Exploring the Galapagos Islands


The giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands

Trip to Quito and Galapagos

Video on YouTube

The Galapagos Islands is a place like no other because it has more than 15 land, marine and avian species which you can not find anywhere else in the world. As much as I wanted to stay longer, I only spent 2 nights there, luckily I was able to maximize it. Here is a sample itinerary of a 2-day tour in the Galapagos Islands which I did and hope can be of help to other travelers!

Day 1, October 25

I arrived 8:20am at Quito Airport (domestic side) for my 11:10am flight with Avianca. 

The first thing to do is to pay 20USD to get the Immigration Card. The counter is located just to your left if you enter the first door of the domestic Terminal (farthest to right). They accept cash and credit cards although I paid cash as it seemed to be much quicker. This fee could be included in your tour if you are traveling with a tour operator, depending on their arrangement so make sure you check with them.

I did scan the QR code but did not proceed in filling up the form. Everything was done in the counter.

E voila! Now I have my Immigration Card and can take my flight to Galapagos! Sometimes, there could be long lines so it is advisable to arrive about 3 hours before your flight.

If you have a check-in luggage and hand carry, you then proceed to the luggage scanner located to the right of the Immigration counter. I only had my hand carry but was told to scan my backpack nonetheless.

Next step is to go to your airline´s check in desk. I would have gone to Avainca´s check-in counters but I only had hand carry and already had my mobile boarding pass so I headed directly to security.

There are two airports in the Galapagos Islands, Seymour Airport on Baltra Island (where I was flying) and the San Cristobal Airport on San Cristobal Island, so one has to take this into consideration depending on which islands they intend to visit in the Galapagos Islands.

Although Avianca is a member of Star Alliance where I have gold status, no airlines have any agreement with VIP DOM Lounge, the only lounge inside the Domestic Terminal. I inquired how much the entrance was and since it was not much (25USD), I decided to purchase one for me. The lounge was actually modern and nice and had a very good food and drinks offering.

Boarding began at 10:30am from Gate A5.

Avianca uses a modern aircraft on this flight to Seymour Airport, an Airbus A320 to be exact and although there were no free food or drinks, one can always buy these from the friendly crew. They even had free entertainment which you can watch thru your mobile device.

The flight takes 2 hours and 10 minutes. The Galapagos Islands is actually one hour behind Quito so make sure you adjust your watch. Before landing, we got some nice views of Baltra islands 👍

We landed at 12:20pm as scheduled. Welcome to Galapagos!

A cactus in front of the terminal (Seymour Airport)

Upon disembarking, all the passengers go straight to Terminal and queue to the counters and pay 100USD which is the Galapagos National Park Entrance fee. There was a bit of a queue when the flight arrived although the process took smoothly once it was my turn.

Since my next chance to go to the toilet would be at the Primicias Ranch to see the giant tortoise and lava tunnel, I decided to visit the airport toilet which I thought was modern.

After exiting the terminal (I only had my backpack so no checked-in luggage to collect), I went to the bus ticket booth located to the right after exit. The cost one way is 5USD. I bought a return ticket so I could save time on the return. Just make sure you keep the return ticket and receipt until your departure day.

Buses look like this one (this was the bus I took on the way back to the airport).

The bus ride from Seymour Airport to Baltra Ferry Terminal takes about 10 minutes, where you get your first glimpse of the islands from the bus windows 😉

Then, it was time to take the boat ride to Santa Cruz Ferry Terminal, the other side of the canal (Canal Itabaca). You pay 1USD direct to the boat assistant and the ride takes about 5 minutes.

Taxis waiting 

Taxis are actually white pick-ups here in Galapagos!

I could have taken the taxi directly to the hotel but instead I asked the dispatcher that I would like to make a stop at Primicias Ranch to see the giant tortoise, stay there for like 15-20 minutes then go to the hotel. I was initially given 60USD as charge but I was able to negotiate it to 50USD 👍

It took us 25 minutes to get to Ranch Primicias from Santa Cruz Ferry Terminal. The driver asked me if I wanted to visit the lava tunnel. This is actually included in the 7.5USD entrance fee to see the giant tortoise so I said why not. I did not stay long as the passage got smaller in the middle of the tunnel 😉

Then we proceeded to Ranch Primicias where I paid the entrance fee of 7.5USD

Finally I get to see the giant tortoise. There was a guide who toured with us who explained a lot about this reserve. The tortoises can be as old as 200 years old, and if they get sick they are not treated (considering the long life they have). 

Me and a giant tortoise!

Primicias also has a restaurant although I just bought an empanada to take with me as I also wanted to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station the same day.

It took us about 25 minutes to reach the hotel (Posada del Mar) where I stayed for 2 nights.

Balcony, Posada del Mar

The nightly rate was about 45USD which I thought was reasonable.

On the way to the Charles Darwin Research Center, I saw some interesting animals like these two seals sleeping.

A brown pelican

And a marine iguana!

The walk from the hotel took about 15 minutes, and since I had like 20 minutes before the next guided tour, I was told I could visit the nearby Playa de la Estacion for the meantime.

Playa de la Estacion is a place to sunbathe and enjoy the water.

Sally lightfoot crab

Back to the entrance where I had paid 10USD for a guided tour, we saw some tortoise ..
As well as little ones which were just less than a year old.

Of course, the highlight of this tour was Lonesome George, the last of his species who died in June 24, 2012.

There is also a museum which I was able to visit after the guided tour.

I passed by Jardin Ceramica on the way back to the hotel and decided to have a look, it was beautiful inside and worth visiting in my opinion.

For dinner, I went to Charles Binford Street, where restaurants abound. I settled for the menu of the day for 5USD and included a soup, a main course and a drink 👍

Day 2, October 26

My pick up time for the South Plazas excursion was at 7:50am so I decided I´d have breakfast first and went to the restaurant recommended by a friend (El descanso del Guia). I ended up having the Bolon Completo which consisted of plantain ball with cheese, rice, beef stew and fried egg 😋

We were picked up around 8am at the St. Francis Park and then drove to the ferry terminal where our boat Altamare was waiting for us. For this excursion, I would have wanted to book the Seymour day trip as I wanted to have a greater chance of seeing the blue-footed booby but it was sold out and the only one available which is more like Seymour´s was the South Plazas. For this day tour, I paid 240USD including lunch, snorkling gear and transfer to and from the hotel.

Below are some photos from the excursion:

Rocks are tainted with bird droppings, as there are many swallow-tailed gulls inhabiting the island.

The low growing Sesuvium (also known as Galapagos carpet weed) covers the island all year round and together with the tall cactus, make the South Plaza the most colorful island in the Galapagos.

Land iguana

Lava lizard??

Lava gull

Swallow-tailed gulls

For lunch, we had fish with vegetables and salad, and a fruit dessert.

On the way back to Santa Cruz island, we saw some turtles mating as well as some dolphins who tried to chase us. It was surely the highlight of this excursion!

I heard that a trip to Isabela is also a nice one so it could be a good alternative to the South Plazas excursion.