Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Our Trip to the Galapagos Islands -- Part 1 of 5

We recently took a trip to the Galapagos Islands, which are a part of Ecuador.  They are 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador and are in the Mountain Time Zone.  There are 13 major islands, 6 small islands and scores of islets.  To learn more about the Galapagos Islands, see the following websites:




We went to 4 islands:
1.  Isla Baltra -- very small island where the airport is located
2.  Isla Santa Cruz -- has the most developed town (Puerto Ayora) in the archipelago
3.  Isla Floreana -- boasts about tales of the history of the earliest settlers
4.  Isla Isabela -- largest island with 5 intermittently active volcanoes

First Step:  When planning your trip, you need to decide what your budget will be.  Depending on your budget, you'll be able to plan either a cruise for the entire trip, or hotel-based island-hopping day tours.  We decided not to take a cruise, but to stay in a hotel and take day trips to the islands.  You can find hotel accommodations in any price range, and then schedule your day trips as you wish.  This cuts down considerably on the price compared to the cost of a cruise.

Second Step:  Decide what time of year you want to go.  We went in the cool-dry season (June to December).  During that time of year, there is a weather phenomenon  known as "garúa" (which means drizzle).  It is a fine mist which we like because it cools you off during the sunny days.  The warm-wet season (January to May) is a busier time because of the vacationers during Christmas, New Year's, and Easter.  The high tourist season (and high cost) runs December to April, and July and August.

Third Step:  Research air fare and schedule your flights.  You can fly to the Galapagos Islands (Isla Baltra) from Cuenca, Quito or Guayaquil.  If you are an Ecuadorian citizen or a legal resident (you have your Cedula), then go to the following website to book your air travel:  www.despegar.com.  (It is a much cheaper way to travel if you have your Cedula.)

Fourth Step:  After you have made your airline reservations, then you need to pre-register with the Ecuadorian government.  To protect the Galapagos Islands, the Ecuadorian government has strict regulations on what activities can be performed, and how long visitors can stay.  So you'll need to pre-register before you leave on your vacation at the website:  www.gobiernogalapagos.gob.ec
Click on "pre-registro" in the left-hand column.  The next screen, click "Pre-Registro Turistas", and then complete the registration process.  You will then be in the system.  Do this about 7 to 10 days before your trip.

Galapagos Registration Window
Fifth Step:  Upon arriving at the airport and before checking your bags, you must go to the Galapagos Registration window where they will pull up your pre-registration information, print a form (Transit Control Card) which you must keep with you because you won't be able to return home from the Galapagos Islands unless you have that form, and then pay the fee of $10.

Inspection and Quarantine Window
Sixth Step:  After completing the registration process, then you need to go to the Inspection and Quarantine (Inspección y Cuarentena) window where they will check that you aren't bringing any fruits or vegetables to the Galapagos Islands.  After the inspection, you are then free to go check-in at your airline ticket counter.

The airport is on Baltra, just north of Santa Cruz
So now you've finally made it to the Galapagos Islands!  You are now on Isla Baltra, which was used as an air base by the United States in World War II.  Baltra (also known as South Seymour) is now a navy base for Ecuador. This remote island is the main entry point for most cruises of the Galapagos Islands. On the island, there is a large population of sea lions and blue-footed boobie birds.

Upon landing at the airport on Baltra, you'll need to go through Immigration and make sure you go through the Tourist line instead of the Residents line.  We got confused since we're residents of Ecuador, but the Resident line in the Galapagos Islands are for the residents of the Galapagos, specifically.  The Tourist line was much shorter so we were happy to scoot over to that line.

Galapagos "taxi"
After getting your luggage, you'll board a bus that will take you to the boat that goes across the channel to the Isla Santa Cruz. First made famous by Darwin's explorations in the 19th century, today Santa Cruz is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Perhaps the island's most famous resident was Lonesome George, the last Galapagos tortoise of its kind, that died in June of 2012. Also located here is Cerro Dragon, one of the best places to spy land iguanas.

After getting off the boat, there will be taxis waiting to take you where you need to go (probably Puerto Ayora which is about 45 minutes south).  The taxis are white Toyota pick-up trucks.  The ride will cost around $20.

The next blog post will be about Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz, and the house we stayed in.

No comments:

Post a Comment