Ecuador's biodiversity is world renowned. There is a reason why Ecuador has been included in the Top Places to Travel for the past decade, and I couldn't agree more. Check out what I was up to while on-assignment in the Galapagos.
Giant Tortoises live in their natural habitats in the highlands of The Galapagos
These Giant Tortoises live on average 150 years.
The night before my flight to the Galapagos Islands, a group of us decided to have a last hoorah before we parted ways. We were staying the night in Termas Papallacta Lodge surrounded by the mountains and a mere 10 meters from our hotel room doors in the middle of the lodge was a natural hot spring, so naturally this party was going to be enjoyed outside. The hours flew by with laughing, learning Ecuadorian slang words, and dancing around like wilderness wildcats. My 3:30 a.m. bedtime did not agree with my 5:00 a.m. wake up call.
My half hazardly packed rucksack and coffee craving soul made it to the airport in time thanks to the best trekking guides in Ecuador and the well-rested rest of the Galapagos group.
With my Viva Latino-Top 50 Spotify playlist and a little airline mid-flight coffee, I was feeling more and more like a person again.
The flight from Quito to Seymour Airport on Balta Island takes about two hours with a stopover in Guayaquil for 30 minutes. I tend to opt for aisle seats on most of my flights, but today I did not want to miss one moment of looking out the window for a first glance of the archipelago.
For exactly 1 hour and 55 minutes I looked longingly out the window at the whipped cream clouds; then it appeared, the first set of smaller islands a midst the ocean blue. In that moment I mentally took note of every last detail, as if it would all be dream if I did not dissect my surroundings: Quiero Que Sepas playing in my headphones, the taste of Orbit spearmint gum in my mouth, the slight shadow of the plane casted over the water…
When the plane landed and I stepped into the intense Equator sunshine, I felt more awake than I have been in months.
In my travels so far in life, I have only experienced this feeling of “being home” within minutes of arriving in two places; Iceland and now the Galapagos. It is not a feeling that be described. If you have ever felt it, then you know that it hits you unexpectedly and it needs no explanation.
Once off of the tarmac, the entire plane waits in line to pay the $100 entrance fee to the archipelago and get checked for no invasive plants, seeds, animals, etc. in luggage. This is important to keep the endemic ecosystem healthy.
A short 20 minute bus ride from the airport, a 5 minute boat transfer across a small channel, a 30 minute taxi ride through Santa Cruz island, another mini transfer boat to the larger “taxi boat”, and a 2 hour boat ride later we made it to Isle Isabela.
FROM MOUNTAINS TO LLAMAS TO WATERFALLS AND SNORKELING...AND MORE!
The Archipelago is comprised of 13 main islands, and seven smaller islands. Transportation between the islands is usually by small boats and larger ferries.
If you are traveling to and from the islands a lot, you begin to form a very familiar bond with the crew and captains. Thanks to my incessant need to practice my Spanish every chance I get, my relationship with the crew members on the ferry grew very quickly. These type of travel relationships have their own set of perks. On my second trip the captain let me sit up top with him to get better footage of the sun rising and reflecting off the sea. He also taught me Ecuadorian slang words that I will not repeat on this article, (Hi Mama! It’s me your angelic child, who does not curse like an Ecuadorian sailor).
Another option to travel from the larger islands to the smaller islands is by renting kayaks. I highly recommend taking a day to explore areas of the archipelago by kayak. I would also recommend renting snorkel gear for the day so that you can dock your kayaks and get incredible underwater views as well.
The flora and fauna inhabiting the Galapagos Islands is absolutely stunning. People travel from all over the world just see the free roaming wildlife and native plants of the islands. The relationship between the people and wildlife co-inhabitating the region is unlike any other place in the world. Sea lions bask in the sun on the benches by the beach, sea turtles swim next you in the water, and giant tortoises roam the highlands. However, it is important to be mindful that these are still wild animals, and it is never okay to frighten the animals by touching them or getting too close. This videoI created for the Tourism Board of the Galapagos gives you more detail on guidelines for a safe and fun visit to the archipelago!
When you get to the largest island Santa Cruz, you will have plenty of options for water sports. Santa Cruz is also where the Charles Darwin Research Center is located, so be sure you walk through the outdoor research center to view the Giant Tortoises on site. Right off of the main road to the center, across from the Park Ranger station, is a path to a secret beach. You’ll see a small bike rack and from there follow the barely visible path to a picturesque beach spot where only the locals frequent.
If you take the ferry from Santa Cruz to Isle Isabela, be sure to tell the captain Manuel hello for me!
I talked with voters in Cuenca and in Quito before the 2017 Presidential Election...take a look below.
Ecuador's Presidential Election
What You Should Know
- Ecuador's current President, Rafael Correa, has been in power for the last decade.
- Voting is mandatory for all Ecuadorian citizens, and the government issues proof of voting cards for all voters to carry with them after the election. Voting is on February 19th.
- There is a large divide, and no clear favorite for President.