Well, there we have it. Our 1-month adventure living and working in the Galapagos has now come to an end. Quite honesty it has been nothing short of one of the best experiences in both of our lives. We had pre-conceived expectations of what to expect before we arrived from watching doco’s, video’s, Instagram posts and social media marketing the shit out of this location. However, none of which lived up to the reality of actually being here, experiencing this truly unique place and the wildlife that calls this Archipelago home.
The work here we did was great, and we couldn’t have asked for an easier job. We loved spending time at Jimmy’s farm, meeting his family and learning so much invaluable information both in farming in Ecuador but also how Tourism works here. We are also incredibly grateful for this opportunity as it allowed us to travel further and longer on a shoestring budget.
Why go to San Cristobal?
Overall, we really enjoyed our time in San Cristobal. Again, we still like Santa Cruz the best out of the island we have visited due to the vibe here as it is certainly busier. Unlike Isabela we decided not to opt for any tours at this stage as we have already experienced a lot in the other 2 islands and we are only 7 weeks into a year long trip so keeping budget conscious is a must for us.
For any work.awayers there is also a few on this island as we feel it would have been a great place to work so just do some research before deciding what island you would like. There is also an Airport here which goes to and from the mainland but the local ferry only cross to and from Santa Cruz so if going to Isabela be aware that you will have to take 2 ferry trips to get there.
Listed below are a few of our loves, dislikes and recommendations:
-The Market – it wins as top of the list as I love immersing myself into the hustle and bustle of local life, eating with the locals and getting a snapshot of what life as a local on the island is like.
-The beaches we visited are all amazing. Stunning white sand, lava rocks, full of wildlife and are all free admission.
-$4USD pp lunches or $4USD pp dinners making it affordable (look for the white boards or ask in the restaurants)
-The Sunset – boats one of the best we have seen since the time on the islands and should be promoted much more as it’s a perfect spot to sip a cold beer and watch the sunsets.
-‘La Zayapa’ – great spot for happy hour – 3 beers for $8USD but it does close at 6pm
-The sea lions – this was by far the best island to see sea lions an they are everywhere and tame – but please don’t touch them especially the babies as the mother will reject them instantly if they smell like human. Oh, and also, they will attack you if you get too close while they are on land. FYI
-‘Cucuve Eco Hostal – Our accommodation. Amazing, $40USD per night and the hosts were beautiful souls. The hostel is far out of town but nice to in the silence and nature.
-The wildlife!! The main reason to travel to Galapagos. Isabela boasts the highest diversity of both land and marine life.
It’s day 2 in San Cristobal and after being super smart and buying some snacks for breaky the day before from the market, we munched a couple of rolls, peanut butter and banana with a few cups of freshly brewed Galapagos coffee – thanks to Lina our amazing host. Tip number 2 – if on a budget buy breakfast food from the market. For the 2 morning we were here we spent $4USD, $1USD per person per day and it was mildly healthy too!
From here we caught a cab into town ($2USD) to head to the ‘Centro De Interpretation’. This is essentially a glorified information center but delivers amazing insights into the history of Galapagos. It focuses on each island display of conservation, climate as well as the geology of each and it’s free so definitely worth it to educate yourself.
From there if you keep walking through the center it will lead you to the start of the Cerro Tijeretas track and various other beaches which was the starting point of our day’s adventures. 2 miles from the Centro De Interpretation, is a totally awesome look out point, with panoramic views of Shipwreck bay and Leon Dormido (Kicker rock). In English this point is called Frigate bird hill due to the amount of Frigate birds who nest there. It also boasts an incredible view of the ocean and the next stop on our adventure the snorkeling spot directly below.
From there we made our way down to this crystal-clear bay which was just creaming for us to jump in, so of course we did. It was so refreshing, filled with fish and a lot of playful sea lions so we highly recommend this spot to view lots of endemic wildlife here as well and cool off, as mentioned before – It’s so hot here!
So, where do I even begin? This is the third island that we have visited out of the 4 inhabited Islands in the Galápagos Archipelago. Galápagos National Park covers 97% of the 18 islands and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only four of the islands are inhabited by people: Santa Cruz, Floreana, Isabela, and San Cristobal and San Cristóbal would be the last we visit from our month-long adventure which is set to finish in a few days.
For many travelers, the idea of exploring Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands is one drenched in folklore. For us, we have discussed this trip for a few years and even had it booked back in 2016 but had to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances.
Like Isabela, we were up really early to catch the ferry ‘ Andy 2’ which we had be assured was the biggest boat ion their fleet and after the horrendous crossing to Isabella 2 short weeks ago, I was dubious about what to expect. The ferry from Santa Cruz to Cristobal leaves at 6.30am and takes around 2 hours crossing South East. We were stoked upon arrival at the Port to see that the boat itself was actually much bigger than the ones to Isabela, so travel tip – go for ‘ Andy 2’ for your crossing. It was much better equipped with all seats facing forward and larger windows, not to mention a much calmer crossing. You could go as far as saying, it was mildly enjoyable.
The accommodation we had booked was ‘Cucuve Eco Hostal’ located 3km from town but we booked last minute and got it for $40USD per night for double, en suite and the hosts pick you up and drop you in town when they can so it worked out well. The Hostal itself was great and our Hosts, Lina, Alfredo and Stalin were all super warm hearted, beautiful souls. ( and they gave us a big bowl of fruit and bottled water upon arrival so instantly won our hearts)
So, if you read my last blog about losing my hearing, feeling down and wishing that in a few days I would be fixed, then I have some fantastic news…I am back to 100% health! Our host Jimmy, who I will now refer to as ‘lifesaver Jimmy’ referred us to his private doctor and on Monday morning, after 15 minutes (of what the doctor described as a pretty basic procedure for divers) $55USD and a few tears thanks to yours truly I am now fixed, well I can now hear perfectly again. God, I am happy…probably not as happy as Leo as for the past week or so I have been fairly teary every day and not much fun to be around. AT ALL.
So, today marks the 3-week mark of our volunteering adventure in Galapagos and also the 6 week mark of the trip so far so to celebrate we are heading to San Cristobal tomorrow for the weekend to explore another of the beautiful, wildlife filled islands of this truly majestic archipelago. We manged to get the return ferry tickets for $50USD pp which is $10USD cheaper than advertised so definitely shop around. From there I have booked ‘Cucuve Eco Hostal’ for 2 nights costing $80USD for a double private with en-suite and you can add breaky for $5USD pp…but after seeing the standard of breaky in some places we like to wait and check it out first before committing.
Today’s adventure took us to Laguna Las Ninfas, (Lagoon of the Nymphs) which is a little-known attraction located in the centre of Puerto Ayora. We hadn’t heard much about it, but I had read a few blogs that mentioned it, and because we have the time and it wasn’t far we had to tick it off the list. This peaceful lagoon starts with a short boardwalk through lush mangroves. We had been told that you can swim here but after arriving, it is apparent that you cannot.
Don’t even try as it clearly states no swimming. Las Ninfas itself is a lagoon of seawater filtered through a narrow corridor of rocks and vegetation and completely surrounded by mangrove forest. It’s really nice! It is the also the gathering point of fresh water that comes from the highlands which allows a variety of inhabitants in the lagoon. Leo has mentioned he thought it would be
This blog post marks the 25,000-word mark so far in my blog. Pretty unbelievable to be honest for a chick who did NOT do well in English at school at all and finds it hard to speak sometimes let alone write. However, for the past few days, I haven’t written, not even a word.
As mentioned before, we never expected traveling to be easy and we always knew there was going to be road blocks in the way, we’ve already seen this with my parents getting flown home due to my dad’s health, well this time it’s mine…don’t worry I haven’t been flown home, but I did end up in the Hospital in Galapagos. For years I have suffered from inner ear problems which allows me to shower, snorkel for a wee while and not even attempt to dive, however, from my previous posts you will see we snorkeled the shit our of Isabela!!
From there I woke up at Jimmy’s on Tuesday morning deaf. Deaf as a dodo (even though I have never understood that analogy) Immediately panicky panda set in, but I knew it was my inner ear problem flaring up and from there my balance went, I started to feel nauseous and very dizzy. We spent a coupe of days at home as it got progressively worse and then decided to make the trip to the hospital on the island and see what my options were. After my Thailand hospital visit back in January, I knew to expect mega expense and probably a diagnosis that required the main land asap. Upon arrival at the Hospital we waited at Triage for around 30 mins chatting to another couple from AU (mostly Leo as I sat and tried to lip read) who were also in a sticky situation. From there we were hustled to another desk where I had to give my passport details and was given a post it note of paper with a Doctors name on it.
There was a sign on the wall stating the level of emergencies and a waiting time next to it…. mine was a 4 hour wait but amazingly enough I was seen in 30 minutes! The Doctor was lovely but the first thing he said was ‘Please speak Spanish as my English is shit’ – excellent!! As I thought my ears were completely blocked from salt water and with my pre-existing condition he advised that I get back to the mainland and see a specialist as they couldn’t perform the procedure there.
We are not wanting to cut our trip short at all, but we did head to Avianca and have managed to change the trip by 1 day arriving 1 day earlier in Quito on the 30th May, being a Friday, the specialist will be able to see me then. Now, here’s the good part…the part that made my year, apart from the fact that any of this has actually happened as that sucks. The Hospital visit was free…including prescription AND to change our flights with Avianca cost $2USD. Yup, the whole thing cost us $2USD! I can’t believe it! I was expecting at least upwards of a few hundred to see the doctor at the hospital. So, I have to say, it was an amazing experience and hats off to the lovely Doctor!
So, this week has been a but all over the place and to top it all off we ran out of water today AGAIN and had a power cut, so it’s not been a great week of writing fantastic tales about our adventures as to be honest I’ve not been feeling like it. I’ve been sad, depressed about not being able to hear, feel like I’m ruining our trip, even though there is nothing I can do about it but HOPEFULLY, by the time this goes live when we get strong enough WIFI in a few weeks, I will be back to normal! 😊
Meanwhile, let's take a minute to enjoy these beautiful marine iguanas doing what they do best!
Reasons to travel to Isabela
Overall, Isabela was great. We have both discussed why we prefer Santa Cruz but for 3 days it is possible to experience the highlights of the island and really get to tick off everything you should do while there so we definitely recommend the island hop if you don’t get sea sick…and even if you do – suck it up and take some meds as it’s worth it.
Listed below are a few of our loves, dislikes and recommendations:
NEEDS SOME WORK:
Waking up this morning to a fresh air-conditioned room was truly lovely. The heat has been affecting our sleep massively on the farm so these three days in Isabela has been the fresh break that we desperately needed.
After checking the tides, we booked Las Tintoreras for the afternoon based on low tide – TIP – make sure you check the tides and try and to all snorkeling trips at low tide to maximize water visibility and the possible amount of marine life as they prefer the low tides to feed.
The trip wasn’t due to start until 2pm and we booked through our host Jackson for $40USD PP which was much cheaper than buying on Santa Cruz or in town. As we had the morning we went out for breakfast to ‘Sun and Coffee’ as it was pretty much one of the only ones open and had good reviews on TripAdvisor. I won’t lie, the service was terrible, we waited about 20 minutes before being acknowledged however, the food turned it around for us as it was a solid 7/10, even though it was pretty expensive at $8USD pp. (Next week we will try and cut all this extra expenditure as we cannot afford this lavish $8USD a meal pp malarkey)
From there we made the call to walk to the ‘wall of tears’, 6.5km from the town. This beach walk is lovely, not strenuous but the heat definitely makes it a tricky one – Leo was totally fine, not a drop of sweat on him, but I looked like I had just come out the sea for the entire walk. We loved it though! The walk itself will see you pass through lush forest, many giant tortoises just chilling and of course a bunch of marine iguanas and little lizards. There are also about 5-6 beaches that you can meander off the main track to hang out and chill/ go for a swim along the way if time permits.
About 1 hour into the track you will reach the wall and also 600m before had a great look out which will take you up A LOT of stairs where you can overlook the bays, town and the surrounding Volcanoes. On the way back we stopped at ‘Playa de Amor’ which was amazing. A tiny little beach, nestled in mangroves, covered in lava formations and filled with massive marine iguanas we made a pit stop here for 30 mins to paddle, catch our breath and have our water break – make sure you pack LOTS of water of doing this track.
We made it back to town in about 2.5 hours and that was the 12-13km trip, grabbed some fruit from the market for lunch and went back to our refreshing A/C for a wee hour before our pick up. So, the main attraction of the day – Las Tintoreras. You start the trip with a quick 10minutes boat ride over to the Island which is only 3000 years old made entirely from lava. Boasting the highest ration of wildlife in the area upon arrival we were delighted to be welcomed with Galapagos penguins, sea lions, Blue Footed Boobies and many turtles swimming around the boat.
Today was the day we get to explore the very best activity on the Island of Isabela – ‘Los Tuneles’ or The Tunnels to me and you. Situated about a 40- 50-minute boat ride from Puerto Villamil is this outstanding spot for snorkeling, formed by convoluted lava formations standing between mangroves and the open sea. We had been told to look out white-tipped sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, sea lions, turtles and even seahorses in the shallows, so needless to say we were very excited.
We booked this through Jackson our host for $110USD pp and over in Santa Cruz they can charge upwards of $150+ pp so make sure to book after arriving into Isabela so you don’t get ripped off! Upon arriving at the Port I knew that the boat would again be tiny yet safe however feel dangerous A.F! I was right, however this time round I was really ill. It was hot inside and not much air flow at all and with all the bumping about I turned completely white, sweated profusely and nearly passed out. NOT A FUN 45 MINUTES.
We arrived at the areas for snorkeling and lucky for us was low tide (always try and book these trips during low tide). After a briefing from our guide we hopped in the water and started the 1-hour snorkeling adventure. Immediately we were surrounded by giant sea turtles – now, I have never swum with sea turtles, so this was an unbelievable experience for me, even though I am not a fan of being under the water I managed to snorkel well in open water for as long as the turtles would let me meander with them.
This morning is different from the rest as it’s holiday time! We are off to Isabela for the next 3 nights, meaning no farm work, no dogs, no chickens, just sun sea, sand and adventures (even if we did wake up at 4.30am to get the farm duties done before we left)
Jimmy had booked a taxi for us to the Port to catch the ferry at 6am which was a lifesaver as there are no busses at that time. Upon arriving at the ferry terminal it’s like herding cats. People everywhere, lots of boats and no one really knowing what they were doing - after being told we would be on boat ‘Blue Fantasy’ we hopped aboard ‘ Cally 1’. You have to make your way through quarantine then as we boarded our tiny ferry we realised this may be a long ride. Apparently, it takes 2 hours to cross to Isabela and usually it’s $30USD PP but if you shop around you can easily get it for $25usd each way pp.
Now, I would warn you in advance if you get motion sickness, sea sickness or are scared of boats then FLY TO ISABELA, do not cross via boat. To put it lightly it was horrific, so scary and a white knuckle ride the entire journey. I have no photos to prove this, so you will just need to take my work as I spent the whole time rigid not even blinking I was that scared.
After 2 hours of absolute torture we made it off the boat, into a completely pointless water taxi to take us the last 10 ft to the port - which costs $1USD pp. You then must pay $10USD entrance fee to enter Isabela but to our absolute delight there was a sign with my name on it from our hostel ‘Cielo Azul’. The hostel we are staying is lovely – of you don’t look outside. The place looks like it was hit by a massive Earthquake and is in the process of being rebuilt but inside is amazing and costs $120USD for 3 x nights in a double room with bathroom and A.C so we are both happy as.
Jackson our host is a dream, he runs this hostel with his daughter and after we had freshened up and stopped feeling sick he took us for walking tour into town to show us where everything is. Isabela is tiny, and he explained that it is the newest island hence why everything is in the middle of being built – they don’t even have any major hotels here yet.
After lunch we headed to the hotspot ‘Concha la Perla’ which is prime location for swimming with various marine life, iguanas and sea lions. We both hopped in and had an encounter with all the above – it was magic. This is also free on the island so even better!
A beach holiday wouldn’t be a beach holiday without going to the beach on the first day and getting third degree burns from not slip slap slopping enough SPF on, right? Well, great news…I now have what looks like third degree burns on my face and chest. Oh, and my back also.
After a shower, some A/C and a well-deserved rest we headed out for cocktails at BJ Beach bar where you can find great WIFI and 2 cocktails for $10USD. WINNING! We started with mojitos and then I had a coffee to pick me up and Leo had a ‘Tie me to bed’…yes, I had never heard of it either, but it was delicious.
For dinner we had similar to our normal lunch but this time for $8USD pp it came in dinner form. You can generally find these cheap eats in most restaurants but written in Spanish on a white board as they are directed for the locals. For $8USD it was great, soup, ceviche, rice, salad, chips a wee dessert and a juice!
After that it was early to bed as we are up early in the morning to head to what has been described as the best day trip on the Islands – ‘el tuneles’. Will keep you posted.
Hey! I'm Ally. I left the UK in 2011 to move overseas and ended up in New Zealand - my new home. This year we are taking a gap year to loop the world stopping in some AMAZING destinations - and I'm passionate about sharing these adventures with you!