Galápagos 101

Ok, everyone knows the Galapagos because this guy Charles Darwin came here and observed how the animals, and faunas evolved so he presented us with evolution theory.  Everyone also knows Galapagos because it is a pretty popular tourist destination.  However, unless you have a shit ton of money, you are probably not going to see everything here. 
The archipelago consists of three main islands:  Isla Santa Cruz, the economy center of the Galapagos, Isla San Cristobal, the governing center of the archipelago, and Isla Isabela, the largest island of the three.  Outside of the big three where speed yachts converted ferries that travel to and from daily, there are Floreana, Santa Fé, Espanola, Santiago, Pinzon, Rabida, Machena, Genovesa, Fernandina, Baltra, Daphne, Mosquera, and other smaller islands right next to the big ones like Bartolome.  You get the idea, the place is big.  The archipelago is big, ferry travel between each big island is 2 and half hours, and sometimes longer if the sea condition gets crazy and if you are on the Neptuno 1.  There are many dive sights too such as Darwin/wolf, Daphne/Mosquera, Gordon Rocks and Leon Dormido/Kicker Rock. 
Due to the fact that the average traveler can’t do everything, there are cruises that tackles popular points in 3, 5, or 8 days, even that, in 8 days and at least 1500 cash dollars later, you probably only get through a quadrant of the places.  There are also people, who are like myself, who think that freedom is important and doesn’t want to be tied down to premade itineraries, that choose to explore themselves.  I went to the 3 big islands and went to all the free access places and bought day tour of the places I want to go but can’t by myself.  The day tours range from 70-120 dollars, and even thou it’s expensive as fuck, most of them are very well organized.  Of course, there are also ultra expensive tours that hit up all the diving spots, but I don’t have the money or am I a certified diver, but I would be interested to do that solely if I ever come back.  To get certified here is quite expensive and I wouldn’t waste my funemployeed days doing work when I can do that in Santa Barbara for cheaper. 
OK so here goes.
Baltra Island:
Baltra is where the most busy airport located, San Cristobal also has one but Baltra gets the most traffic.  This island is only a channel of water away from Santa Cruz and on the map you can barely tell they are separated.  However, this place is quite big, it would take me more than a day to walk all over the place here.  On the north of Baltra is another island not too far separated called Seymour where the north part is habituated by frigate birds, red and blue foot boobies.  You can pay I think 80 to go here and explore and watch birds, but I don’t have money to watch birds. 
Daphne and Mosquera are small islands off Baltra.
Santa Cruz:
You cross the channel and get on a bus for 2 dollars.  Then the bus takes about an hour, 42km, to the town, Puerto Ayora.  This town is the biggest town in Galapagos, but most tourists stay 3 blocks within the port, which is also the biggest and kind of fancy port in the islands.  This is also the most polluted, expensive and I would like to point out least fun for exploring around.  However, the town is fun; there is a plaza by the port, where people play ecua-volley (yea, that’s what the volley ball with tall nets is called, the most popular sport in Ecuador, as far as I have observed), skate, and even bboy.  The pier lights up with neon colors at night where you can see fishes, rays and even shark, a great spot to drink beer, chill, and apparently writing this.  There is market near the port by the ATM machines that sell relatively cheap bread, creampuffs, and relatively cheap beer.  Club brand is best domestic beer in Ecuador, if you get the big bottle you can return the bottle for 50 cents, but people don’t tend to work past 12 on Sundays or work at all.  As for food, there are really whitewashed food places by the pier, and 3 blocks down there is a street filled with restaurants that offer menu of the day for 4-5 bucks.  However, that is not cheap, the food is shit and the portion is small, not even slightly comparable to Colombia.  However, sometimes, I’m not sure if it’s on Sundays or if it was because it was flag day weekend, they put all the tables in the middle of the street and it becomes a huge food fair kind of thing.  People soon crowds in and I thought it was really dope. I sat there eating and drinking beer and met a lot of people.  Normally, if you really walk a couple blocks down, you’ll find food way cheaper.  Tour agencies are everywhere and they don’t really lower their prices like everywhere else in south america do.  They just present you with a cheaper option without much details and in the end you get fucked if you don’t ask.  I tried to book a cruise just to see how it feels to live on the sea, but I told them I have no money and they come with some sketchy ass itinerary by just pointing on the map.  I had to ask them what it really includes to know its kind cheap and bullshit.  I have also met people who absolutely loved their cruises, so if you got the plata, its a pretty good idea. 
There are a lot of stuff you can do for free in Santa Cruz, and its good to explore.  First, the most popular spot, Tortuga Bay.  You go down the left side of the town and keep on the trail that leads you to Tortuga Bay.  The first beach has a lot of under current but you can surf there even though the break isn’t really good there.  The second beach is enclosed by the bay, so you can snorkel and swim there.  Visibility is good unless you have unusual low tide and high tide like these past 3 days.  They offer boat tours to snorkel little bit out, but you can rent a kayak and just go out yourself for way cheaper since its calm water. 
Next spot is Playa Alemanes.  This place is across the water from the pier.  You just give the boat taxi 80cents and they’ll take you to the trail head.  It’s a pretty small beach with calm water, I saw a sea snake there. 
Keep going down the same trail you’ll arrive at Las Grietas.  It’s a volcanic split that got filled with really clear water.  You aren’t supposed to jump in, but you do it anyways.  It’s 13m deep.  Place is very beautiful and you can snorkel through the channel even thou you aren’t going to see anything unless you go a bit deeper. 
In the other side of the town is the Darwin research station, there is nothing to see there except land iguanas and giant turtles enclosed by stone fence.  There are better places to see them in the wild.  Near the Darwin station, there are Playa Estacion and other beaches, they aren’t that good snorkelwise, but if you go up the beach through the volcanic rocks you can find a couple sea iguana nests. 
Inland Santa Cruz, there is the El Chato Ranch where you can visit giant turtles up close.  It’s like jurassic park with turtles.  Kind of a cool spot, but its far.  Taxi truck there is 35 dollars I think.  I walked there and it took 3 hours.  Then I hitched hike a truck back because taxi drivers with people won’t take me, so just take a taxi.  You can also rent a bike there, but its kind of hilly since inland is much higher.  The bike quality also isn’t very good if the chain breaks you have to carry a bike too. 
Isla Isabela:
The largest Island by a whole stretch.  There are a bunch of active volcanoes on that island with Sierra Negra being the most famous.  It’s last explosion was 2005, but the crater is 9 by 10km large so no lava actually came out pouring.  Sierra Nevada is a great place for a tour since they don’t just take you to the crater.  They take you beyond to volcano Chico where you pass by a volcanic waste land of craters, tunnels, sulfurs, sulfates and volcano cactuses.  It looks kind of like mars and at the end you can have a scenic view of northern Isabela:  the town Puerto Villamil is in the very South.  There are a lot of Finches and swabbler species on the mountain.  I even saw a finch killing another one, it was crazy.
Now let’s talk about the town Puerto Villamil.  This town is more rural than the Puerto Ayora and much smaller.  However, I couldn’t get the chicken skewer lady to sell me a chicken for 50 cents less. The town a bit walk from the pier and it’s also next to a large section of beach, but marine area next to the pier is the best spot.  The beach on the right of the pier has penguins swim in the water.  I love penguins and you should too, and I didn’t have to put on parkas to see these Galapagos penguins.  There are also sea lions.  The difference between sea lions and seals is that sea lions have ears, look, I’m learning something here too.  The sea lions are very playful here, much unlike the ones in San Cristobal. 
On the right of the pier, there is a nice snorkeling spot called Concha de Perla, the pearl shell.  Nice spot to snorkel during high tide.  I saw spotted eagle Ray, star fish, and penguins.  There is two spot signs when you swim a bit further, if you just jump over the rocks and not pay attention to the stop sign, the area beyond is really dope filled with colorful volcanic rocks and fishes. 
A bit beyond Concha Perla is La Calera.  Take a kayak out there and you can find blue footed boobies by groups, the king penguin,  and pelicano nests.  Inside the Calera, is Tintorerra.  Tintorerra is a small “island” that has the blue sharks of the same name as residents.  You need to book a tour for this as you aren’t allowed to swim with the sharks because their habitat is protected there, but you see them from above.  Tintorerra is also a good snorkel spot because sharks tend to go to places with a lot of turtles(Galapagos sharks feed on turtles and sea lions) and turtles tend to go to fishes.  Unlike these small sharks, the bigger things go for planktons and you need to find them far out. 
Another popular day tour spot is Los Tuneles.  The fishermen found this place.  There are volcanic formation of tunnels and bridges.  A very scenic place, and also where boobies go to lay eggs.  The snorkel there is good too, but the water was extremely choppy that day.  I saw 5 giant sea turtles, eels, luminescent fish, golden rays, sea horse, and white tipped sharks sleeping in caves.  It’s a must go in Isabela.  I also need to note that los tuneles is 45 minutes speed boat from Villamil.  In the way, the guide said he saw humpbacks and we did see birds flying around an area, but the waves were so tough that day we couldn’t get close.  Normally, an area with an usual amount of bird circling means whales are present because there are an abundant amount of plankton that attracts whales and fishes and birds are attracted to the fishes. 
On the other side of the town Villamil, there is a trail that ends at the wall of tears, Muro de Lagrimas.  The wall was partially built by prisoners who were forced to do it.  They also died building it, so its a memorial of past cruelty.  The wall is not too much to behold, but the trail leads to beaches, a spot called El Estero where a shitload of pelicans can be seen feeding, a lookout called Cochilla that overlooks southern Isabela, and many ponds.  You can also find turtles on the side of the trail.  I rented a bike to go there and the bike chain broke despite its a decent mountain bike.  It has been raining on and off, so the chain has too much rust I guess.  Actually, it started raining really hard on the descent of Sierra Negra that I was totally soaked that day.  I carried the bike around for 2 hours but it was a cool trail.
The area above the trail, there is turtle breeding center where you can find baby turtles. You can also find the flat shelled turtle that you can’t find in other places.  I learned that male turtle rape female turtle to reproduce, dead serious, and that Europeans put turtles in danger when they brought horses, cows and other domestic animals in from mainland.  During the transfer, they also brought bugs and ants by accidents.  That is why they do bag checks at each pier for fruit, flowers and animals so species don’t get introduced to different islands.  There is also a pond where you can find flamingos and red beak birds.
One of my favorite thing in Isabela is that there are a lot of birds there.  You sit on the beach with penguins and you see a bunch of scissortails fly above you.  Then there is the boobies and the pelicans.  It is really serene.  I really wanted to see a male scissortail, tijereta, or the magnificent frigate bird doing the mating call when it blows up its red puff up close, but I have only saw it from far away. 
San Cristobal:
The smallest island of the three is also my favorite.  The first thing that stood out for San Cristobal is how many god damn sea lions are there.  They are all over every beach and everything near the ocean.  They are also quite possessive and mean.  They constantly keeps me away from the water or get in my way.  Make noises at me and charge toward me only to swim aside at the last second. These are some big sea lions and I don’t fuck with them, but if you have a sea lion fetish, a lot people do, San Cristobal is your destination. 
The town in San Cristobal is called Banquerizo Moreno, I’m just going to short it as BM from now.  This town is a mixture of the other two and a bit cleaner too.  In Puerto Ayora, gringos, well, my scientific guess is Europeans, litter cigarrette butts all over the place, only to have the clean up people next morning to pick up by the bags.  During days where you see a lot of tourists, there are more trash in the ocean too.  In Villamil, the villagers just didn’t give much fuck about trashes because there are black volcanic rocks everywhere.  All the towns are also constantly under construction, building things no one needs and wants, all for tourism money.  Anyways, BM is kind of cool, it has the lovely vibe and more nature.  Things are also slightly cheaper and it did help that it was sunny while I was there. 
A very popular beach in front of the university is Playa Mann.  A very nice tiny beach, good for snorkeling to the other side and has a lot of sea lions resting there.  It is a short walk from town and a must visit.  You can find all kinds of stuff snorkeling there.
Keep going down the same trail you get to the interpretation center which I don’t know what it’s for.  Next up is another beach that I don’t know the name.  This beach a bit bigger.  Going behind the beach on the trail leads you to Las Tijeretas.  The place is name after the frigate birds because it’s their popular mating ground.  I seen none there because it wasn’t season.  The bird nests are up the trail to the mountain.  I found couple other nests there.  Down the mountain there is a cave/bay area with clear water that offers good snorkeling.  There is drop area where the water gets deep and there is a family of turtles on the ledge.  There are a lot of colorful rock formation and fishes.  It is one of my favorite places.  You can also hike down the mountain on the other side, but they trail leads you to nowhere so don’t do it. I did it and I wish I snorkeled a bit more.
On the other side of the town is the beach La Loberia known for the sea lion colony.  I heard it is also a dope snorkeling spot, but I didn’t get to because by the time I got there, it got dark.  It is quite a pain in the ass to get there, you pass by unmarked road and construction on a hill to get there.  It would be a lot easier if they let me pass through the marine base. 
In the mainland, there is a volcano crater called El Junco.  Take a taxi there cost 30 if you tag in Puerto Chino too.  The driver waits for you and then drive you back so its kind of worth it.  It’s a volcano crater lake kind of like Quilotoa.  Place is a easy walk up the stairs, but go between 11-12 because otherwise its all fog.  It is a pretty scenic place because birds fish in the lake too. 
You can do Puerto Chino and the turtle reserve on the same trip.  I have seen enough turtles to just go to Puerto Chino.  During season, you can find all the blue footed boobies on a hill near the beach, but once again I found none.  It is a pretty good snorkel spot, I saw a bunch of tropical fishes and 2 turtles swimming to a rock area in the middle of the ocean.  The water is very clear with a really white sand back drop. 
The most important spot to go is the tour to Leon dormido/Kicker round.  It is two giant rocks in the middle of the ocean.  There you can find a sharks, turtles and manta rays.  People say they saw hammerheads there but I didn’t see any.  My gopro lock also broke and the casing started leaking water there, but it was a choppy day and given that its a diving spot with deep water, nothing I got on camera was very clear anyways.  It is a 45minute to an hour boat ride to the spot and then they take you to other spots too to fill up the day, but the other spots aren’t too impressive. 
Well, that’s everything I have done in the Galapagos.  I wanted to go on another day tour to either Santa fe because I heard good things or Bartolome because I saw dope pictures.  However I didn’t get to because I needed to change my flight from Thursday to Tuesday, which is tomorrow but they closed up early on Sunday so I had to go in at 8AM to change my flight and the tour boat leaves at 630.  So, I spent the day drinking beer and swimming at the beach.  The tide was extremely low this morning and got extremely high at noon.  It was pretty fantastic to see actually.  Judging by the tide, riding out today would have been another misery and water would be choppy again, so I might have saved up some plata. 
Now I’m going to talk about the ninth layer of hell, the goddamn yacht converted ferry rides.  It’s two and half hours of hell that probably need a chiropractor’s visit right after.  The very first boat ride started with the boat rocking in all directions and people crowded arm to arm just looking at each other with discomfort and waiting to see who’s the first to go.  The condition was at sea was shit and 2 person threw up.  The boat dropped a bunch of times and I thought I might have broke a hip bone or two.  The second boat was uneventful and given it was in an afternoon, also not crowded.  On top of that I slept thru it because I was tired even thou the boat was sideways most of the time.  The third boat ride was even better except an old french man started throwing up over and over again that created a chain reaction among his french peers.  The fourth boat ride was the worse, and I felt my stomach, intestines and livers and kidneys are all stuck in the wrong places.  It reminds me of continuously trying flips and landing on my ass hard.  It was just terrible and it’s because the boat Neptuno 1 isn’t fit for duty.  The guy working on the boat reserved himself the least likely to puke seat.  Just don’t get on that boat.  I rather die.  The day tour rides aren’t smooth either, but its open air I just get splashed with water, but I’m going in soon anyways so it didn’t matter much. 
Anyways, that’s all I have to write about the Galapagos for now, unless I remember if I forgot something.  Tomorrow, I’m going to be in Guayaquil for a day and heat out to Banos.  I elected to skip Montanita and Ayampe because I don’t want to waste the little time I can’t afford on European orgy towns.  I really wanted to go to Ayampe to surf, but its a bit far, maybe next time.  I have spent a lot of time on the beach anyways.  I’m still looking to climb Chimborazo and now it seems I have enough time to be ready. 
Hope you all read through this and enjoyed it, I’ll fix the phone mistakes when I have access to my computer.  Normally I write stories but this one is more informational because I have too much to write and its hard to write the day to day I normally do.
Also, during some of the snorkeling sessions, it kind of baffles me when some people just go back to the boat early because the water is “too cold”.  The water wasn’t too cold and even if it’s freezing, I’ll get my money’s worth.
Also, as a note, don’t wear Nike frees here, 8 days later my shoes are more volcanic rocks on the bottom than foam. 
Night time food scene in Santa Cruz.
Camera shy.
Volcán Chico.
Lobo del mar.
Penguin in action.
Las Tijeretas.
Las Grietas.
Sea turtle feeding.
Giant turtle.
Arraia, araya, rays.
Blue boobie with her baby. The blue foot has no use, just the texture happens to reflect blue.

White tipped sharks


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