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roseclaw

DIY Galapagos May 2017

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roseclaw

This is a bit dated, but there are so few DIY trip reports for the Galapagos. Everyone assumes you need to be on a cruise, but that's not the case. I get very, very seasick, so a cruise wasn't an option for me. I've included budget and bird breakdowns by day and island. A friend and I did this together, so a lot of the costs were split down the middle. This isn’t a how-to or a “you must do it this way.” This is how I did it, so pick and choose what is helpful for you. Did we miss out on some cool birds? Yes. Did we do a lot? Definitely. Was it worth it? Without a doubt.

 

This review contains the good, the bad, and the ugly. And there were all three.

A naturalist’s DIY review – 10 days Each day will be a new post.
 

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Our route.

 

 

My disclaimer: A Galapagos trip is not something you do just because it's on a list, because it's pretty, because you can get close to the animals. It's a very delicate new environment, and it deserves a lot more respect than it's been getting. There was trash everywhere. On the beaches, in the ocean, around the towns. Tourists were disrespectful to the animals and to the guides. I am very protective of this archipelago!

 

I am an ornithologist with a background in evolutionary biology focusing on genetic drift within island biogeography. I went to understand the finches, which are not attractive birds, by the way, but they're fascinating. I suggest reading up on this stuff before going. The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen and On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. Let's throw in The Heretic in Darwin's Court, because Alfred Russell Wallace deserves some credit, too. It was distressing to me that so many people went to the islands and didn't even know who Darwin was.


If you want to see boobies, frigates, and other seabirds, maybe sea turtles and sea lions, those can be seen elsewhere, you don't need to go to the Galapagos. If you want to see cool lava formations, those can be seen on pretty much every volcanic island ever. Might I suggest the Azores? However, if you want to learn more about evolution, and how pioneer species colonized the islands and became multiple species while respecting the island itself, please continue!

 

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roseclaw

April 23 – May 2

 

I flew Copa and Tame, and my friend flew LATAM operated by American Airlines. I had meals on the longest leg, she did not. In fact, the snacks on both Copa and Tame were sandwiches – and one time an empanada. As an American used to flying domestically where snacks are a tiny bag of pretzels, I was ecstatic. 

 

I landed in Guayaquil around midnight, went through customs, and realized I couldn’t go through security to domestic flights because the TCC counter and the airlines counter were closed. So I went back downstairs and went to the shuttle for the Holiday Inn. I spent way too much money to spend eight hours there, but I did use their gym, shower, and free breakfast. And birding from my window was awesome the next morning. There was an empty lot that had blue-gray tanagers, tropical kingbird babies, variable seedeaters, some sort of ground doves, saffron finches, swallows of several species, and other birds I still need to id. I’m also going to need to return to bird the mainland. There just wasn’t time this trip, and unfortunately I do need to work for a living.

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roseclaw

Day 1

 

We flew in to San Cristobal around noon. Because we booked tickets several months apart, I arrived an hour before my friend… who speaks a lot more Spanish than I do. I am passable in most situations when listening but not speaking. I have the vocabulary and conjugation skills of a three-year-old. Google Translate did help, though. 

 

We flew in with no reservations except our return flight. This was so far out of my comfort zone, it caused some anxiety, but I survived, and it really wasn’t so bad except for two instances.

 

After paying my $100 park fee (TTC of $20 was before getting my plane ticket), and coming face to face with a giant mosaic booby, I walked from the airport to the first hostel I scoped out beforehand. It was hot, but I wanted to take pictures of everything including finches and spiders for later identification.

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I stopped in Casa de Laura and bumbled my way through asking for a room for two people. Laura was kind but skeptical of there actually being two people. We agreed on a price of $35 (inclusive of taxes) a night for two nights after I was shown the room. The room had an a/c, but we never figured out how to turn it on, so we relied on the overhead fan. It was a comfortable room with a private bathroom and twin beds. The shower had very little water pressure but this seemed to be a thing everywhere.

 

The hostel was set a step away from the main road and the beach, which was good because we didn’t have to listen to the sea lions squabble all night.

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Once my friend arrived and met me at the hostel, we went into town to book a trip to Espanola for the next day. This was the first bummer. The boat was full. I did not want to book this trip in advance, because people had reported the price to be around 200, and all the places I enquired beforehand were quoting me 300 to 400, which no. So we missed out on the endemics there including the albatrosses. Super bummer. The day trip was available later that week, but we were planning on being on Isabela by then.

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We then walked to the Interpretation Center and Cerro Tijeretas. We were both tired so we didn’t climb to the top of the lookout. We did go down to the snorkel spot. My friend swam, but I was too dehydrated from the flights, and I had already gone through most of my water, so I decided to stay out of the water and watch the birds. There were two species of frigates, blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, lava gulls, brown noddies, yellow warblers, lava herons, Galapagos flycatchers, and several species of finches (small ground and medium ground). There were also several species of butterflies including monarchs and sulphurs, and lava lizards were everywhere doing pushups. A sea lion was on its back in the water letting the waves rock it as it dozed. Baby sally lightfoots were everywhere blending in with the a’a.

 

I ended up covered in mosquito bites. I thought most mosquitoes would be nocturnal not diurnal so I hadn’t sprayed myself. Oops.

 

We went up to Darwin’s disproportionate statue to see whales breaching out in the distance. They were too far away to determine species, though.

 

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On the way back to town, we stopped at the bakery Sabor Cuencano for dinner and Gatorade. I had not yet figured out that Gatorade was my friend and should be with me at all times. I grabbed several rolls - pineapple, cheese, and cheese empanada – and my Gatorade, all for 3.30. I saved the empanada for breakfast the next day.

 

We ate our bread out on the pier, watching sea lions, sea turtles, sea birds, and tourists. An inca tern showed up and sat on the railing in front of us with its magnificent mustache. These guys are not native to the Galapagos, and it must have blown out from the mainland in a storm. We watched Nat Geo tourist after Nat Geo tourist line up to take a picture of the inca tern. He did have a fabulous mustache.

 

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There was one tourist who decided she wanted to pet a sea lion. The sea lion did not like this and lunged at her. She backed up, but we saw another person do the same thing the next night. What is wrong with people?

 

We watched the sunset from the pier and headed back for the night, because we weren’t entirely sure of the street lamp situation. Turns out, it was fine.

 

Daily total cost: 123.30 (Park fee: 100, TCC: 20, food: 3.30)

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roseclaw

More Day 1 pictures

 

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Zubbie15
4 minutes ago, roseclaw said:

More Day 1 pictures

 

I was about to ask for more pictures!  Really interesting start, thanks for sharing.

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roseclaw

Day 2

 

Early the next morning after breakfast, we went to the Emetebe office at the airport to book a flight to Isabela for the next day.

 

About halfway to the airport, I felt something in the toe of my shoe. I thought it was my insert that sometimes balls up at the toes. So I stopped, pulled off my shoe and peered into it. A fat cricket fell out. My friend and I stared at it and laughed. Yup, we were in the tropics. Always empty out your shoes before you put them on.

 

The rest of the walk was uneventful, and so was talking to the Emetebe employees. It cost 120 per person, which is awesome, because they originally quoted me 210 online. For twice the price of the speedboat, we would get to Isabela in a fraction of the time and infinitely less seasick. Worth it.

 

Around 7:30 am, we caught a taxi at the airport and asked for a highland tour minus the beach. The taxi driver asked for 50 total, and we agreed. That was half the price of the individual tour price. Could we have negotiated down? Probably. 

 

The windows of the taxi were wide open, cooling us even before the true heat began. Our driver had a lightweight sleeve on his left arm to keep his arm safe from the sun. He stayed with the truck while we did our tourist things.

 

We were the first ones there, thanks to being on EST still. I didn't count how many stairs there were to the top, but it was a lot.

 

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El Junco was pretty awesome. We had a panoramic view of most of the island, and because it was so early, we were the only ones there. We hiked along the edge of the lake watching the frigates bathe. Both species were present and neither species were graceful with their bath. The giant sphinx moths were everywhere with their big, black eyes. They seem to have filled the niches hummingbirds usually occupy. They also really liked me and kept following me and trying to drink my sweat. All insects love me, especially the biting kind. Thankfully, the moths only wanted my sweat. 

 

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I only slipped and fell on the clay once, which is a job well done.

 

After we circumvented the lake, the second visitors of the day had arrived. We went down to the platform to the edge of the water, then back up, and all the way back down. By the time we had reached the bottom, other taxis were arriving.

 

This was where my birding bad luck began, with me hearing anis and thinking they were hawks.

 

Then our taxi driver took us to Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado to see the giant tortoises for the first time. And they were giant. A centennial greeted us at the entrance... which was an iron gate to push open. We had thought the place wasn't open, not that the gate kept the tortoises in.

 

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There were poison apple trees (Hippomane mancinella) everywhere. Apparently, they are a tortoise delicacy, but under each tree, the ground was littered with dead sphinx moths.

 

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We wandered along the trail, being devoured by mosquitoes, but we saw babies only a few months old all the way up to centennials. There were a lot of finches including large tree finch, which wasn't in its normal range. We also saw Chatham mockingbirds.

We returned to town, asking the taxi driver to drop us off at a lunch spot, which he did, but it was only 10am, even though... well, our bodies were two hours ahead.

 

We walked down to the main street along the pier.

 

To beat the heat, we grabbed an ice cream (1.25) and people watched in front of the souvenir shops. After we finished our ice creams, we went across the street to watch the ocean - the sea lion, pelicans, noddies, iguanas, and sally lightfoots.

 

Then we crossed the street again to the first open restaurant. It was Pategonia, and I ordered a chicken empanada and an orange juice (3.50).

After lunch, we returned to the hostel to book our hostel on Isabela through Airbnb. Then we reapplied sun block and walked to La Loberia to swim with the sea lions. Except after a brutally hot walk down the paved road, we saw the red beach flag flapping in the fierce wind. At least it was a cooling wind right off the ocean. The surf was throwing itself on the jagged a'a on the shore. 

 

We passed a few sunning marine iguanas, including one poor one exposing his ticks for any passing finch to pick off, except the wind was keeping the finches away.

 

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When we made it to the beach proper, there was a cop standing guard and a few couples sitting on the sand watching a few sea lions roll around in the surf. I was more interested in the birds in the lagoon behind the beach - wading and dabbling birds: stilts, pintails, egrets of several species, and gulls of several species.

 

We sat on the beach for a while, watching the surf. There must have been a storm out to sea. Good thing we weren't on a boat to Espanola!

After a while, a few more people showed up, and entered the water despite the choppiness. Don't know if they saw anything or if it was too churned up. The hunting booby had given up after a few empty passes. Neither of us wanted to chance the surf throwing us against the rocks.

 

We caught an overpriced taxi back to town (2 each).

 

We packed for the next day, and headed out to dinner. After circling the town three times and determining the only places open were the tourist restaurants, we decided on Galapagos Dreams. I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, because that's how I roll. It was a burger and a water. I was still set back 10 bucks. But we had a great view of the bay and the tourists who were trying to pet the sea lions. Why?!

When we returned to the hostel, we paid for our two nights, because we were leaving for the airport early and wanted to make sure we paid (35 each).

 

Daily total: 196.75 (Flight: 120, Taxis: 27, Hostel: 35, Food: 14.75)

 

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roseclaw
1 minute ago, Zubbie15 said:

 

I was about to ask for more pictures!  Really interesting start, thanks for sharing.

I have so many pictures! This thread is all written out, I just need to post everything. Should be finished in half an hour?

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roseclaw

Day 2 more pictures!

 

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roseclaw

Day 3

 

We had a granola bar for breakfast, then we were off to the airport. I made sure to check my shoes before I put them on, but no crickets. Another family left the hostel the same time as us, but they were headed to the pier for the barf boat to Santa Cruz. 

 

We hung around the Emetebe office for a while, waiting for everyone for the flight. There was an old British couple, their personal guide, a man who looked like he was returning from a business meeting on the mainland, and the two of us.

 

After our stuff was loaded onto the plane - all of it - we were escorted to the airport proper, where we had to go through security, and oops, our passports were already on the plane. Thankfully, one of the Emetebe employees was able to dig them out for us, and we could go through security.

 

We all piled in the plane. I sat right behind the copilot's seat, and there wasn't a copilot. The pilot told us it would be 45 minutes to Isabela, and we put on the ear protectors.

 

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The pilot did his complicated pilot thing, and we rumbled down the runway and rumbled back. There was something wrong with the plane, and we should disembark while they fixed it. That helped my anxiety about my first puddle jumper flight. They said it would take 45 minutes, so an hour and a half later, we boarded the plane again. We took off without incident.

 

There is really no way to accurately describe how awesome the flight was. It was smooth, smoother than a lot of commercial flights I've been on in the US. We watched the islands go by - Santa Fe, Santa Cruz, Floreana. We saw the speed boats on their way to Floreana and Isabela, and we saw a pod of whales. No idea what species, because we were too far up.

 

As we descended over Isabela, the fields of pahoehoe spread below us. There was an occasional pocket of green. We could see the town - and we could see the construction zone the size of the town, which was worrying. There is already too much development on the islands.

After some confusion, because there's not much to the airport, we paid our $10 port fee and waited an eternity for our taxi. The airport is an open pavilion, so it was hot, but at least we had shade and had brought water.

 

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Again, we were overcharged for the taxi - per person, not per ride ($2 each) - and dropped off at Hostal Jeniffer (55 per night for 3 nights = about 82 per person). We checked in without incident and enjoyed the a/c before refilling our water bottles and heading off to book day tours.

 

We really wanted to kayak and snorkel Los Tintoreras and we could only find one company to do so - Pahoehoe. They had a kayak propped up outside their shop. We had hoped to do so later that day, but it was only a morning trip. But Los Tunneles was a half day trip and so was hiking Sierra Negra. We said we'd think about it over lunch.

 

We walked further down the main road to the row of restaurants. The one at the end of the road had the cheapest almuerzo, so we ate there. Chicken soup with cilantro, chicken main, and naranjillo juice ($5). Best soup of the trip. I didn't catch the name of the restaurant. 

 

We decided to take Pahoehoe up on their offer. We booked kayaking for the next morning ($60), Los Tunnels for the next afternoon ($120), and Sierra Negra for our last day on Isabela ($40). Los Tunnels included food and water. Kayaking would only be about two hours so we'd have enough time between the two. 

 

That settled, we rented bikes for the rest of the afternoon to explore the town for 4 to 5 hours ($10). 

 

Our first stop was the giant tortoises, and they were giant. Also mating. They made the most ridiculous cow noises, and their poop is huge. We saw tiny babies, too. And more poison apple trees. There was also a small museum, but it was mostly in Spanish with some English.

 

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After the tortoises, we went another 250m down the road for the promise of flamingos. And they were there - a flock of six birds foraging. One bathed. We watched for a while. They are truly ridiculous muppet birds.

 

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We then returned to the main road and turned right at the beach to go to the Wall of Tears.

 

It was slow going at first, because I kept wiping out in the sandy road, and we made frequent stops for water. We stopped at a cemetery, the beach (whimbrells and oystercatchers), the mangroves to see our first wild tortoises, and many other places. Because it was so damn hot, we ran out of water, and we were biking uphill on loose sand. It was easier and faster to walk the bikes up. At one point, my friend needed to stop in the shade, because she was dangerously close to heat stroke.

 

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When we reached the top, we realized we had to go down to the Wall, which meant going up to return to the road. So we decided not to go down. Despite the horrific history, it is just a stone wall in the middle of nowhere.

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We sat under the shade, and finches came to us, asking for a handout. I have never felt more like a Disney Princess. (We did not give the finches a handout.) This was the first time I'd seen  a woodpecker finch, but most of them were medium ground finches, and there was one warbler finch.

After about twenty minutes, we upped the courage to return. It took less than half an hour, zooming downhill on the bike. I did wipe out a few more times, but that's fine, no blood was drawn just a few bruises. 

 

Back in town, we returned the bikes, cleaned up, stocked up on water, and went to Concha del Perla. I stayed out of the water, because it was so crowded but also because I was too tired.

 

I did find some sphinx moths. They're green on Isabella as opposed to gray on San Cristobal.

 

We then went to dinner at El Velero and had their menu del dia which included dessert ($7).

 

Daily Total: $336 (Food: 12, Taxi/bike: 12, Day Trips: 220, Island Entry Fee: 10 Hostel: 82)

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roseclaw

Day 3 more pictures!

 

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roseclaw

Day 4

 

Granola bar and peanut butter crackers for breakfast, then we went down to Pohoehoe for our kayaking trip. Things were delayed, but we tried on masks and short suits then waited for our guide to bring us down to the pier. It happened eventually - island time - and we sat in a tandem kayak, pushed off, and we were off to the snorkel spot. I have a lot of experience kayaking, but I've developed carpel tunnel only when kayaking, which is weird but makes the going slow.

 

Our guides tied our kayaks to a buoy and we jumped (slid) off the kayak and into the water. It was maybe about ten feet to the bottom, and we were among the tiny lava islands. Once the initial panic of not drawing in enough oxygen as I usually do wore off, we explored all the nooks and crannies of the rocks.

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There were so many fish, and I still haven't identified them all. There were also green sea turtles, a white tipped shark, and a sea lion who wanted to play. The sea lion circled around me and blew bubbles at me while passing underneath me.

 

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I have no idea how long we were in the water, but everyone wanted to move quickly instead of looking at things, which was a bummer. But eventually we went back to the boats, presenting the challenge of getting back on. 

 

It wasn't too difficult, just awkward, grabbing the opposite side and hauling myself up.

 

Then we were off. I was ready to go find the penguins, but we went to another snorkel spot that wasn't as good as the first, especially with the tide coming in and stirring up sediment, clouding the water. I also had difficulties with my mask - it kept leaking.

 

Then, I was exhausted and ready to finally find those penguins. Which we did! There were only two of them, but they were there. We sat and watched them for a few moments.

 

We returned to shore after watching some napping sea lions. We only had half an hour to get back to Pahoehoe and eat some food, and our ride was taking its time, so we ended up taking a taxi back. They apologized and paid for the taxi.

 

I ate some more peanut butter crackers and some ginger candies before I refilled my water bottle - then we were driven down to the pier... and got on the tiniest boat with an outboard motor I've ever been on. 

 

This tiny boat did not provide the smoothest ride, and I had to grip my bag and the seat tightly to keep from bouncing around and keep my anxiety levels down. My hands started to tingle, so I relaxed my grip to get bloodflow back. It didn't work. I tried to shake out my hands. It didn't work, and the tingling became painful as my contorted fingers wouldn't move. This did not help to keep my anxiety levels down, because I kept thinking about tick-bite paralysis... despite the fact that there were obviously no mammalian-specific ticks on the island, never mind underwater where I had spent my morning. 

 

There was a nurse onboard, thankfully, who asked me medical questions and massaged my hands. 

 

The guide stopped the boat and gave me water and an apple, both of which I promptly vomited into the ocean. Thanks to the stranger who held back my hair and poured cold water on my face. By then, my head had become very fuzzy and I may or may not have been shaking.

 

They asked if I wanted to turn the boat around. I said yes, all the while apologizing to everyone for making a mess of their trip.

 

A taxi met us at the dock, and my friend and someone else helped me out of the boat and into the taxi - after I vomited again into the weeds.

The taxi took us to the clinic, and things were really fuzzy at this point, but I know I refused an IV, because even when I'm not sick, I tend to puke when IVs are inserted. I was offered rehydration salts, which I also threw up. But after an hour in the A/C, sipping rehydration salts, I stopped shaking, my head cleared, and I could move my hands again.

 

I had overdosed on water, flushing all the salts from my system in the form of sweat and urine.

 

The nurse kept me under observation for a while, making sure I could stand on my own and other such things. 

 

The owners of Pahoehoe came to check up on me and offered a partial refund of our trip and a full refund for our planned trip to Sierra Negra the following day. Despite my protests that I still wanted to go. Liability and all that. A bummer, but understandable ($-100). Instead of booking with another company, we decided on a free day.

 

We spent the rest of the day hanging out in the room, and I washed the vomit and saltwater from my hair.

 

We ate dinner at Encanto de Pepo ($7) and grabbed a pastry from the bakery ($1) and ate it by the water.

 

Despite all that drama, it's still my favorite island. (And I now always carry rehydration salts with me EVERYWHERE!!)

 

Daily Total: $-92 (Food: 8, Day Trips: -100)

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roseclaw

More Day 4 pictures!

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Day 5

 

With an unexpected free day, we decided to go slowly. I woke up early and went down to Concha de Perla. I dipped my toes in the water, and shrimp gathered to clean my toes. A sea lion yelled at me to come play, and when I didn't oblige another sea lion came along and did.

 

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I then went back to join my friend for breakfast. We grabbed two pastries each ($2) and ate them by the water, watching the baby iguanas. We walked along the beach, poking into the tide pools, and when the iguanas went en masse into the shade, we decided that was a good idea.

We went to see the turtles again, going through the salt lagoons. We saw flamingos, baby pintails, and other birds.

After we had fried enough in the heat, we grabbed ice cream ($1.50) and checked to see about a flight out the next day. They told us there were no open flights for the next five days, and after much research and deliberation, we decided to charter a plane for the next day (so so so much money). I assume the backlog of flights come from people who take the ferry over, say never again, and book a flight.

We had lunch at El Delphinos ($7) including dessert.

Since we no longer had any baggage restrictions, we decided to do some souvenir shopping but didn't find anything of interest.

We wandered into the church, which had island scenes as murals and stained glass as well as an ascending Jesus. There was also a stuffed giant tortoise on the altar.

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I wanted to grab a fresh coconut, so we walked down to the pier, and I drank it while watching the sea lions ($3). A group of people sat on the stairs down to the water, blocking a sea lion from going through. It objected and stood right behind them. It ended up bellowing, and the people scrambled out of its way.

 

We went down to Concha del Perla one last time before we went to dinner. Spaghetti and chicken, not the best, but it was only $5.

 

Daily Total: $18.50,  plus the ridiculous amount for the charter flight

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roseclaw

Day 5 more pictures!

 

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Day 6

 

We took our time the next morning, grabbing pastries again ($1). Then we grabbed a taxi for the airport ($2). Check-in was a kid in a back office, and there was no one at the security desk, which was just a wooden counter. We watched as they fueled the plane, then we boarded. And off we went. 

 

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Half an hour later, we landed in Baltra. We cut in front of everyone at the inspection line, because they were coming from the mainland and we were coming from another island - fewer restrictions.

 

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We then took the bus (next to the doves) to the narrow strait, where we got on the water taxi ($1). We past a modest sized colony of blue-footed boobies on our five minute journey. Then we took the bus to town ($2). 

 

Then we looked for a hostel. The one I had scoped out earlier only had one room available. It had no windows, no a/c, and smelled of mildew. We turned it down and grabbed a taxi to the next hostel on the list. The cabbie asked for $2, we agreed, and he took us around the corner. Jerk.

 

We checked into a room at Espanola hostel at $40 a night for two people. This room did have a real window, and it also had a/c. Yay! ($80)

 

Off to lunch and explore the town! Lunch first. We found the kiosks and settled for fish, lentils, and rice with juice (4.50). 

 

Then we went to the Darwin Center, poking around all the buildings. We didn't see Lonesome George dead, but we did see a lot of other nifty things. This is where we saw our first land iguana, even if it was caged, and baby mockingbirds.

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We then explored the waterfront, watching the fish market, then scouting for the cheapest fare to North Seymour island to finally watch the blue footed boobies dance. The cheapest we found was for $150 each including the island, lunch, and afternoon snorkeling of the north coast of Santa Cruz. We said we'd think about it and return the next day.

 

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We stopped for ice cream at Galapagos Dreams. I got passion fruit (2.50). This was dinner. Then the grocery store for tomorrow's breakfast - a pastry - and Gatorade (2.60).

 

Daily Total: $97.60 (Food: 10.60 Hostel: 80 Transportation: 7)

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roseclaw

Day 6 more pictures!

 

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Day 7

 

Got up early the next morning before the real heat started. It was still pretty damn hot, though. We ate our pastries and left for Tortuga Bay. It was a long, hot way to a pretty meh beach. Isabela had a better beach - it was also more accessible. We didn't bother walking all the way down to the snorkel lagoon. There was too much fog and too rough of a surf. However, there were green turtle nests marked off.

 

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The walk back to town was just as hot but it seemed to go faster. We bought some gifts in town ($15). Then we grabbed a taxi for a Highland tour (45 total - 22.5). It was still early, so for a while we were the only ones. Los Gemelos first. Seven species of finch are purported to be there, but I only found four. I find it hilarious that tourists pay to go see giant holes in the ground. At least they're interesting holes.

 

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Then we went to the tortoise ranch and the lava tunnels ($3 including tea and/or coffee). Third island, third species of tortoise. There were no barn owls in the lava tunnels like I was promised. But a Galapagos Flycatcher did attack our taxi's mirror.

 

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We were back to the city in time for lunch, which was an empanada from an Adabra Kadabra stand ($1).

 

We went back to pay for our North Seymour day trip - it was through Planeta Azul. Best price we could find. It was $150 with a promise to pick us up at our hostel the next morning and provide food and water.

 

We wandered around town some more - watched the fish market again. Then we went to the grocery store for some coffee for gifts, a pastry and a popsicle (23.04). We watched the water and the tourists as we ate our ice cream. 

 

We had an early dinner, and since the kiosks don't open until later, so we had a second tourist dinner ($15) for fish in coconut sauce. It was decent but not as great as some of the other meals we've had.

 

Early night to be up early the next morning to finally watch the boobies dance. However, we did go to the pier to see the baby sharks that are attracted to the lights.

 

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Daily Total: $229.54 (Food: 19.04 Transportation: 22.50 Tours: 153 Gifts: 35)

 

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roseclaw

More Day 7 pictures!

 

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Day 8

 

Next morning we went off to North Seymour! The bus picked us up nearly on time and drove us to the other end of the island, where we got in a dingy five at a time to a small boat. It was a lot bigger than the last one I was on, though. I still exercised caution. I sat in the back, looking at the horizon. There were storm petrels and shearwaters riding our wake. I'm still not sure of the species. 

 

We made it to the island in 45 minutes, skirting Baltra.

 

We disembarked five at a time to the very rocky, vertical shoreline. A swallow-tailed gull and chick greeted us along with a land iguana. We had to stand aside as the Nat Geo people left the island due to park people restrictions. There were so many of them. I have no idea how they saw any scenery or animals at all. 

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There were ten of us plus the guide who went on a short circuit around the island. There were a different subspecies of lava lizard, blue-footed boobies, a dead sea lion, a jumping manta ray that most of us missed, and two species of frigates with their red dewlaps puffed up and their tiny griffin feet clinging to the branches of the low scrub. We did get to see the boobies dance, and I thought our guide was going to have a heart attack trying to keep everyone at least six feet away from the wildlife. They thought because they had a selfie stick they could stick that right up to the animal, because the human attached was six feet away. Nope.

 

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o5qbrItMmScSarkuxyFlwh9mEYooAF-5mFM56Pc3UFFfQQZ7DKk0sIgDSPh6LpJrYRw8-M1FwwJBrEieHT_YLNovk-AVj3a7-GGpXJ1q5MegoaH1kbMg1P_ijpUgVYJ1pKbljLoojVoqP8Gf4Q

 

I explained to our guide the literature that had been released a few weeks prior about why the blue feet - it's tied to the immune system: the bluer the feet, the stronger the immune system, which is why the ladies go for the dudes with the bluest feet.

 

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It was windy and sunny, and my back paid the price. They made us wear a life jacket on the dingy, and that seemed to have removed all the sun block from my back.

 

Then we went back onto the boat and ate lunch on our way back to Santa Cruz to snorkel. I just walked the beach with a cover up. I found iguanas and lava herons and puffer fish. Nothing too exciting, but it was a nice spot.

 

Then we went back to the boat and the ferry dock. Tips for guide and crew were $7.

 

Then we wandered around town to buy some more gifts ($21). I bought some bread and Gatorade for the next day ($2.51). Then we had the worst dinner in the entire archipelago at the kiosks ($8). Everything was overcooked including the plantains.

 

And to add insult to injury, my friend's battered foot looked like there might be a broken bone under all the bruising. She didn't realize it until we got back to the room that night.

 

Daily Total: $38.51 (Food: 10.51 Gifts: 21 Tips: 7)

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Day 8 more pictures!

 

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Day 9

 

We ate breakfast and went off to find someone to take us to Media Luna. The first cabbie wanted $30 to take us the 5k. We turned him down and the next wanted $10 ($5 each), and we accepted. He took us to the trailhead and promised to be back in three hours to pick us up.

 

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My friend only hiked a short way up because of her broken toe. I hiked the rest, feeling like a Disney Princess with all the finches following me around. Unfortunately, this was the last chance to see a Galapagos rail. I didn't find one, but I might have heard one.

 

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I missed the turn-off for Media Luna and ended up at Cerro Crocker before I realized it. I made it almost all the way to the top, but I realized the only way back down was on my butt and decided against the climb. I did find PVC piping for the shearwater nests, but no shearwaters. I only found the finches, a few anis, and a couple mules.

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I collected my friend, and we went down to the trailhead. We were early for our taxi, by a lot, so we walked back down the road, stopping under every tree for shade and drinking all our water and Gatorade. 

 

We met another person on the way up, asking if she was on the right road for Media Luna.

 

A taxi sent by our original driver met us when we were almost at the bottom. He charged us $5 back to town ($2.50 each). Then we had some lunch!

 

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We wandered around town, did some packing, and then had our last dinner at the kiosks. We splurged for our last dinner. We chose our fish from a line up. I chose a scorpion fish with coconut sauce, fried plantains, and a batido ($20).

 

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Total: $ 27.50 (Food: 20 Transportation: 7.50)

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roseclaw

Day 9 more pictures

 

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Day 10

 

We had our first sit-down breakfast, where I tried bolon con queso, fried cheese and plantain ($7). Then we caught a taxi to the north end of the island (20 total - $10 each). The water taxi was $1, and the noddies going after the baitball were free entertainment across the strait. Then we took the bus to the airport, and that was it. Off to Guayquil, where I bought way too much chocolate for my family, and the running the length of the Panama City airport, then crashing at JFK waiting for my bus.

 

Total: $18 (Food: 7 Transport: 11)

 

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Ten Day Total: $993.70 + that chartered flight + food bought in US for breakfasts (granola bars and peanut butter crackers)

Breakdown

Food: $123.70

Transportation: $207 + chartered flight

Day Trips: $273

Hostels: $197

Gifts: $56

Tips for guides: 7

Park fee and TCC: 120

Isabela entry fee: 10

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Posted (edited)

Birds per island

San Cristobal:


 

Lava Heron

Lava Gull

Great Blue Heron subspecies

Great Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigate Bird

Small Ground Finch

Medium Ground Finch

Galapagos Flycatcher

Chatham Mockingbird

Inca Tern

Yellow Warbler subspecies

Cattle Egret

White-cheeked Pintail

Smooth-billed Ani

Gulls noid

Brown Noddy

Swallow-tailed Gull

Snowy Egret

Brown Pelican

Black-necked Stilt

Blue-footed Booby



 

Isabela:


 

Whimbrel

Galapagos Mockingbird

American Oystercatcher

Woodpecker finch

Warbler Finch

Brown Pelican

Lava Heron

Blue-footed Booby

Magnificent Frigatebird

Great Frigatebird

Galapagos Flycatcher

American Flamingo subspecies

Galapagos Penguin

Small Ground Finch

Medium Ground Finch

White-cheeked pintail

Cactus Finch



 

Santa Cruz:


 

Lava Heron

Lava Gull

Great Blue Heron subspecies

Great Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigate Bird

Small Ground Finch

Medium Ground Finch

Warbler Finch

Cactus Finch

Galapagos Flycatcher

Small Tree Finch

Galapagos Mockingbird

Yellow Warbler subspecies

Yellow-crowned Night heron subspecies

Smooth-billed Ani

Gulls noid

Brown Noddy

Snowy Egret

Brown Pelican

Black-necked Stilt

Galapagos Dove

Large Ground Finch

Vegetarian Finch

Blue-footed Booby




 

Baltra:

Galapagos Dove

Medium Ground Finch

Brown Noddy

 

North Seymour:

Lava Gull

Swallow-tailed Gull

Great Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigate Bird

Gulls noid

Brown Noddy

Blue-footed Booby

Edited by roseclaw

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