Before coming to Galapagos I had read that it is good to buy the ticket for the speedboat a day in advance during high season. As I visited in July and was going to be aboard a boat the day before my departure I was a bit worried not to get a ticket, but the travel agent I had booked the cruise with luckily made a reservation for me.
The office of Cabomar, where I was going to get the ticket, was just one minute away from where I arrived to Puerto Ayora with bus, by the harbour. I paid for the ticket, which was $25 one way (July 2011). The speedboat for Villamil leaves Puerto Ayora at 14.00 every day and I still had some time, so I left the backpacks at the office and went to withdraw money from an ATM and to have lunch.
I went to the harbour half an hour before the boat was going to leave and people were already standing in a queue to have their bags checked.. You are not allowed to bring seeds and fruits between the islands. So there is a control before you travel.
On board we were told to put on our life jackets and we all got a bottle of water and some caramels. I think this was because it was a bit bumpy and at least two people threw up during the journey.
After two hours we arrived to Puerto Villamil. While I was standing on the bridge waiting for my luggage I was very surprised to hear my name called out. It was a taxi driver who were going to take me to Hostal La Jungla where I had made a reservation. I didn’t pay for the taxi ride, but the driver had a few other paying customers going to other hotels.
The boat back to Puerto Ayora leaves already at 6am and as you have to be at the harbour in time, to once again have your bags controlled and to pay the tourist tax ($5) it will be a very early morning. Crossing over to Puerto Ayora the sea was calm and we didn’t have to put on the life jackets. And we didn’t get water or caramels this time. We arrived to Puerto Ayora around 8.30.
In Puerto Ayora I talked with some people who had taken an afternoon boat from Puerto Villamil to Puerto Ayora. It had been one of the daytrip boats going back to Puerto Ayora and the life jackets on board that boat had been very poor and the engine broke down just before they arrived to Puerto Ayora. So it might be better to take the regular speedboat.
Transport between the islands stands on two pillars – regular so-called lanchas and charter ones. The first servers Isabella Island by connecting it to Santa Cruz Island which is most probably your point of departure and the charter ones can offer the same service at other times or different destinations as desired. What happened in this particular case is the following: in order to avoid the unpleasant departure time of 6 o’clock in the morning and make sure that there is enough time and no surprises when more than one transport modes are used in one day, the poor uninitiated opted for an afternoon charter boat. There are rumours that not every sail is smooth on the Galapagos but the attitude is that it is not going to happen to me. So, the more convenient option is bought a ticket for and the rest of the time is spent accordingly on the beach. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, all said and done the boat does not even appear on the horizon!? Back into the office that sold the ticket the sales woman says that she is not guilty and this is the information she has received from somebody. At this point there is no trust left and I had to check with the port authorities which are two shacks down the road and very bored. Well, it becomes clear that I do not exist according to their papers. Together we make it back to the sales office, turn up the pressure on the bogus sales person and make her produce not only a new ticket but a passenger list with the appropriate name clearly visible. Then the captain comes and grasps the gravity of the situation - the fact that there is a plane to catch the following morning. Tensely happy but in one piece and on board I leave the port of Villamil and glance for the last time at the beautiful lagoon. One hour down the “road” in the middle of the ocean suddenly there are some funny noises and they do not seem to come from sea lions. It is one of the two engines powering the boat!? The assistant captain is instructed to check it in motion but this produces nothing positive. The boat stops! The only thought that crosses my mind is that this is not going to be the day to fly to Quito. After a couple of tense moments the engine is on again but not for long before the boat is once again at the bottom of the waves left helplessly to sway back and forth creating the perfect atmosphere for vomiting. Finally and fortunately the assistant captain finds a replacement for the faulty part, installs it and we are on our way.