Going back in time with the Galapagos Islands

Tranquil dives with penguins? Sea turtles? Sharks and manta-rays? Walking with giant tortoises? Oh yes... it’s definitely for me!

By ILAN ZVULUNI SPECIAL TO THE JERUSALEM POST
August 20, 2011 21:37
2 minute read.
Iguanas

iguana 311. (photo credit: Ilan Zvuluni)

Deep into the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 km. away from South America, lie the magnificent Galapagos Islands. For some people, the islands recall Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, and for others, they’re known as exotic locales full of legends and pirates. For me, the Galapagos are both.

Tranquil dives with penguins? Sea turtles? Sharks and manta-rays? Walking with giant tortoises? Oh yes... it’s definitely for me! As a wildlife junkie, I knew I had to get there Galapagos is a part of Ecuador, which controls all entries and exits to and from the islands. I decided to go there after hiking the famous Inca Trail in Peru. My plan was to chill there with the wildlife, beaches, remote lagoons, reefs and landscapes.

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The best way to get around is to book a cruise that will take you to some of the more distant islands. However, it pays to wait until you get there to book the trip. If you cement the deal from home beforehand, be prepared to pay double the price, and if you wait until you get to the Ecuador mainland, it’s somewhere in the middle. The best way is to get to one island and then find a cheap cruise.

The travel options are budget, tourist or luxury; the prices can vary from $600 to $4,000.

A flight from the mainland to Baltra Airport will cost somewhere around $400, and then a 10- minute ferry ride will take you to the main island – Santa Cruise. From there, a bus or a taxi will get you to Puerto Ayora, the biggest town and the center of the Galapagos Islands, the best place to bargain for a last-minute deal.

It’s a bit of a dicey way to get there, but in my opinion, it’s the only way to go. And I promise, once you’re inside the islands, you’ll forget any difficulties you experienced in arriving.

Puerto Ayora, the economic center of the islands and the most populated area, is still a very relaxed and inviting town. It’s also the best place to book cruises and dives.

But first, don’t forget to check out The Darwin Center, a must-visit to learn about the history of the islands, Darwin’s species theory, and wildlife and geological installations, including breeding areas for tortoises, an exhibition of land iguanas, and the famous Lonesome George – estimated to be about 100 years old and the last male tortoise of its kind.

Within two hours of arriving in Puerto Ayora, I had found my cruise deal – $1,000 for a luxurious and catamaran called the Queen Of Galapagos. It was equipped with 16 double rooms, a number of spacious outside decks and a five-star dining room.

On the vessel, you can finally get out in the open sea, feel the breeze, go snorkeling in distant reefs, visit moon-landscaped islands and beautiful lagoons, watch the local birds and reptiles and catch breathtaking sunsets.

You can explore the islands Bartholome, Santa Fe, Floreana, Espaniola, Isabela (the biggest island), Seymour and Darwin.

And remember, wildlife on the islands is protected – the authorities do everything to make sure you don’t hurt or smuggle animals or plants. Prepare for bag checks when you leave the islands and when you arrive back in mainland Ecuador.


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