hollywood superstars but that is the direction it's heading with full support of the people with power on the Galapagos.
I hope you have enjoyed my brief detour from the mechanical turmoils of motorcycle travel, I certainly did!