Day 81: Quito – Puerto Ayora, Galapagos

Monday, June 17th, 2019.

Day 02 of Galapagos – West, Central and East islands on board of the Estrella del Mar by G-Adventures

Todays plan:

“Flights from Quito to Baltra depart between 6:40am and 9:40am depending on the day of the week. These will arrive into the Galápagos between 9:30am and 12:30pm with a short refuelling stop in Guayaquil (you will not disembark the plane). You will generally arrive at the boat in time for lunch on Day 2 before the afternoon activity.

The Consejo de Gobierno (local government council) have implemented a system of Transit Control Cards at a fee of $20 USD per person. This card is to be purchased in CASH at a counter in the Quito airport before boarding the flight to the Galápagos. Please retain this card along with your passport as you will be required to present this upon arrival to the Galápagos Islands. Please note that this applies to all tourists entering the Galápagos Islands and is a supplement to the existing entry fee to the National Park and is not controlled by tour operators or travel agencies. It is the first of a number of initiatives to track, control, and maintain the sustainable tourism targets set out by the Galápagos National Park and the Ecuadorian government in an attempt to preserve the fragile environment of the archipelago.

The Ecuadorian government currently levies a Galápagos Islands Park entry fee of USD100 per person. This is payable at the airport upon arrival in the park. It is not included in the cost of the tour, and must be paid in CASH. This fee funds park maintenance and supervision in the Galápagos as well as ecological study, conservation, and infrastructure development in Ecuador’s other National Parks. Entry fees and the funds they generate for the National Park System are among measures taken by the Ecuadorian government to protect its natural heritage.

Highland giant Tortoises visit
Head to Santa Cruz’s verdant highlands and the El Chato Reserve. There are many reserves in this area, such as El Manzanillo, Primicias, and El Chato II, making this is a perfect place to see giant tortoises in their natural environment.

Lava tunnels visit
Check out Santa Cruz’s lava tunnels, massive underground lava tubes found throughout the island that, in some places, extend several kilometres.

Sail from Santa Cruz Island to Chinese Hat

I get up at 03:30 am as our flight leaves Quito at 06:42 am. I had another imagination when reading take an early flight. I drop my cold weather luggage at the consierge, deposit for no cost, and leave my big luggage there.

They said the hotel will provide breakfast from 04:00 am. As we all know this, I am rather surprised as there is breakfast available at 04:00 am. I eat fast, at 04:15 am the bus leaves to the airport.

We all get sleepy in the bus and drive to the airport. The driver takes a rough road to avoid early traffic?! At the airport our guide does the 20 USD airport tax on flights to galapagos, then we drop our luggage. I already checked in online. The plane is full to the last place, mostly travel groups.

FLIGHT 13: 17.06.2019 Avianca AV1632 Quito, Ecuador (UIO) 06:42 – Baltra (GPS) 9:20; flight time 2h30m; Economy; checked luggage: 23 kg, 10 + 5 kg carry on; Seat 29C; Airbus A321; 500 star alliance bonus miles

On arrival we show passport on domestic flight and pay 100 usd per person galapagos national park tax. The girl at the counter collects a lot of 100 USD bills.

Then the luggage is checked by a drug dog. Fucking dog fells in love with my bag. I follow the officer and open my bag. He shows me a maybe one kgs block of cannabis, “do you have something like this?”, of course I donot even know what that is. After five minutes I can go.

In front of the exit Indira is waiting, my Galapagos Chief Experience Officer. She looks like early 20s and is unquestionable local. We wait all together, then we take a bus to the ferry Baltra island – Santa Cruz. The ferry ride is 5 mins, then we take the next bus to cross santa cruz island to the city. Indira talks a lot.

The bus is latest technology newly in use …

At the island we get our luggage more or less checked by biodiversity control. On the pier sealions are lying everywhere sleeping.

We take dinghis (zodiacs) to the estrella del mar …

… and get our assigned cabins.

Lunch is small buffet style for 14 persons on the boat and ok.

After lunch we disembark again with the dinghis to visit the Charles Darwin Research Center, the turtoise breeding center and have some free time in the city to get cash, supermarket stuff and souvenirs as this is the best opportunity. Indira changed the schedule fromn today to day 8. We will visit the highlands then. nobody complains.

We walk through Santa Cruz city to the Darwin center. On the way we see lava iguanas

The first super sleepy marine iguana

And another sleepy sealion, waiting for trash from fish cleaning by the fishermen.

Close to the charles darwin research center there is the local cementary.

We enter the Charles Darwin center and do an interpretation walk first. A lot of cactus and sleepy marine iguana. Indira explains everything detailed.

We reach the tortoise breeding station

And Diego, a Male turtoise, last survivor of his kind, who procreated more than 700 ancestors. He did when I was there, too.

The also breed land iguanas.

And we visited George, last of his kind. They tried to breed him, but George died without ancestors. So they built him a shrine. Skurril.

The we go to the supermarket, no snacks, no coke light. So we go to rock cafe for a beer or two and the to the pier to board estrella again.

The view of my room is not bad.

I go to the main deck to get my first briefing and dinner. I am super tired.

Accomodation: on board Estrella del Mar, Galapagos Islands

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