In 2011 when I confirmed that my very first photo tour would be happening in Peru in February 2012, I said to myself, “If you are going all the way to Peru, you must go to the Galapagos Islands. It is so close. And, what if you never get back to South America?”
And so began my love affair with South America.
At that time, I really wasn’t sure if I would ever go back to South America or not. Four years later, with two Peru: Through the Lens Photo Tours complete, two trips to Argentina (one consisting of four months in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires) and visits to Uruguay and Chile … well, let’s just say I love South America.
I flew to Quito, Ecuador and then off to Baltra Island of the Galapagos Archipelago where I would do an independent tour with Bamba Experience. It was their first year operating in the Galapagos, so there were a few glitches, but nothing could dull the amazing beauty of these incredible islands and the locals who went out of their way to assist me in every way they could.
I visited Santa Cruz and Floreana islands. Someday, I’ll return to visit more of the islands, but, being on a tight budget, a short amount of time and wanting a land-based itinerary, my options were limited. None-the-less, I’m glad to have the amazing memories that I do from one of my favourite places in all of my travels.
Is the Galapagos Islands on your travel bucket list? What’s stopping you?
Send me a message, let’s chat about all of the great options for an amazing, educational and life changing experience for you alone, with your friends or family. I’d love to help make this dream come true for you! Drop me a message.
I was wandering along the waterfront one afternoon in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos and came across the fresh fish market. I’m passionate about photographing people in their environment, working … what better place than a fish market? The fisherman had come in off the boats not long before and they were preparing fresh fish for locals; first come, first served. As with any subject, I started photographing from the front and then started to wander around to different vantage points. I’m so glad that I did because some of my favourite shots are the ones from behind the fish counter.
This photo was taken at sunset the evening before, but this is what I think Paradise looks like.
I got up early my last day on Santa Cruz island. Finished packing and then headed to the docks to take a few last photos in the early morning sun. By 8am though it is already harsh and strong. I snapped a couple of photos of the bay and boats, waved to a few of the guides that I had traveled with in the past few days and headed back to my hotel for one last breakfast.
My transfer driver came to pick me up at 9am and off we went for the 40-50 minute drive to the ferry to take us to Baltra Island where the airport is.
The ferries are funny … They fit about 50 people, all crowded in on the lower level with all of our luggage stowed (not so safely) on the roof of the boat. Once I was on the ferry I saw a familiar face, but couldn’t quite place him. I noticed him tell the man collecting the .80c fee that mine was covered, so I figured the familiar face was there to take care of me. The ferry takes about 7-10 minutes. I honestly think it goes extra slow just so that staff have time to collect everyone’s fees.
Once I got off, the familiar face was quick to help me with my luggage, show me where to stand and usher me into the shade. It was here that I asked his name … it was Darwin! The transfer driver who ate lunch with Mariana and I and who dropped us off at the Charles Darwin Station. How could I forget Darwin!
Darwin continued to get my luggage on the bus to the airport, push his way through to bus line with me in tow. The bus was so packed that we both had to stand up on the 10 minute twisty turny bus ride to the airport. Darwin once again took care of my baggage and showed me where to go to check in. All of this without speaking any English.
Check in went smoothly, he pointed me toward a small market to buy some souvenirs and showed me which line up to stand in to go through security. I gave him a hug and a small tip, said thank you and went on my way.
Once through security I sat for nearly 2 hours, drenched in my own sweat even though I was sitting still. The heat is almost stifiling. There wasn’t a dry person in that airport, all of us with glistening arms, foreheads and wet spots on our backs.
I ran into my friends Tanya and Victor who rescued me on my first day. I also chatted with Kate from one of my boat tours. Unfortunately none of that really seemed to help the time pass more quickly. It was like being in a sauna with a couple hundred people. Sound like fun?
Thank goodness for the air conditioning once we got on the plane. And, it was a beautiful day for flying, so flights leaving Galapagos, flying into Guayaquil for our stop over and then into Quito were all beautiful.
I booked my travel with a company called Bamba Experience who in turn booked my hotel reservations for me based on price and ‘comfort’ level desired. I decided to go on the cheap side as The Galapagos is already an expensive destination.
I believe that Hotel Crossman is listed as a 3 star hotel and I would say that is pretty accurate.
The staff have been wonderful. Very friendly and helpful. With all of the confusion in my first couple of days, they did their best to help sort everything out.
As for the hotel itself, my first impression of the room was that it was lovely. It is large enough for a double bed and a single, has an open closet and a few hangers for clothes and a private bathroom. I noticed immediately that they use white sheets and no bedspreads which makes me at least feel like it is a clean hotel rather than bedspreads that never get washed.
There are four large windows in the room and the breeze is beautiful when it’s not raining!
The tile floors get a little slippery if you come in from the rain with your shoes on, but not much can be done about that.
The bathroom is sufficient. It is clean, has everything you need including shampoo and the stand up shower is a decent size.
There is a tv (which I haven’t turned on once) and an air conditioner (which runs constantly if I’m in my room).
They have free wifi internet and it works pretty good most of the time. Sometimes the signal isn’t strong enough to carry skype conversations, but overall, I can’t complain.
They don’t have safes in the rooms, or at the hotel at all as far as I understand. This means that I’ve had to leave money and other valuables in my room when I’m out. I haven’t had any trouble at all with this though. Nothing has gone missing and the room is always nice and tidy when I return from my day’s activities.
My only complaints are:
– There is no hot water, so cold showers every day. However, I’ve come to find out that other hotels are the same. Not sure if more expensive hotels would be different, but it seems pretty standard to not have hot water here.
– Sometimes the bathroom smells. When it happens, it is pretty gross, but it goes away quickly. Not sure of the cause. Not sure if it is the water that smells or if it is wafting up through the shower drain.
– When it rains (which is nearly every day this time of year), I have a leak from the ceiling. It drips from my ceiling light fixture to the floor, conveniently right between the two beds, missing both of them!
The first night that I was here it leaked a lot, so I went and got one of the staff to come upstairs and see. There was no way I was going to try to explain a leak! She quickly got some old rag towels and put them on the floor to soak up the mess. I left the there for the night as it continued to drip. Unfortunately it has happened every day, but I can’t be bothered to go get rags every day, so I just step over the puddle on the floor and make sure none of my electronics are near it.
The breakfast that they have each morning has been good. Scrambled eggs, a bun with jam, fresh squeezed fruit juice, a piece of processed meat and cheese. They also have tea, coffee and this morning there was cocoa for hot chocolate as well! They are not a restaurant though, they are only set up to provide breakfast to their own guests.
One of my favorite parts about this hotel is the terrace or veranda. Right outside my second floor room there is a little sitting area with patio furniture and a little table. The first day I was here, I sat out there for a couple of hours while I did my blogging. It poured and I could listen to it, but not get wet. The fresh breeze was amazing!
I haven’t taken any pictures of the veranda yet, but if I get a chance tomorrow or Thursday before I leave, I will! They have a couple of other common areas as well that are more enclosed. Would be a lovely spot for group meetings if you were traveling with friends, or if your group tour had more than just one person!
Overall, I would say that this hotel fits a 3 star rating. It is comfortable and clean, but doesn’t have the luxuries of home that I am used to (like hot water). If I were to come back, I would be happy to stay here again.
I’ve already done my little pitty party about being alone on Valentine’s day, but I tried to make the best of it. I headed out this evening around 5pm to the waterfront to shoot a few photos of the setting sun.
Here, near the equator, the sun sets very quickly. It isn’t dusk for long in these parts at all. In fact, last night in the 15 minutes it took me to shower, the sun had already set and gone away completely so I missed it all together. Shame on me!
Tonight I didn’t want to make the same mistake. I got a few nice shots, but nothing spectacular. For one, the sunset wasn’t ‘the best’ and two, I wasn’t really at an ideal location for viewing it. Tomorrow I think I’ll be coming back by boat around sunset time, so hopefully I’ll have another opportunity!
One of the bad things about traveling alone on Valentine’s Day is that many other people are traveling in couples. I saw lots of couples walking, holding hands, kissing, having romantic dinners today and I was all alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, just stating that Valentine’s Day in paradise isn’t really so perfect without your special someone. booo hooo.
Now my little pitty party is over and I’ll move on. After all, it is only a day where people spend lots of money on the one they love when they should be showing they care all along!
Ok, now I’ll move on 🙂
After my early morning breakfast, I headed to Charles Darwin Street in Puerto Ayora. It’s about a five minute walk from my hotel. Unfortunately, at 8:30am, I was already too late for all of the boat tours except for the Bay tour that I had done the day before. I talked to the guide about other options and discovered that I have seen most of what Santa Cruz island has to offer. He made several suggestions for tours, but they were things that I had already done on the way in from the airport on my first day. In the end, he suggested I head to Tortuga Bay which is a beautiful beach within walking distance.
It is named Tortuga bay as it is an area where turtles come to lay their eggs. Unfortunately I didn’t see any turtles here today. They usually only come in to land at night for laying eggs.
The tour operator, along with several other people told me that it was about a 30 – 40 minute walk to get to the beach. This is technically correct … from the starting point of the park. I walked through town and up a really huge hill to get to the park entrance. Did I mention that at 9am the sun is already at it’s hottest for the day? A huge hill, no shade … 2 kms of walking already!
I also made a quick stop along the way to rent snorkel gear from a really nice hotel – Sante Fe Suites. They wanted me to leave ID in order to take snorkel gear. All I had with me was my visa, so I left it. I wouldn’t have done this with just any business, but this particular place was very nice and appeared reputable, not sketchy.
At the entrance to the park, you stop at a reception area and sign in. They check each night to make sure that everyone has left the park as it closes at 6pm. The man there told me this is because the turtles come in at night to lay their eggs.
From the entrance, you walk along a lovely path. It is sturdy walking as it is made of some kind of brick or cobbelstone. Easy, except for the sizzling heat and the hills!
The walk took me at least 40 minutes, maybe even 45. I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone who is elderly or has mobility issues. Or maybe just not at 9am when the sun is at it’s hottest!
When I finally got to the end of the path, the trees opened up on to a vast beach, beautiful teal waters and islands in the distance. It stopped me in my tracks and I’m pretty sure I murmured ‘WOW’ to myself. Who else am I going to say it to?
So, this is where I spent Valentine’s Day morning! If I’m going to be alone on Valentine’s Day, I might as well be somewhere beautiful! Paradise isn’t quite the same without someone special to share it with though. None-the-less beautiful!
After marvelling in the beauty of the beach for a few minutes, I began to focus on black ‘rocks’ strewn about the beach. Oh wait … those aren’t rocks … they move! They’re land iguanas. They are absolutely everywhere you look. They are walking beside you, in front of you, on the rocks, in the shallow water cooling off and hiding in the shade of the mangroves.
You can get to within about a meter of them before they start to get skittish. And it really depends on which one. Some of them I was able to get close too. Some of them I looked at once and backed off! They are mean looking creatures aren’t they? They look like small dinosaurs. It is absolutely incredible how colorful and textured they are. And those spiky things down their backs are awesome!
Once I had walked around a bit and taken some photos, I found a bench under the shade of a mangrove and plunked myself down. I set my camera down and dug out my bottle of water. When I turned to dig in my backpack I realized there was a big iguana only about three feet from me. He was snoozing in the shade and didn’t seem concerned with me at all. I rested a bit and then snapped a few photos of him and the birds that were coming and going. Earlier when I was taking photos, I had thought it would be nice to be able to get closer to the iguanas without them running away, but every time I carefully inched closer, they would take off. This guy, however was just enjoying the shade … as was I!
After about 10 minutes of rest in the shade, I noticed the iguana yawn and lick his lips. I put my camera up hoping he would do it again and that I could catch it. Next thing I knew, he turned directly toward me and paused. Snap, snap, snap and I got this …
Then he came for me, I swear he did! They don’t move all that fast, but when they are only three feet away and head straight for you, it seems like they are lightening fast! I don’t seriously think he was licking his lips and thinking about snacking on me. I think I was just sitting in the direction that he wanted to go. Regardless, it didn’t take me long to get out of his way!
Another great thing about this beach is it’s pelicans. It is hard to imagine just how large they are until you are somewhat close to them. They stand about 3 feet tall and their wing span must be close to double that. I enjoyed watching this one dive for it’s food, swallow an then take off and dive for the next delicious sushi meal! Check out the wing span.
Off to the side, on the rocks was another bird. I’m not sure if it was a pelican or not. He looked particularly large and had an orange beak. The other pelican’s didn’t, so not really sure what this one is. Something about him reminds me of an old man though.
After walking 5-7 kms and taking all of these pictures I was hot! You quickly have to get used to being soaked all of the time here. If you aren’t drenched in sweat from walking, you are drenched in the almost daily afternoon rains. Quite honestly though, the rains are nice and refreshing. No one seems to hide from the rain here like we do at home. Everyone goes about their business as usual and lots of people are just out walking around or kids playing in it.
I took a few minutes to drop my things off in the shade of a mangrove tree and then I headed to the water of the second beach … the ‘bay’ of Tortuga Bay. You aren’t allowed to swim at the first beach because of strong currents, so they recommend swimming in the bay. I was disappointed that the water wasn’t colder. I was hot and it wasn’t nearly cold enough to bring my temperature down! The water was also slightly murky, not clear like the waters I was swimming in yesterday. So, I didn’t even use the snorkeling gear that I had paid $3 to rent at a lovely hotel along the way!
Once I was out of the water I could see that rain was coming, so I decided to pack up and start on my way back as it would be another 40-60 minutes for me to get back out of the park on foot.
When I say that you could see the rain coming, I really mean it. You look up in the sky, off in the distance and there are huge black clouds sticking together. Then you can see separate streams of rain coming from those clouds. The photo I captured was earlier in the day, so you can’t actually see the rain, but it’ll give you a good idea of the foreboding sky that I was rushing to avoid!
You can also see a red line in this photo. It is a string that is up for nearly the full length of the beach reminding people not to go into the vegetation because it is pelican nesting grounds.
I’ll leave you with a couple more photos from the day. Along with all of these other great things I’ve talked about, there is a huge abundance of different birds here. I’m not a bird watcher per se, but put me in paradise with a bird in front of me and I’ll probably take it’s picture. Here are a few dainty little birds.
I arrived at the airport in The Galapagos Islands, stepped off the plane into sunshine and 27 degrees. I was instantly sweating, but didn’t mind one bit! We walked from the plane to the airport where there are signs to break arrivals into three groups. 1 – for people who live in the Galapagos, 2 – for nationals, people from Ecuador, 3 – Foreigners. It was quite funny to look at the three areas, it felt a little like segregation. I know they do this specifically because of the tourist cards and park entrance fees that you have to pay, but it was still funny to see 75 white people in one line and then two lines with 15 Ecuadorian’s in the other lines.
Thanks to Deanna, I was well prepared for when I landed. She had purchased my tourist ticket for me, and then advised that I fill it out on the plane. SO MANY tourists either didn’t have a tourist card, or they hadn’t yet filled it out. The sucky part was that I was ready to mosey on through, but I was at the back of the line, waiting for each person to be told the same thing … you need a tourist card filled out. Maybe they should make a fourth line – one for people who are supposed to have a tourist card but don’t.
Once I got to the front of the line, I had no problems as my tourist card was all ready for the officials. I paid my $100 park entry fee and went to collect my baggage. And then the real fun began!
Outside of the baggage area there were three men standing with signs waiting for specific tourists. None of the signs said Shari Tucker. I knew pretty quickly that something wasn’t quite right. However, I looked around the rest of the small airport to see if I could spot a sign with my name, an information booth or anyone who had either a Bamba Experience shirt on, or a Bamba logo on their sign. No luck.
I approached the men with signs, as I was one of the last people to leave the baggage area and yet three of them were still standing there. None of them spoke English. One of them had a sign that said Hotel Crossman x 1. This man tried to help me, but really didn’t understand English. I think I told him ‘agencia Bamba Experience’ but he didn’t know what that meant. I got my paperwork out and showed him, but all of my papers are written in English, for me to understand! This lovely man wanted to help and really wanted me to be the one for Hotel Crossman!
I tried to explain that I didn’t know what hotel I was staying at. Rose, at the Adventure Travel Company had been trying to reach Bamba the week before I left to get the name of my hotel in Galapagos, but hadn’t had any luck. I wasn’t particularly worried about it, because I assumed they would have signs with my name and all would be good. Not the case!
I finally found the emergency phone number Cristian (my first driver in Quito) had provided me with. I gave it to the man with the Hotel Crossman sign and he called. When he started talking to someone, I figured it would all get sorted out. Phew! Um, no, not the case. The Emergency number was for a Quito office and they advised him that because I was in the Galapagos they couldn’t help him. Now, I’m not sure that it was said quite like that, but in the end, the emergency number didn’t help any. Of course, most travel companies are closed on Sunday.
Next thing I knew, this guy was telling me to come quickly and get on a big tour bus. I hesitated and wondered if I should stay at the airport, but he seemed like he was trying to help me and I thought if worst came to worst, he would just take me into Puerto Ayora and we could hopefully sort it out there. I figured the tour bus transportation option was better than being left at the airport alone!
The bus took us about five minutes away along a narrow, bumpy road, down a steep and curvy road to a small ferry dock. We all piled off the bus (luggage all in tow) and he put my ruck sack ON TOP of the ferry. Really? Luggage on top of a boat, unsecured? It seemed odd, but it wasn’t raining and the crossing was only five minutes long.
I had already tweeted for help from my travel company at home and to Bamba Experience, but afterwards realized that none of them were open because it is Sunday.
I decided to be even more resourceful and go searching for someone who was bilingual – Spanish and English. I picked out the ‘whitest’ people I could find nearby and lucky me, they ‘hablo Anglais’. I explained my situation to them and asked if they could explain it all to the man who was trying to help me. They were fantastic and communicated back and forth fluently. It was then I found out that the man was planning to take me into Puerta Ayora to get further information and help get it sorted out. The problem was, if I went with him, he and I weren’t able to communicate because he didn’t speak English and my Spanish is WAY too basic for a problem like this.
We all got on the ferry and continued the conversation. The ferry crossing was $0.80. A fee I wasn’t prepared for. It was a tiny amount, but I had to go searching to find money.
After much more conversation and translation, my new friends, Tanya and Victor ended up coming with me and the man who may or may not be the guide that I needed. Tanya and Victor could have taken the bus into Puerta Ayora for something cheap like $1 or $2 per person. However, because I knew I was going to struggle with communicating, I offered to pay their fare if they’d like to travel with me and this ‘guide’.
In the end, they said they wanted to help me and yes, they would come along. I’m truly glad they did. The guide told them stories, history and facts in Spanish and Tanya translated most of them for me. Had I been alone, I never would have gotten any of this knowledge.
The guide then told us that he was supposed to do a couple of tours with the person he picked up before going back to the hotel. These tours were both along the way and if we didn’t do them now, we might not have the chance to. Oddly, the were tours that I had heard of, but they were not listed on my itinerary with Bamba Experience at all. So, then I started wondering more if he was the correct person that was supposed to pick me up.
Tanya and Victor were up for stopping at a couple of points along the way, so we did!
First stop – Los Gemelos which are huge sink holes that (from the translation I got) were caused by huge gas bubbles that burst and created the holes. We also saw a couple of different bird species.
Second stop – The lava tunnels. A tunnel that is 800 meters long and ranges in height from crawl spaces of about 1 foot in height to about the height of a house … except it is a tunnel underground.
Upon pulling into the ‘parking lot’, I ‘oooooo’d’ with excitement. There was a big turtle just hanging out right there having a little snack of grass.
Our guide left us at the entrance of the tunnel with his assistant (Patricio) to fumble our way through the tunnel. Conditions were damp and dark with uneven footing and a little slippery.
There were two tight spots where you had to get low and crawl through. Both of these crawl spaces were only about two meters long, so not incredibly difficult or scary, but very wet and dirty! My hands, knees and pants were covered in slimy mud. Not really a big deal as I was wearing the same pants I had worn the past two days! I’m backpacking you know! Now I have enough items that are dirty that I need to do laundry!
The tunnel was interesting to see, but not a ‘must do’ on a trip to the Galapagos.
Third stop – Rancho Primicia – an area where huge turtles roam around the grounds at their leisure and you can roam around freely with them. They suggest you stay back by two meters and that you approach from behind or from the side. If you stand directly in front of them, they may feel threatened. Did you know that turtles hiss and grunt when they are scared? Then they retreat into their shells.
Luckily, these turtles aren’t all that afraid of humans. If you do approach them from the front, they may grunt and hiss and duck their head for a minute, but it is short lived and then they are back to staring you down …. Or eating their grass lunch.
One of the coolest things that I saw here was a little yellow finch who was particularly attracted to one of the turtles I was photographing. Check out the finch sitting on the turtle shell!
I also got some great photos of the turtles. Something so interesting about these creatures that look pre-historic and who carry their homes on their back.
We also had a little ‘touristy’ fun here.
On the way out, our guide caught a glimpse of some fresh picked bananas hanging from a hook. He walked up and grabbed a few and then offered them to us as a snack. I’m not a huge fan of bananas, although I love banana flavor! This banana tasted great, although that might also have been because I didn’t get a chance for breakfast this morning. I figured it was safe to eat as I peeled it myself! I’m not sick yet … Thank you Dukoral and knock on wood.
After all of this, we finally made our way into Puerto Ayora where the man took me to Hotel Crossman and they were expecting me. In the end, it was the gentleman at the airport that was supposed to pick me up, but there was a lot of confusion because I hadn’t been given the name of my hotel and of course our language barrier.
I did as I said I would and paid for Tanya and Victor’s part of the ride into town. I didn’t have to pay for my own as it was included, after we figured out that I was the right person. They certainly didn’t expect me to pay their entire fare in, but they were super to help me out, take time out of their day to come with me and then Tanya also acted as translator for most of the history and interesting things that the man pointed out in Spanish. All in all, even though my costs were ‘all included’, paying $30 to have Victor and Tanya along was money well spent.
I barely got checked in to the hotel, dropped my bags off and my driver was rushing me to come with him so he could take me to get my lunch. He dropped me off at La Chocolate Restaurante.
Not exactly sure what I ate here as the waitress dropped my food off and then never came back to check on me. I think it was mashed potatoes with cheese, maybe pork? As the meat and then a cold rice and broccoli salad.