Rightfully called “The Enchanted Islands”, the Galapagos Islands blew us away in every possible way. The Galapagos islands had been on our mind for a long time, we knew no matter what we had to make it happen in our travel itinerary. We even planned our itinerary to end our 4-month travel with a bang by traveling the Galapagos. Honestly, appreciating islands in other countries will very likely be tougher after visiting Galapagos.
We had a chance to visit three out of the 18 islands (tourists can visit mainly 4). We started our trip at Santa Cruz island followed by Isabella and finally flew out of San Cristobal island. The history and natural life of all the islands were fascinating, enchanting and one of a kind. I wanted to buy a shirt that said “Endemic to Galapagos” (Endemic meaning, you can only find those species in that particular island and nowhere else in the world), since majority of plant, birds and animal species are endemic to respective islands. Yes, the birds, animals and vegetation are quite different on each of the islands! This is why these islands are so special, more on this below.
If there were any doubts, Charles Darwin definitely has a huge presence on these islands – starting with the turning point of their history in 1835 to research centers and now tourism. Our very knowledgeable naturalist guide Pablo (from GalaKiwi), very quickly pointed out that most people come to Galapagos expecting biodiversity while in reality biodiversity is a very small part of Galapagos. If anything, you might find more species in the Amazon, but what makes Galapagos unique is how tame and comfortable, wildlife is along with human presence. This has mainly achieved by not only educating the locals but also through immigration restrictions that are enforced through the Ecuadorian government to help protect nature and surrounding species on these islands. Due to these implementations, animals feel less threatened by humans. Not introducing foreign species or organisms also helps with less predation, increasing chances of breeding and survival.
Anyways, all of that aside, once you make the life changing decision to make a trip to Galapagos, here are a couple ways of going about it.
HOW TO GET THERE:
If you have signed up with a tour company(we went with GalaKiwi), they take care of your flight tickets and boarding pass. If not, then Aerogal through Avianca or Lan Ecuador flies into Baltra airport or San Cristobal in Galapagos. You can always fly into one island and out from the other one. Baltra is right across from Santa Cruz island by a 5-minute ferry ride. Tour buses are waiting outside the airport in Baltra to take people to the ferry terminal.
When you get to Quito airport (the only other option is Guayaquil airport ):
- First go to the INGALA counter (opens at 5am) on the right side after you enter the airport,
- Hand over your passport so they can enter in immigration information followed by 20$ per person fee.
- After that go to the special security scan where they check all your bags to make sure you’re not taking any preservatives or species including organic food that might be harmful to Galapagos islands.
- Your bags will be sealed after the security check. Make sure they do not seal your handbag in case you plan on using it on the flight.
- You will then be handed the immigration form to fill out.
- Once that is done, go through the regular security protocol.
Once you get to Galapagos airport:
- Hand over your immigration form (see slideshow below) with a $100 entrance fee per person entering as a foreigner.
- Hang on to the bottom part of your immigration form for when you depart. If you lose that piece of paper you have to pay $20 fee all over again.
- Also, hand over customs form while picking up your bag that is given to you in Quito or on the flight.
Step out, keep your eyes open as you never know what may surprise you in the Galapagos 🙂 We saw a sting ray fish, crabs, blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas within 10 minutes of getting to the ferry terminal. Get ready to be enchanted!