I've never been seasick in my life, I don't suffer from any kind of motion sickness, so I didn't really factor that into my decision on what kind of boat I would be taking. I'm not sure how big of a difference the size of the boat makes, none of the boats are the big 1,000 plus passenger cruise ships so I'm going to guess that whichever ship you pick, if you get seasick, that you may want to pack either tablets or find patches. They all appear to have some side effects, drowsiness with the tablets, blurred vision and dizziness with the patches. Our 1st aid kit had some seasickness medicine but if you have a real problem with it, don't leave it to chance because there is nowhere on the cruise, except for Santa Cruz, where we could buy anything.
On our cruise, the 1st night was extremely rough, almost everyone on our ship was sick, a couple of people stayed up on deck until we docked for the night. I was a little queasy but not sick. Another night we rolled until the wee hours of the morning, that night it was really hard to sleep. The other couple of nights they said would be bad, turned out to be just fine.
The thing that kills me is that I had brought the proper footwear with me, I had closed toe Tevas and I had tennis shoes and I wore it for most of the trip but I saw all these groups getting off their pangas (that's a dinghy) onto a wooden platform and thought that my Clark open toe sandals sandals would be just fine for a hike. Well, that's not where we went, we landed on a section of Santiago called Sullivan Bay that was almost 100% covered with lava and we were walking over unstable pieces and jumping over cracks. The 2nd thing that kills me is that I didn't trip while jumping over a crack or unstable pieces and I was being so careful, as far as I can tell I must have caught the toe of my sandal under my foot and the next thing I know I've got my husband holding my leg together and the two lovely Polish doctors on our cruise administering 1st aid...
Anyway, lava is not a surface to screw around with, it's kind of like falling on glass. Whatever I hit sliced my leg right open, it was a clean cut, just like being sliced with a knife but I suspect I will have a permanent souvenir of my trip on my trip to the Galapagos. 9 stitches in one place, double layered, and 3 in another spot, but it could have been a lot worse.
Everyone on our cruise came prepared for the sun, the Galapagos Islands straddle the equator and even if the temperatures aren't that hot, the sun is quite intense. We all dutifully slathered ourselves with sunblock every day before heading out. I missed a small spot on my back one morning, it was as red as a cherry and the rest of me would have been too had I not lotioned up before going out.
I brought SPF 50 sport waterproof sunblock, on the bottle it says good for 80 or 90 minutes so make sure to reapply frequently if in the water. A couple of the people on our boat had swim shirts (some companies have them listed as rash guards) and I think I will pick one up before heading to the next sunny location as I often worry about my back burning while snorkeling.
Sea Lions on Bus Benches
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.......Related to:
- National/State Park
Minimising the impact
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”Related to:
- National/State Park
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”Related to:
- National/State Park
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.Related to:
Sending postcards from Puerto Ayora
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.Related to:
- Budget Travel
You can’t walk everywhere
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.Related to:
- National/State Park
CARRY SUFFICIENT BOTTLED DRINKING WATER
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 sungalssesRelated to:
- Hiking and Walking
Galapagosoptions, do not let them fool you
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).Related to:
- Budget Travel
- National/State Park
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.Related to:
- National/State Park
DON'T TOUCH THE ANIMALS!
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!
Playful Sea Lions but watch for the Bulls
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.Related to:
- National/State Park
Galápagos Islands Hotels
Barrio Punta Estrada S/N, Puerto Ayora, 00000, Ecuador
Good for: Business
Puerto Villamil, Isabela Galapagos Islands, , Ecuador
Good for: Solo
Isla Isabela, , Puerto Villamil, Galapagos
Good for: Business
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