GringosAbroad Ecuador

A Week in the Galapagos Islands

Posted in: Ecuador Travel, Galapagos Islands

We returned from the Galapagos Islands yesterday. Honestly, its kind of surreal to have been there – and yet at the same time we kind of got used to seeing Giant Tortoises, Marine Iguanas and the famed Blue Footed Boobies.

The islands are amazing and we can’t wait to return. The return rate to the Galapagos is low – somewhere around 2% – which is a little hard to understand. It has become an item to cross off the South American bucket list: Machu Picchu, the Amazon, Cuenca and the Galapagos Islands. But it is so much more than a place to visit for just a couple of days. The islands are also much more than what you might expect from the Caribbean Islands. The focus is on the islands – and preserving them. Of course, you can expect to be very comfortable – great hotels, amazing food and top notch service. The experience was different – and better – than we expected.

Whats it like to spend a week in the Galapagos Islands?

In a word: amazing. To have seen these animals that we’ve heard about for our whole life was a little hard to believe. For example, I expected the giant tortoises to be big. But they actually were GIANT. More like an office desk than the coffee table I was picturing.

Here is what our week in the Galapagos was like for our family:

Galapagos Islands Vacation: Day 1

Day 1: We arrived at Red Mangrove Lodge on Santa Cruz Island via the airport on Baltra Island. The amount of animals was surprising. We expected that we would need to travel away from the town and hotel to start seeing wildlife, but they were literally right there. Check out the pictures and posts from our first day. Traveling from the mainland was really easy. We left Cuenca at 8am for Guayaquil. We left Guayaquil at 10am and landed on Baltra Island at 10:45 local time. There is a one hour difference between the islands and mainland Ecuador.

Galapagos Islands Vacation: Day 2 & 3

Days 2 & 3: We traveled from the main island of Santa Cruz to a smaller and sparsely populated island (really, just 125 people) of Floreana. Although the boat ride was a little rough we didn’t get sick. When we landed there was a sea lion and marine iguana there to meet us. The hotel was a row of really great cabins right on the beach. At night, the stars were amazing. As you can imagine, 125 people don’t have too many lights on – and there is zero pollution. The view was outstanding. The trip to Floreana was worth it just for the stars. Day 3 took us to the next island of Isabela – the largest of the Galapagos Islands. Check out the pictures and post from days 2 & 3.

Galapagos Islands Vacation: Day 4

Day 4: We started our day on Isabela Island hiking up Sierra Negra Volcano. It rained. A lot. And we got really wet and muddy. But the hike was a blast. The fog cleared temporarily so we could see into the crater – the second largest in the world – but not clear enough to get a clear picture. Sorry. On the way home we visited a great little place called Campo Duro that has a number of Giant Tortoises. I’m not sure why, but we were invited (by the licensed Naturalist Guide) to feed them. So we got to feed them freshly kicked-out-of-the-tree papayas. It was a highlight for us, and Drew was tickled. Videos will follow. Check out the pictures and post from day 4 of our week in the Galapagos Islands.

Galapagos Islands Vacation: Day 5

Day 5: This was our second day on Isabela Island. The real highlight of the day was seeing the flamingos. We visited a wetlands area that had Marine Iguanas and Galapagos Ducks. But it was the set of more than 50 huge pink birds that really stood out. They group was made up of all males in the brackish swamp. Drew said that they must be embarrassed to be pink. Our guide said it was very uncommon to see so many at the same time there. Check out the pictures and post from day five in the Galapagos Islands.

Galapagos Islands Vacation: Day 6 & 7

Day 6 & 7: Without any planned tours we had the day free to see some of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. We saw two main highlights: Tortuga Bay and the Charles Darwin Research Station. Because of timing, we didn’t get to snorkel at Tortuga Bay. But this will be the first place we go when we return to the islands. It was beautiful. Drew saw a few schools of fish as she waded close to shore. This trip really gave her a love of snorkeling. Can’t wait to get back to this area to snorkel as a family. Check out the pictures and post from our last two days in the Galapagos Islands.

We’ll be posting lots more in the weeks to come. Many more photos and videos. Stay tuned.

More reading: Travelers Guide to Galapagos Islands Animals

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

16 comments… add one
  • Eric Feb 7, 2014, 10:51 pm

    Hay folks enjoyed you comments , keep putting on those nice pictures they are nice to look at. This old boy wont be leaving NS in the near future, old.., love NS and all the people, . plan to stay. Spring will soon be here , it will be veggie time in the garden . Love it Brian and Dina Love you folks too, by for now.

  • Nadine Oct 8, 2012, 8:56 pm

    I will be living in Cuenca until January. Ofcourse i would love to visit the galapagos islands. Do i have to book my plane ticket in advance or can i wait until November?

    • Bryan Haines Oct 9, 2012, 5:44 am

      January is high season – lots of tourists so you might find higher rates and less space on the flights. I guess you can wait, but as you are traveling during high season it might not be a good idea.

      • Nadine Oct 9, 2012, 11:03 am

        Thank you. When do you recommend to book the trip to the galapagos. I will be going the second half of january. So just after the holidays.

        • Bryan Haines Oct 9, 2012, 11:14 am

          If you are traveling to the Galapagos, you need to book it now. Most of the operators are working on a very long lead time. They are often booked 6-12 months (or more) in advance.


          • Nadine Oct 9, 2012, 3:34 pm

            I heard that if i waited just a bit, and then book in cuenca, there might be discounts.
            were have you booked your trip?


            • Bryan Haines Oct 10, 2012, 7:21 am

              It might be cheaper if you book here – if there is availability. We actually traveled for work, so we didn’t book with an agency. We run the Red Mangrove Blog. You can contact them for pricing/availability.

  • effie Feb 9, 2012, 1:31 pm

    Hi. We are from Canada and want to travel to the Galapagos for a two week march break trip. Does one have to go through a tour company? Can you stay and travel at your leisure? If we fly from Toronto, which one city should we fly to and tour? Quito or Guayaquil? Any info would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Bryan Haines Feb 9, 2012, 3:57 pm

      Yes, you can travel on your own. Once you are there, you are limited as to what you can do. Many of the excursions require a naturalist guide. While its possible to hire one ($160-200 per day) it is less expensive to book a pre arranged tour. When we traveled, we went with Red Mangrove. They arranged everything – transportation, lodging, meals and tours. Check their Galapagos Blog – we are now blogging for them.

      When you come to Ecuador, you will fly into either Quito or Guayaquil. And you can fly to the Galapagos from either city.

  • Jo Reason Jul 11, 2011, 1:10 am

    Wonderful, so glad you had a great time, Next time round plan to spend some time on San Cristobal as well. I spent 3 months there a while back didn´t want to leave. It was my favourite. I have also spent loads of time on Isabela and Santa Cruz. I hope to visit Floreana next time round.

    • Bryan Haines Jul 11, 2011, 5:41 am

      Thanks Jo – one of our guides was from San Cristobal and he couldn’t say enough good about it. Especially the surfing. Next time, I hope we’ll see it.

      • Jo Reason Jul 11, 2011, 7:51 pm

        I am sure you will love it.

  • Eris Lutz Jul 5, 2011, 9:05 pm

    Hi folks. went to Google earth and saw the blue footed boobies , plus some strange looking cactus. di you folks get to see them as well . we are happy for you.My wife and i got to Greenwood for an evening Lol.

    • Bryan Haines Jul 5, 2011, 9:12 pm

      Hi Eric, great to hear from you. Yes, we saw the funny blue feet and the weird cactus – was a great experience – especially for Drew. More pictures and videos to follow.


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