About Galapagos

Galapagos is the kind of place where pictures and words can't do it justice. Every moment in Galapagos is special. An archipelago of dramatic volcanic islands jutting out of the sea, teeming with birds and gigantic land animals that evolved with no natural predators. Nothing can prepare you for the kind of animal interaction you will find there. The animals seem completely unconcerned with your presence and you will have to pay attention or you will literally trip over animals.

There were too many moments of awe in Galapagos that writing a blog post about it seems like an impossible and daunting tasks. When I say that, "every moment here is special", it's only a slight exaggeration. I spent just over 3 weeks on the islands and did two live-aboard tours, one diving and one consisting of snorkeling and land excursions. In that time I saw so many things and had so many moments of awe I can't even recall. Galapagos is a place that you just must visit to understand and you must spend some real time and unfortunately money to get the full experience.

Some advice for future travelers

There are many places that are only accessible via live-aboard cruises. This is due to park regulations as well as distance. By sailing at night and having all your meals/days planned out you can see a lot in a short time. Day trips from the main populated islands are plentiful but travel to and from the islands everyday is time consuming and living on the islands is expensive as are the tours themselves. While cruises seem expensive they really are, in my opinion, the only way to really experience Galapagos and more economical than doing it with day tours. The top two dive spots in Galapagos are Darwin and Wolf islands are also only accessible by an 8 day cruise.

Some generic information about the tours

Here is the information about the cruises I took so you can compare and have a starting point. Many people are against talking about who paid what for what tour but I think that just gives all the power to the tour resellers.

They advertise the cruises with 2 extra days. Technically you are on the boat on, say, 8 different dates but they are really 6 day tours. The first day is boarding the boat in the afternoon followed by briefings, introductions and maybe one small activity. The last day is breakfast and kicking your ass off the boat as fast as possible to get the next tour group on. They turn the boats right around so the first and last day see two separate tour groups.

The tours will try to nickel and dime you. Often they have a ton of hidden charges, like: snorkel gear, wet suits, fuel surcharges, beer, soda, etc. Be careful when you book to make sure you aren't hit with unexpected charges. They also ask for 10-20% of your booking rate for gratuity for the guides and crew so factor that into your total costs. The second to last day of my dive cruise we all lined up to give our tour guide hundreds of extra dollars for things like nitrox, equipment rental, fuel surcharge, a video he made and so on. I think it's a very poor experience for customers that prepaid thousands of dollars for the tour already.

I bought a one way flight to Baltra from Quito and went straight to Santa Cruz (the main city) to try and find last minute deals on cruises. It was a bit of a loose operation. At first, the tour shops didn't know about what was available so some told me there weren't any tours and tried to sell me something else. Some told me they'd call around and to come back and some quoted me really high numbers but with no details. Eventually I started to learn about boats with space and could ask about them by name and start to get some real quotes from people that could actually sell it to me.

The tours I took

  • The Guantanamera - 8 Day Naturalist Cruise - $1600 (2015) - - Itinerary 1
  • The Humboldt - 8 Day Diving Cruise - $3000 (2015 all inclusive with gear/computer rental) -


Diving Galapagos

I don't do research I didn't really know much about the diving in Galapagos before I showed up. I heard that the diving here could be technical with strong currents. However, when shopping around for dive cruises to Darwin and Wolf I learned that the cruises expected you to be a dive master and/or have 100+ dives under your belt. I was starting to think that my 6 days of diving in calm Tanganga might not cut it. However, even with my limited experience I know that I am a strong swimmer, comfortable underwater and not the type of person to panic easily. I didn't want to die or get bent but I also wanted to go on the tour so I fibbed about my experience to gauge reaction and to see what the real story was. After I found the boat I wanted at the price I wanted I talked with owner of the boat and the dive instructor I was going to book through and really got the feeling like I'd be fine. 

So was it fine? The currents were very strong but really, diving is really easy. Respect your computer, do your deco and safety stops and don't panic. Understanding the currents and where they were taking you was easier than I thought it would be...even in the blue with no reference.

What happens when you hit your deco limits and your guide, your dive buddy and everyone you are diving with doesn't want to stop looking at sharks to ascend with you? You go up into the blue by yourself, drifting with the currents, with sharks circling below to do your deco stop at 5 meters. Drifting there for 5 minutes, not able to go to the surface to see how far from the island you have drifted. You quickly give up swimming agains the current to keep the bubbles in sight. You realize how long 5 minutes is. You stay calm, laugh to yourself, see you have plenty of air and wait. Eventually your computer says you can go to the surface. The island isn't too far and actually the dingy is close. You blow your whistle and the dingy picks you up and doesn't seem at all concerned that you are by yourself. The next 40 mins will be driving all over the place picking up the rest in 2 more groups. You learn that your buddy ignored her deco limits and her deco stop of 25 mins. The guide has the balls to lecture the group on safety, you bite your tongue. Your buddy goes on oxygen and ends up getting decompression sickness and can't dive for the rest of the trip.

Swimming with Sharks

Snorkeling and diving with sharks is not dangerous. As you are doing it you can tell it's not dangerous. The sharks ignore you. They aren't concerned with you at all. You are clearly just a passive observer. Sea lions will play with you, turtles will come check you out, rays will swim around you...sharks don't care about you in the least. However, it is well known not to swim around the ship. This is because the crews throw the food scraps overboard. There are always sharks swimming around the boat waiting for a free meal. That means when the see a splash they think food. Our tour guide kept joking about jumping off the boat. In one spot he said it was safe so I immediately climbed out to jump and then he quickly said he was kidding. The captain however wanted to prove that they weren't dangerous and told me he'd jump with me. So I jump, shortly after that the captain jumps and 2 others. In no short time two huge white tipped sharks come right up towards me...clearly stalking me...clearly wondering if I am food. I look up and see the last person climbing out of the water. I'm 40 feet from the boat in the water by myself with these two massive stalkers. I walked on water to get on that boat. Never again.


Yes there were Boobies, Giant Tortoises, Iguanas, Sea Lions, Pelicans, Penguins, Whale Sharks, Hammerheads, Sharks, Birds, Fish, Eels, Sea Turtles, etc, etc. And all within feet of you.   

Volcano Eruption

We were lucky to sail past the erupting volcano in the middle of the night on the dive cruise. 

The Locals

This is the first touristy island I've been to where the people don't seem to hate tourists. In fact the opposite, I had a great experience meeting locals, going to dinner parties, dancing and touring around with locals and now friends. I will miss the people more than I will miss the animals. 


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