Galapagos Islands: From research station to tourist destination
The Galapagos Islands is a volcanic archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that is considered one of the best places for wildlife viewing as it has flora and fauna that is unique to the islands and found nowhere else on Earth.
Initially discovered by accident in 1535 by Fray Tomás de Berlanga on his way to Peru, the archipelago was made famous in the mid-18th century by Charles Darwin with his theory of evolution, based on the island’s animals and adaptation to the ecosystem through isolation.
Today, the Galapagos Islands are a prominent feature of nature documentaries and bloggers who visit the sanctuary to explore its incredibly unique and exciting ecosystem.
The Galapagos Islands has begun to evolve from a research station to a tourist destination. I had the chance to visit the Galapagos Islands in 2018 and found it amazing (as expected) but the journey challenging.
There are two (and only two) ways to get to the island chain; Airplane or ship. Cruises have varying schedules on the time of year and passenger demand. Airlines typically operate a half-dozen flights a day to Santa Cruz Island through a few airlines.
Upon landing at Baltra Airport, you’ll meet a friendly employee at the welcome desk where you must pay a USD 100 fee (per person) to enter the national park (Santa Cruz island).
There is nothing on Baltra island but the airport. You’ll need to shell out USD 5 for a bus ride to the Baltra Ferry Terminal. It’s not walkable, and there are no other forms of transportation.
Another USD 1 will get you on to the water taxi to Santa Cruz island.
Once you arrive on Santa Cruz island, another USD 40 taxi ride across the island into town. Hotels and Hostels are located in Puerto Ayora’s city center and along the bay.
Catch a water taxi to a variety of destinations from Gus Angermeyer Pier and Ferry Terminal. Fees vary based on the distance, location, and if you look like a tourist (like I did) you’ll pay USD 5 to your AirBnB but only USD 1 back.
Rental cars and ride-sharing services are non-existent.
Cash is king – Local merchants rarely accept credit cards. Some touristy places and high-end gift shops may take them out of convenience, but cold, hard cash is king. If you didn’t bring much money with you, ATMs are available with a steep surcharge. The islands are a territory of Ecuador, and both the mainland and Galapagos islands have standardized on the US Dollar as the local currency.
Technology is a foreign word – The island’s cell service is spotty, and data service is abysmal. Expectations for WiFi shouldn’t be much better. There’s no Uber, no uber eats, pretend it’s 1990, and you’ll be just fine. Sorry kids!
Humans yield to animals – It’s normal to see a seal sleeping in the middle of a busy walkway. Iguanas tend to prefer the hot sandy beaches and will sun themselves right next to you. Tortoises will slowly meander across the road without looking both ways. The animals give no fucks.