Day 1 in Galapagos
Galapagos may be on many people’s bucket list, so was it on mine.
After 3 full days in Quito, we finally embarked on our flight to Galapagos. We chose to travel on our own instead of taking a cruise tour. This means a bit more complicated logistics planning but it gives us more flexibility, which is something we value the most while traveling with kids.
First of all, there are 18 main islands, 3 smaller islands in Galapagos. But only 4 islands are human inhabited and only 2 have airports. We chose to fly in from Quito to Baltra Island, which takes roughly 1 hour 45 minutes.
Before embarking on the flight (even before checking in the luggage), we had to purchase a Migratory Transit Control Card ($20 per person) at Quito airport. These cards are valid for up to 60 days. Tourists are not permitted to stay in the Galapagos for over 60 days within one year from first date of entry.
After landing, we had to pay National Park Fee ($100 per person) at the Baltra aiport, as 97% of the entire area of the islands are national parks. That concludes all the major entry documentation required.
Outside the airport, we first took a 10 minute bus ride, then a 5 minute ferry to cross a narrow canal to reach the north tip of Santa Cruz Island.
We then took a 45 minute taxi to go to a town called Puerto Ayora, which is located on the south side of the island, a tourism hub for independent travelers to Galapagos. We noticed quite a drastic change in plantation during our ride - dry desert kind of look at the beginning and rain forest greens later.
Although our flight landed at 3:30pm, by the time we finally arrived at our airbnb, it was already near 6pm. We took a quick walk along the main street Baltra Avenue all the way to the water front (about only 5-10 minutes walk), where all the boat tours to other islands depart. We randomly picked a waterfront restaurant, expecting to have a quick dinner (since there was only one other table occupied). Surprisingly our food didn’t show up until 40 minutes later, and our kids were literally in zombie mode - resulting from a combination of hunger and sleepiness. Nevertheless, the sea food was fresh and we did enjoy it.
We even managed a quick stop at a major supermarket near the port on our way back, before we called it a day.
Our first stop on the second morning was the Charles Darwin Research Station. The facility houses an extensive collection of preserved specimens of Galápagos plant life. It was about 30+ minutes walk for us. But we did the lazy way and called a taxi that took literally 5 minutes. By the way, all the taxis on the island are white pickup trucks, quite different from what we were used to in other cities.
The tour guide cost only $1 for each adult at the station. Since we arrived late, and didn’t have enough time to complete a long walk with the guide, we opted to go straight to see the giant tortoises, Orion’s favorite animal.
That was definitely the highlight of our first day. Even I have read about the giant tortoises before the trip, seeing so many of them with my own eyes was still different!
After the giant tortoises, we headed straight back home and put our 2 year old for nap. For the sake of everyone’s well-being and sanity, it was essential that we gave enough naps for our 2 year old. Apollo, our 4 year old already grew out of it, although every day around 5-6pm we would experience an episode of craziness, in various forms. Well, that’s the charm of traveling with young children.
We hired Hector, the same taxi driver for my first sunset shoot at Cerro Mesa.
Sunset photography to me, after having kids, was luxury. Fortunately, sunset hours are just a little over 6pm in Ecuador. Golden hours are a lot shorter, and blue hours are practically none (less than 10 minutes), so I wouldn’t have the option to stick around. (Check out my last blog about Sunset Photography At Equator).
Our airbnb host introduced us to check out Cerro Mesa, a private farm, where we could enjoy an expansive view of Santa Cruz island. The view didn’t disappoint.
The only foreground I found was a hotel perched on top of a hill. Somehow, I still like the “emptiness” of the first photo, which is not my typical style. Check out one of my earlier posts about composition).
We did better at dinner this time on a very touristic food street, at a restaurant called Williams, recommended by our airbnb host. It was a typical grilled fish and lobster meal but with much faster service than our first night.