Our flight to the Galapagos was to depart at 9:15am, so we were supposed to be at the airport at 7:30am. We left the hotel at 7:00am, but there was no traffic, so it only took about 10 minutes to get there ($5 for the taxi).
Make sure you tell the taxi driver “nacional” or “Galapagos”, so they don’t take you to the international terminal. Once inside, there are people to point you in the right direction.
The first stop is the INGALA counter on the far side. If you have already paid for your $10 tourist card, they just check your passport. If not, you pay $10 cash (they do not accept $100 bills!) and fill out a form. Everyone then puts their luggage through an x-ray machine next to the INGALA counter and picks it up on the other side.
Next, you go to the airline counter that you were told to go to. There are people around that can help if you don’t know. We went to Aerogal counter #3, and the Galapagos cruise people were there to check our bags and give us 1) baggage tags, 2) airline boarding passes, 3) tourist cards, 4) boarding passes for the boat, and 5) name tags.
Next, you go through security. They do not worry about liquids, shoes, or computers. You do have to show your passport and boarding pass.
Inside, there is a small coffee shop that serves coffee, juice, fruit, yogurt, and sandwiches.
Listen carefully for your flight as there are many flights, and they board quickly.
FLIGHT TO GALAPAGOS:
It’s a 45 minute flight from Quito to Guayaquil, you have 45 minutes on the ground in Guayaquil (stay on the plane), and then it is 1 hour and 40 minutes to the Galapagos. On the Aerogal flight, they served drinks and a muffin on the first flight, and drinks and a breakfast (eggs, ham, potatoes, roll, fruit) on the second flight. It was a 737 airplane, but there was no video or music service.
We started the process of reading everyone’s name tags, which would tell us who was on our boat. My son found a new friend immediately, and they sat together the whole flight playing on their various electronic devices.
A couple of odd things on the airplane…. In Guayaquil, they refueled the airplane. During this time, they opened all the overhead compartments, they made everyone take OFF their seat belts, and no one could use the bathrooms until they were done fueling. Also, right before landing in the Galapagos, they opened all the overhead compartments and sprayed everything with an insecticide aerosol.
ARRIVAL IN GALAPAGOS:
Once we arrived in the Galapagos, we got in a long line at the airport. There are officials all in a row to deal with. The first is passports. We were given a form to fill out for each person. They gave us the bottom part of that form, which has to be turned in when we leave the islands. The second is the national park fee, which we already had, so not much to do there. Otherwise, you pay $100. Lastly, they inspected our bags for animals, seeds, and produce. Our apples were okay, but they took the oranges.
Once in the airport, we were met by our 2 naturalist guides and waited a few minutes for our bus. We did not have to collect our checked luggage because the staff picked that up for us and took it to the boat.
We took the bus to the harbor and walked to the pier. All over the pier were sea lions, so everyone was very excited and taking pictures.
We got into our 2 zodiac boats (10 guests each + 1 naturalist guide + 1 driver) and rode through the harbor to our boat. There were lots of boats in the harbor: private sailing boats, fishing boats (some with sea lions taking a nap), and some yachts.
ON THE BOAT:
Our first order of business on the boat was to sit in the lounge area for our first briefing. They talked about all the rules in the Galapagos that keep the islands clean and the animals safe as well as life on the boat and our schedule for the afternoon. After the briefing, they brought in our luggage and showed everyone to their cabins.
I unpacked the things that we would need most, and we put the rest of our luggage overhead. There were 2 outlets, so I started charging batteries.
After about 15 minutes for unpacking, we had our life jacket drill. Everyone grabbed the life jackets from the cabins and went up to the sun deck to review the procedures if we had to abandon ship. Then they distributed masks, snorkels, and fins.
We had some free time before our first excursion, so most people chose to relax in the shade on the sundeck and enjoy the view.
Our first stop was Ochoa Beach right around the corner from the San Cristobal harbor. We made a “wet” landing at the beach for snorkeling. It was a beautiful, white sand beach with some sea lions, and we saw one marine iguana.
• Sea lions
• Marine iguanas
The surf on shore was actually pretty rough for us. The boats had a tough time beaching properly with the surf, and the snorkeling was a little tough, but we tried for a while, and actually just watching the sea lions was very entertaining.
A “wet” landing is where the zodiac boat just drives up to the beach, and you get out in the water. A “dry” landing is where the zodiac takes you to a small pier. For the wet landing, you wear sandals because your feet get wet, but in a dry landing, you can wear walking shoes.
After the beach, our boat drove over to “Kicker Rock”. This is one of the most photographed rock structures in the Galapagos. The clouds opened up just enough for the setting sun the shine perfectly on the rocks for us.
There are lots of different kinds of birds nesting and flying around Kicker Rock. While we were taking pictures, one of our guides noticed a blow spout. There were whales right off our port! Our boat drove closer to the whales, and we could see that there were several of them including one mother and baby. Because of the blow spouts and small back fin, we determined that they were minke whales. This is the first time I have been so close to whales, so it was very exciting!
• Blue footed boobies
• Frigate birds
• Swallow tail gulls
• Minke whales (unusual)
Before dinner, we had a briefing in the lounge about activities for the next day.
Then the captain of the ship came down and introduced the entire crew, and we all had a welcome cocktail. I am not sure what it was, but it was layered red, green, and orange and very tasty.
After dinner, everyone seemed to just head to bed, although one woman the next day told me how beautiful the stars were up on the sundeck.
We booked the Eric/Flamingo/Letty, which are 3 identical boats. We picked this boat company because they have family departures, so we knew that we would have other kids on the boat, and they have special guides and kid-friendly meals. They are 20 passenger boats and only have 8-day itineraries (no stopping to pick up/drop off passengers halfway through, which is nice).
On our boat, the Flamingo, there are 4 decks. Our cabin was on the bottom deck (Iguana), the dining area, lounge, kitchen, and a couple of cabins were on the next deck (Boobie), the nicest rooms and the bridge were on the higher deck (Dolphin), and then there was a sun deck up top.
Our cabin was a triple, so it had 2 lower bunks and 1 upper bunk. There were only 2 small windows in the cabin (by the upper bunk, so my son immediately chose his bunk!), and 1 small window in the bathroom. There was a closet, 3 drawers under the lower bunks, and an overhead storage area. I felt like there was quite a bit of room for everything considering the tight quarters.
The cabins on the upper decks had large picture windows, but otherwise didn’t seem much bigger. The cabins on the Boobie deck only had 1 bed for 2 people, but it was not even a double bed size.
The bathroom was not a bad size for on a boat. The showers had a shampoo/conditioner/soap dispenser as well as a mirror and a clothes line. The bathroom also had a hair dryer. They gave us 3 bathroom towels (white) and 3 beach towels (green). On the boat, no paper products get flushed down the toilet – yes, that means toilet paper, which goes into a special trash can next to the toilet.
The lounge has a library of Galapagos books, reading books, games, TV, and DVD’s.
There was a full bar, which also had drinking water and a selection of candies. Our margarita tasted a little strange, so we stuck to Chilean wine after that.
There was cell coverage in certain areas of the islands. The crew can tell you where. There was Internet coverage in the bay at San Cristobal and Santa Cruz.
It was chilly in the morning in Quito, but I knew that it would be hot in the Galapagos, so I wore my zip-off pants, a tank top, and a warm long-sleeve shirt to the airport. Once we arrived in the Galapagos, I was down to my tank top and zipped off my pant legs.
It was still warm in the evening, so people wore shorts, crop pants, or long pants with short sleeved shirts. No jacket or cover-up was needed.
We didn’t have time for breakfast at the hotel, so we ate at the coffee shop in the airport. I thought the fruit/yogurt/granola was great. My husband thought the egg sandwich was fine, but my son passed on his ham and cheese sandwich. The coffee was strangely sweet.
There is actually enough food on the airplane rides for breakfast, they just come so late that it is hard to wait….
Dinner on the boat was a choice of shrimp, or chicken with white sauce, with vegetables and rice. Both were excellent. Dessert was strawberries with a yogurt crème sauce. My son ate his and half of mine.