During my three month backpack tour through South America I ended up going to the Galapagos Islands. A visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site was definitely one of my highlights. Why did I go? The weird and honest truth is that I have a thing for penguins. I think they’re just the coolest animals alive. It was my dream to swim with them in the Galapagos penguins natural habitat. Of course sailing for a week in one of the most beautiful nature reserves in the world was a pretty good reason to go too!!
+ Tips for your sailing boat to book in the Galapagos Islands
I am a solo traveller and it is particularly important when you travel solo that you make sure you book the right boat. My trip to the Galapagos Islands was booked just 3 days in advance at a travel agency in Quito. It was very spontaneous and I just mentioned to the agency I wanted to see penguins and sleep on a cool boat with young people. As naïeve as I was I got fooled into a trip to penguin island. Of course there was none, so my recommendation do some research about the islands you want to visit, so you don’t get caught out like me!
Anyway I ended up booking the Encantada boat which holds 12 persons. This is a cheaper option but if you want to be around young people this is the boat for you. During the week I saw the luxury boats which had people on it of older generations, which are available if that is your thing. I shared my double room with a German girl and the group was a nice mix of people from various backgrounds. This made it a very fun trip. Years later I’m still friends with a Dutch couple from the Encantada boat. The size of the boat does sound on the small side, but for me it was perfect. Dinners are served inside, but outside on the deck you can enjoy a beer while watching the bright stars flickering at the horizon.
+ Stay at Isla Santa Cruz
From Quito or Guyaguil you fly into Baltra or San Christobal Island. The most common airport at is on Baltra Island as many tours start here. I went to Isla Santa Cruz for two nights to discover this island first. I stayed in a hostel close to the main street where you find many travel agencies.
You can not miss the snorkel trip to Kicker Rock or León Dormido in Spanish. These two volcanic rocks stand out in the middle of the sea and are about 140 meters tall. It was quite a boat ride but I love being on a boat so for me it was happy days. At Kicker rocks I left the main group for a while and went for a bit of a tour myself to snorkel between the two huge rocks. At this point six Galapagos sharks were swimming beneath me! They don’t attack but still, it was scary and cool at the same time. I would highly recommended to go here. Years later this is still an experience I talk about, it made a huge impression on me.
At Santa Cruz itself is Galapagos Beach which beautiful to visit. It’s about a half an hour walk but then you get to an amazing white bright sandy beach with clear blue water. If you’re really lucky you get to see some sea turtles!
+ Encantada Cruise
My cruise at the Galapagos Islands started after two days on Isla Santa Cruz. Some people go on the cruise straight away but I’m happy that I experienced both. We did the western island loop for six whole days and visited six different islands. The island included were Santa Cruz, Isabella, Fernandia, Santiago, Rabida and Daphne. Juan the tour guide was very knowledgeable. The marine life in the Galapagos is incredible due to three major oceanic currents coming in. With 400 species of fish (41 unique to the island), 23 species of reptiles, the only marina lizard in the world, the Galapagos penguins, smallest sea lions of the seven species in the world, largest tortoise in the world and of course the world’s most rare ecosystem where reptiles are on top of the food chain, this and many more reasons are why the Galapagos Islands are just so amazing.
During the cruise there were many highlights; sailing over the equator, swimming with sea lions, meeting sharks as well as numerous of the unique fish species and beautiful vegetation on the volcanic islands. I was lucky enough to encounter the blue footed booby bird and the ultimate highlight was achieving my ultimate goal… I got to swim with the penguins!
+ Food tastes better on board
In between swimming, snorkelling, napping and visiting islands I experienced some amazing food. The chef made the most delicious lunch, dinners and snacks during the days. Nothing is better than coming back from a trip and smelling freshly baked pie. I think I had three plates a night because I was so hungry from all the activities and the food was so delicious. I spent 1600 euro for the boat trip and the flight. Everything (expect alcohol) was included on the boat. You might think that’s expensive, but it’s a once in a lifetime iconic experience!