Though I generally was happy with my snorkeling equipment I did get burnt twice. Once I got one with a purge valve and it leaked and another time it has been used by a heavy smoker and evidently not cleaned very thoroughly. YUCK! Anyway, check your equipment well before leaving the shop. They don't carry spare stuff on the boats and unlikely anyone will trade with you either.
While it is very tempting to reach out and touch the animals which seem to be as tame as pets this is strongly discouraged. The relationship between animals and humans on the islands is one of mutual respect, and of respecting each other's "private space".
Our guide compared this to people sitting in a restaurant. You are happy to go there and sit in the same room with lots of other people, but you would get very irritated if the person at the next table came up to you, stared you in the face and started touching you.
Therefore if visitors keep touching the animals they will feel hassled and will eventually lose their trust in people and the special bond between animals and humans in this special place will be lost.
We have just returned from a superb 5 day tour of the Galapagos island on a first class catamaran The Cormorant II. It was amazing and worth every penny. Its not the type of place you would want to see any other way. The boat was excellent and the food and crew great! Just a word of warning to those that would chose this particular boat. The guide Alex, Although good at his job and has good english, on the last day of our trip , briefed the whole group on what to tip him and the crew? very unappropriate considering the amount he suggested would have been $400 per couple, $20 x 2 per person per day and Two envelopes were left in our cabin for both the guide and crew, with a very discrete number of the cabin from which it came in the corner. How unprofessional!
We all decided to pool our tip to the crew and guide and gave it to them on the last night on board "as instructed by the Guide"...Big mistake!! it was quickly counted and the youngest memeber of the clients was appropriatley taken from the group and questioned..When was she going to tip? This was translated by the guide to her, this upset her greatly as she had already done so, the same amount as everyone else.
On confronting Alex about this behaviour he made a poor excuse and became very irrate and ignored the people whom addressed him for the remainder of the trip, this is not first class service, nor the expected behavior of a level 3 guide. Tipping is not compulsary and after that behaviour is non deserving of anything at all.
The travel agency called GalapagosOptions were the most incompetent group of people I have ever worked with before on anything!
Here are the basics of what they did wrong.
1. They caused a 2 day delay in our being able to leave for the Galapagos because they did not give us the correct documents we needed to travel with. We had to spend 6 hours the first day trying to sort out their 1st mistake.
Dayanna told us the problem was sorted out and we now had a new booking. All she had done was put us on a stand by list and we spent 5 hours in the airport the next day waiting to get an actual booking
2. we were left stranded 3 out of the 4 times someone was supposed to meet us. So, we had to find our own way.
3. Their website includes a great deal of false information. Including the following:
*It says the hotels have airconditioning. Only 1 of the 3 does.
*It says that there are 2 options for the day in San Cristobal. It does not mention that if you go on the highland trip, it is included in the price. If you go on the snorkeling trip, they will charge you $45 extra dollars.
*The website includes Santa Fe in the islands you visit, but all it is is that the water taxi between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal passes by the island at high speeds, so you can see it as you zoom by.
4. One time, their contact on Santa Cruz hadn't bought our boat tickets like he was supposed to. He said he didn't have any money. So, we had to go get on the phone to talk to the travel agency we ended up wasting another hour of our time trying to get that sorted out.
5. We ended up having to pay for something once because they hadn't gotten around to it yet and we were out of time. They promised to pay us back, but still have not done so.
After having gone to the islands, I realize I could have done everything they did fairly easily on my own. h
Even if you're on a budget ...don't go for the cheapest boat on the water. Best to go for a few days less. We saw some pretty rickety boats out there. The cruises between the islands are far between ..as much as 17 hours apart. There have been too many cases of boats sinking. Here's a pretty good site to looks at cruise options. http://www.galapagosislands.com/html/lowboats.html
Galapagos is home to many unique, endemic animals, most of which are fearless due to the lack of natural predators. It is critical for their survival that you don't feed or touch the animals . The baby sea lions look so cudly, but if we get too close and our scent rubs of , they will not be recognized by their mother and they will be abandoned and die!!
The birds too get so close , and are fearless. Gaurd their trust don't feed or give water. Remember you go home they stay and survive on their own!!
If you are not expecting to ride a horse for 2 hours, then be warned that some boat packages will include a horse ride whether you've ridden before or not. A daunting experience if you hate horses or have never ridden. I personally love horses and enjoy riding - but this experience was difficult, dusty, and quite overwhelming as we weren't advised or expecting the experience. Check with your Naturalist and ask (or demand) another mode of transport if riding is not your thing. It was also quite sad to see some very old, skinny, tired horses being pushed through their paces in the middle of a hot day.
Marine Iguanas generally pose no threat. The do, however, frequently discharge salt water from their noses, with a far-reaching spray. Salt water in a camera can cause problems, so be careful about getting within range of an iguana's spray.
While Galapagos Sea Lions are generally friendly creatures, the bulls can be territorial and aggressive, particularly during the breeding season. By paying attention, and giving these animals sufficient space, you shouldn't have any problems.
Well, the thieves of the island will stalk you and pester you for morsels of food or some water ... but the little thieves here were actually Mockingbirds and very much welcome to pester me :-)
Still, no animal should be fed or given to drink, it is not allowed because the animals need to keep their total indipendence. So the mockingbirds in the picture just had to content themelves looking at the water :-)
You will likely be seeing this view quite a bit underwater... (the whale's arse quickly disappearing into the haze in front of you...) These suckers are fast, so best to have some sort of reasonable level of fitness before you head down to the Galapagos for diving...
The couple of days we spent chasing the whale sharks around felt more like an exercise in underwater aerobics than actual diving...
I guess there arent too many places to dive where the "Buddy" system is more important than here. The dive sites are remote and the dive conditions (ripping currents, marginal visibility) are challenging.... This is the only place I have ever been diving where the give you an emergency transponder to activate just in case you get washed away.... (and hope the satellites will pick up your signal, I guess.... )
The problem is I kept losing my "buddy"... (Im not much of a team player I suppose....) Well, when chasing whale sharks, or getting chased by hammerheads, I guess its pretty much every man for himself.... ;o)))
I wouldn't normally consider Moray Eels much of a danger. Sure they look kinda scary, but unless you do something stupid to provoke them they won't bother you.
Diving here often involves clinging to a rocky shore while watching the hammerheads and/or whale sharks, ( especially at Wolf and Darwin Islands) And the rock are just thick with big moray eels. With the strong current and surge throwing you around, it seemed to me pretty easy to get accidentally tangled up with one...
There were a couple times that I almost accidentally kicked one from being tossed around in the surging water... I guess just watch were you put your extremities....
Living on a boat for eight days can make your legs do funny things once you are again on dry land. They seems not to want to walk straight, and i could still feel the imaginary rocking in my head even 3-4 days after we we off the boat.
Combine that with the thin air of Quito (elevation 8500 ft) and your head starts feeling dizzy from the lack of Oxygen. So, a dive in the Galapagos followed by a rest day in Quito, will invariably lead to that rare combination of Sea Sick Legs and Altitude Sick Head.... (Cant say I have ever quite felt anything like that.....)
The only cure I few cold beers and maybe a bowl of Ceviche, I guess...
There is an inherent problem when the dive schedule calls for 5 dives a day, and the boat has an open (i.e. free) bar.... This situation will invariably lead to conflicting choices.... (ive or drink ??? dive or drink ???? what should I do ????)
One case in point was a night dive that I really wanted to do, but all my mates were already in the bar boozing it up having a grand old tyne.... After much angst, I decided to do the dive.. (which was actually rather fun, chasing bat fish around on the sandy bottom......) And my boozing friends actually showed me a bit of kindness, as upon surfacing the first sight I saw was a bottle of cold beer being handed down to me...... Cheers to that....
Puerto Villamil, Isabela Galapagos Islands, , Ecuador
Good for: Solo
Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Islands, Puerto Ayora, Ecuador
Good for: Business
Charles Darwin St, San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Ecuador
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo