If you stay at the Royal Palm hotel you will be met by the representative as you come off the plane. You are then ted to a private air conditioned lounge area you have a welcome drink of your choice while your bags are located and carried to a waiting car by hotel staff. Galapagos Islands entry fee paid for you (with your $'s). You will then be wisked away in the car across Baltra while everyone else is still getting there luggage and boarding huge buses.
At the Baltra/Santa Cruz dock you are ferried away to Santa Cruz where a hotel van carries you to the hotel. We were across the canal (about 1/2 mile) and driving away before the first bus had arrived at the dock on Baltra. See the Baltra side dock in the picture. Just so you know you DO NOT travel in the little boat on the left!!! haha
The return trip to the airport is just as pleasant. Hotel staff will dirve you, check your baggage, escort you throuh private security screening and you'll wait in the private lounge area just steps from the plane loading area. This service is provided at no additional cost to all guest of the hotel.
The best part of staying at the Royal Palm hotel is the amazing accomodations themselves and expert staff. See other tip on the hotel.
On the morning of departure, we were met at the airport in Quito by an agent from Ecoventure for our flight to to San Cristobal. AEROGAL tickets were given to us at the counter upon check-in for the flight .
We all had a badge for the various boats we would be on and by the time we landed we already knew a few of our future ship mates.
We were happy we travelled light as One checked suitcase (maximum 44 lbs.) and one carry-on are allowed per passenger.
There is only one way to get to the Galapagos Islands and that’s by plane from mainland Ecuador and it’s around 1 ½ hours from Quito. There are 2 planes per day arriving and 2 leaving. Once at the airport, the tour operators pick you up and take you straight to your boat. I didn’t see any evidence of taxis but I’m sure you could pay to hitch (or walk!!) into the main town.
The only way to get to the other islands is by boat.
If you do the independent budgettravel to the Galapagos, try getting in contact with the captain of the port and ask if he can bring you in contact with the ships captain. Most of the time it's possible to hitch a ride towards another island. They'll tell you the hour you'll have to be at the peer (when the ships personel gets back on board). Heared it's possible to hitch a ride from Guayaquil (didn't do this myself) for about 40 Euro (airplane ticket bout 300 €)
The only way to really experience the Galapagos is by cruising among the various islands. There are several different classes of boats and an equal number of itineraries from which to choose, but I honestly can't imagine having a better all-around experience than what is offered by the M/Y Beluga, a 16-passenger cruise ship. The Beluga's eight-day itinerary includes stops at nine of the islands, each of which is unique. The cruise starts in Baltra, which is a rather uninspiring island that is best known for its airstrip and dock. Next is North Seymour, with nesting frigatebirds and Blue-footed Boobies, among other creatures. After that is Espanola, which features a sea lion colony at Gardner Bay and nesting Waved Albatross and Nazca Boobies at Punta Suarez. Floreana is next, with a flamingo lagoon and Post Office Bay. That is followed by Santa Cruz, which is home to the Charles Darwin Research Center and highlands best known for Giant Tortoises. Isabela follows with a lava walk at Punta Moreno, Land Iguanas at Urvina Bay, and amazing snorkeling. Fernandina is next, with Punta Espinosa and its large colonies of Marine Iguanas and Flightless Cormorants. After that is Santiago, which features a fur seal grotto and more fabulous snorkeling. And finally, there is Bartolome, which offers the islands' best panoramic views. Throw in excellent service and food, and a knowledgable and personable guide, and you have the makings of a near perfect experience.
Cant get anywhere with out your rubber zodiac dinghy, now can you ? (Modern day whaling vessel...)
Note the arctic gear that everyone has one... Though you are right on the equator, the antarctic currents around here keep the water pretty cold all year round...
This is the little airport on San Cristobal. There's no luggage carousel or anything fancy. Right now (Oct '05) they are building a new airport on Santa Cruz that was promissed to have been ready even when we arrived in September. If you are staying on land (which I recommend), you'll have to endure a 2.5 hour transfer by speedboat to Santa Cruz from here unless the airport is finished. Not fun :(
Most Galapagos Cruises leave the island of Santa Cruz, which also has the island's main airport. There are two airline that fly to the Galapagos Islands:
TAME - website: http://www.tame.com.ec
TAME is the national airline of Ecuador. TAME runs two daily flights to the Galapagos islands, leaving from Quito, stopping in Guayaquil, and landing at Baltra Airport. The flights leave during the morning, all weekdays.
AeroGal - website: http://www.aerogal.com.ec
AeroGal is a private company that has five weekly flights to the Galapagos (no flights on Saturday and Monday), leaving from Quito, stopping in Guayaquil, and landing at Baltra Airport. The flights leave during the morning, and the flight from Guayaquil is a bit cheaper.
It is possible to do day trips out of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, but the sailing time to some of the places you will want to visit can take hours each way. There are also land-based island hopping trips where you stay at hostels on different islands, but then you have to pack up from day to day to make the transfer. By far the easiest way to see the islands is on a tour boat. The boat serves as your hotel for sleeping, eating, and hangiing out between island stops.
We sailed on a dive boat called the Daphne Yacht. The Daphne runs trips both for divers and for simple island hopping land-visits, plus snorkeling.
If you are going to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, you will need to take a short ferry ride across the channel running between the islands.
Once you are on the ferry, a crew member will come around to collect the fare--about $1.00.
After disembarking from the ferry, you will most likely board another bus and spend the next 45 minutes to an hour traversing the island.
The ride is quite nice, since you travel through a number of "micro-climates" as you go along--lush, green forest to arid, drab-looking landscapes. Notice the mostly sunny skies in the photo; when I visited in October, the weather became drizzly and cooler once we crossed the highest part of Santa Cruz and began to descend into Puerto Ayora.
The airport authorities run shuttle busses between the airport and the appropriate transfer point on the coast in order to get you to your hotel or boat. Just about the only thing on Baltra Island is the airport, so there isn't any alternative transportation.
The bus comes around to the arrivals area of the airport every so often. Just wait, and it will show up.
Make sure the bus you get on goes to the transfer point you need. If you are going directly to your boat, you will probably be met at the airport. If you are going to Puerto Ayora, you will go to the ferry dock to cross the channel between Baltra Island, where the airport is located, and Santa Cruz Island, which you will cross to reach Puerto Ayora.
The photo shows the word "Canal" in the front window of the bus because this one took us to the channel for the next stage of the transfer, the ferry. (Click on the thumbnail photo to see this more clearly.)
Read on for the next "TO" tip for info about the ferry.
Being an island archipelago, the only way to get there is either by sea, or by the Ecuadorian airline, Tame. The latter flies to the small airport on Baltra Island.
The ONLY way to get around is by boat (island to island) and foot (around each island). Also, you must have a certified guide with you since the Islands are a National Park administered by the Government of Ecuador.
There are only 2 airlines that fly from Ecuador mainland to the Galapagos Islands.
TAME is the major airline.
You can check prices and availability on their web.
There is an english link on the site which works like everything in Ecuador (sometimes :)
They have an office in Guayaquil where they speak english.
If you book a tour from the mainland at a travel agent, they will offer to purchase the tickets for you from TAME...they usually put an additional US$10 for doing so.
If you have time to spare (1day to waste) then just get yourself to Galapagos Island and find a tour yourself. It will be a lot cheaper.
We flew to Galapagos from Guayaquil as it is a little cheaper than flying from Quito and opted for our return flight to take us to Quito. It cost US$18 extra to return via Quito. The bus from Guayaquil to Quito costs about US$30 and takes 5 times longer.
Quito has a lot more to offer than poor old Guayaquil.
Guayaquil Airport, Ecuador, Av. de las Am?ricas s/n, Guayaquil
Tel: +593 (0)4 289616
Carefully select your boat this can make all the difference in your trip. The best thing to do is arrange your trip in Quito before you get to the Galapagos. You can get a tour when you arrive in Puerto Auoera, but you may find it difficult to get on the boat of choice. we decided to arrange a tour when we arrived.
At first we had a few problems ( the water on the boat came from a local tank and we got sick.) but it worked out for the best. It was a small sailboat and we visited many islands that the larger boats couldn't visit.
If you can possibly afford it go on an eight day cruise ($900 , ouch!! Off season, $350 ish for the flights there and $100 park entry - all per person), you get to see so much and really experience the place. Make sure the boat you choose doesn´t stop back at Port half way through to pick up more passengers this wastes your time and money. We booked through Angermeyer´s Enchanted Expeditions in Quito, we shopped around and they gave us the best price and boat options.
Puerto Villamil, Isabela Galapagos Islands, , Ecuador
Good for: Solo
Barrio Punta Estrada S/N, Puerto Ayora, 00000, Ecuador
Good for: Business
Isla Isabela, , Puerto Villamil, Galapagos
Good for: Business