There is no way of denying these sea lions look awfully cute hanging about on the bus bench. However, these little beasties do more than sleep on these benches. If they need to go, whether Number 1 or Number 2, they just let fly. Thus the benches are rather disgusting to even think about sitting on, unless you want your clothes to smell like.......
In 1979, the Galápagos National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This meant that the Park’s management and staff were responsible for performing permanent conservation efforts and guarding the islands according to UNESCO’s standards and regulations. But in 2007 the islands were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage in Danger because of what was assessed as being uncontrolled increases in tourism, in population, and in invasive species. All of these are directly or indirectly related to tourism. Since then, strict measures have been put in place by the Galápagos National Park to control tourism, immigration and the development of existing communities on the islands (just 3% of the land is inhabited, only on four of the islands).
In 2009 the Galápagos Islands were removed from the UNESCO World Heritage in Danger list because of these efforts to address the reasons for it being added to the list in the first place. The protection of these fragile islands now seems to be recognised as the urgent matter that it is, although there is still some way to go. Steps taken include the eradication of introduced species on some islands (such as goats, wild dogs and rats) and regular monitoring of and controls on levels of tourism.
All tourists who visit the islands on a cruise, or who take daily tours out to the islands, must be accompanied by Galápagos National Park certified guide on every visit – you cannot step onto any uninhabited island without such a guide, and only in very few places can you move around without the guide (Gardner Bay on Espanola was the one exception we visited, where we were free to roam anywhere on the beach itself, but not to go any further). Every visitor pays an entry fee of $100 (apart from Ecuadorean nationals, who pay $10) and this is divided between the various agencies who work to keep the Galápagos intact for future generations to enjoy.
The government restricts the number of groups that can land on an island at any one time, they restrict the number of people per group (maximum 16 per guide) and no boat can revisit the same island within a fortnight. All boat itineraries have to be submitted to the National Park authority for approval, as do any proposed changes. And once on the islands, there are very clearly marked trails and the guides make sure you stick to them - most of the space is still reserved for the animals. There are also strict rules about not approaching too closely to the animals, but they don't seem to feel they have to stick to those rules as carefully as we do ;-)
There are a number of rules that all must obey:
1. No plant, animal, or remains of such (including shells, bones, and pieces of wood), or other natural objects should be removed or disturbed
2. Be careful not to transport any live material to the islands, or from island to island
3. Do not take any food to the uninhabited islands, for the same reason
4. Do not touch or handle the animals
5. Do not feed the animals. It can be dangerous to you, and in the long run would destroy the animals' social structure and breeding habits
6. Do not startle or chase any animal from its resting or nesting spot
7. Stay within the areas designated as visiting sites
8. Do not leave any litter on the islands, or throw any off your boat
9. Do not deface the rocks
10. Do not buy souvenirs or objects made of plants or animals from the islands
11. Do not visit the islands unless accompanied by a licensed National Park Guide
12. Restrict your visits to officially approved areas
13. Show your conservationist attitude
Please, take this seriously and follow the rules – or if you don’t think you can, please don’t come to the Galápagos Islands!
Next tip: ”What to bring”
One of the things that concerned me a little before the trip was whether I would get seasick. We had opted for a cruise that included far-flung Genovesa, as it was reckoned by many to be one of the best islands (and so it proved to be), but we knew that to get there we would have a long overnight crossing, and the same to return. With the waters more open between the central islands around Santa Cruz, and the less-visited northerly ones, choppy seas are the norm. In the event, we were fine, although others in our group, more prone to seasickness, did suffer a little. Certainly there was a noticeable swell on both these nights, and one of our number, although not ill, did say that she had worried in the night that she would be thrown out of her top bunk. I have to say that I rather enjoyed lying in my bunk and feeling the motion of the boat, but I can sympathise with those who did not, although luckily no one was so badly affected that it spoilt their trip (the exception was one of our travelling companions whose traveller’s tummy was further aggravated by the effects of being at sea).
We did take a few precautions, wearing seasickness wrist bands on the nights of the long crossings and taking a single seasickness pill before retiring to bed. But I have a feeling that we would have been OK without these, and certainly when we had a slightly choppy afternoon at sea, sailing from Rabida to Santa Cruz, and another longish night sail to Española, I forwent the precautions and had no problems as a result. But if you know you’re prone to seasickness, do come prepared – both to take whatever pills or other treatments you find most effective, and to possibly have to put up with the occasional queasy period. Believe me – the Galápagos are worth it!
Next tip: (assuming you’re feeling fine!) ”Meals on board”
Before going to the Galapagos Islands I had read many warnings about people getting seasick on the cruise boats, especially on the small ones. I don’t get motion sickness, but had never slept on a smaller boat before, and as M/S Cachalote, which I was going with, is a 26m long motor sailor I thought it was good to bring motion sickness pills just in case.
I didn’t take any pills the first night. We were just moving from Puerto Ayora to Islas Plazas, but the waves were coming in from the side and things were really moving around in the cabin, and I could hear things falling to the floor upstairs as well. I felt only a little bit nauseous.
The next morning I heard that all other passengers had taken seasickness pills and as we the next night were moving from Isla Santa Fe to San Cristobal and that was a longer journey and more open sea I thought I should take a pill as well. Then I continued to take one every night, even if the boat didn’t rock as much again as the first night.
When I after the cruise talked to someone on Isla Isabela that had been on many cruises she told me that it is common to feel just a little nauseous the first one or two nights, but not after that. With that in mind I regret taking the seasickness pills because I don’t think I actually needed them.
It is expensive to buy stamps for postcards on Galapagos Islands (same price as in the rest of Ecuador though). For Europe the stamp for one postcard is $2.25 (July 2011), so make sure to bring a lot of cash to the post office if you have many postcards to mail.
And it can take a very long time before the postcards reach their destination. The postcards I mailed in Puerto Ayora didn’t arrive to their destination until almost two months after they were mailed. From Quito it only took about a week. Anyway I would prefer to receive a postcard from Galapagos which is also mailed there, even if it takes a long time.
Outside the populated areas visitors are only allowed to visit certain sites, and then always accompanied by a certified naturalist guide. When visiting these visitor sites you can only walk on the trails or on the beach. But even there you should be careful where you put your feet. On the beach at Post Office Bay, on Floreana, someone had put stones in a circle to indicate the place of a turtle nest (you can see there is a small cavity), so don’t walk over it! Usually the turtle nests are a bit higher up, where you are not allowed to walk, but sometimes the nests can be found on the beaches where many tourists walk.
Photo two is from Las Tintoreras and as you can see the marine iguanas have the same colour as their background, the lava stones. Most of the marine iguanas here were beside the trail, but a few were on the trail and easy to step on if you didn’t watch your step.
The sign in photo 3 is standing at Muro de Las Lagrimas on Isla Isabela. Until here I had been able to cycle on my own from Villamil, but further on it was restricted area, and as you can see it is restricted because it is a hunting area of introduced animals.
When exploring these islands it will be neccesary to do a lot of walking /hiking so consequently being in the hot sun all day it is imperative to be carrying plenty of Drinking water. The days in this part of the world can get extremely hot and dry...I found I was drinking a lot of water here while climbing and walking...It is neccesary to replace any lost fluids as dehydration in the tropics is a dangerous situation to get into. So when setting out for your day ALWAYS carry more water than you need for the day...
When sourcing your bottled water make sure that the cap seal has not been broken and your bottle has been refilled with just ordinary local tap water..I have been caught this way...
Make sure that you have comfortable footwear
Wear a wide brimmed hat and sungalsses
Galapagos options.com was a great help to me , I see a wrong review about this company,
actually we organised the whole trip over the internet, chat and email, it was OK, the price
fair, may be people shall know that the visitor sites are the same for first class travelers
as for backpackers, may be you took the cheap option tour, you can upgrade the services to
fit your budget, for us it was OK, personally I offer my recommendations to all future
customers, see it here: offer my recommendations to all future customers, they are guides no
middle people, check..
If you want to book your Galapagos trip by internet, do not try this with Galapagosoptions.com. They make you a great offer, that we could not refuse, and once you have paid them, they will start e-mailing apologizes about things which can not take place. Our boat trip was cancelled because the boat was under construction (actually it was double booked). They offered us an alternative trip from and mostly on the island of Santa Cruz. We had free meals, but the meals they served us, normally would go straight into the sea. Our local agent tried to make money out our misery, by offering us very expensive trips. His friends would do the trips, but first we had to pay.
Finally we booked trips ourselves and we chose other restaurants. We had a wonderfull holiday. If you want to do it on your own, please do not book Galapagosoptions.com but try, for example, safari tours (Quito).
Whichever you choose, it will be fabulous. 5 star cuisine on the ship, amazing food and top class service. Do beware of the young crew asking for help with further education, help with money and coming to stay with you. Do not give them your address. Do not be seduced by the young ones on board as they have travelled widely and have a wide range of STD's.
You will have wet and dry landings, an opportunity to swim with seals and dolphins, to visit the beaches that the 1871 sailors landed at and look at their graffiti. The animal life is amazing, not tame, as they don't know humans are a danger, but you can get really close for your pictures. Remember to use sunblock all over as the Equatorial sun burns you through your clothes. Always use a hat. Have a brilliant trip! Keep clean and keep safe.
Seriously, you will be told this many times by your guides but DON'T TOUCH THE ANIMALS. They may seem tame and cute but they are still wild and touching the animals can have so many negative repercussions - from the babies or eggs being abandoned to die by their parents to creating aggression or fear from the animals. Have respect and don't be selfish. However, if the animals touch you, you can't do much about that (and the sealions can be quite curious!)
The sealions are generally VERY friendly but when you see a bull (they are fairly easy to spot as they are much bigger and have a more round, bulbous head) stay away! If they are swimming in the water, don't approach them and keep a safe distance. They can bite if they feel threatened in any way and this can cause a huge wound - 100 stitches minimum our guide told us!
Sea lions are very friendly and playful when you are snorkeling and diving. Adults and juveniles will swim along with you, nudge you and get right in your face. This is all fine and you can even play back with them. We were however warned NOT to touch the bulls if they are playing with us. It is okay if they touch you but they will bite if you touch them. The females and juveniles will not bite.
Our naturalist guide assured us that even though there were sharks in the area they would not bother us. Sharks apparently are able to tell human from other forms of food and must not like how we taste. They do however like the taste of sea lion. Here is a picture of a sea lion that has a rather nasty, but unlikely fatal, shark bite. This happened between the time we started our short hike on North Seymour and when we returned to the landing spot.
As cute as the animals might be and as peaceful and fearless they might look don't come too close. One reason is that they might have different ideas in their mind about your good intentions, especially if they are a bull sea lion or a mother nursery her offspring. Another reason is that if you touch them they will have your smell on their bodies and even if you have washed yourself with the most expensive bath soap...their family and friends won't...appreciate it at all. They will not recognize their family member and it might be expelled for ever. So don't ever touch them!!!
Also don't pick flowers or remove things from their natural place. You may have the ambition of showing things to your friends back home..but you may disrupt or damage the natural environment. Imagine if all of us think: “What possible damage would it be if I pick just a small insignificant rock?” Then it would be thousands of small rocks and this is not insignificant. So be honest and decent....
Don't feed the animals. Never ever feed animals in the wild. It makes them lose their natural habits. Leave that to the Park officials who know exactly what they are doing. Ok?
Puerto Villamil, Isabela Galapagos Islands, , Ecuador
Good for: Solo
Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Islands, Puerto Ayora, Ecuador
Good for: Business
Isla Isabela, , Puerto Villamil, Galapagos
Good for: Business