Galapagos Islands overall – good, bad & ugly

Should you go? Will you like it? Why would you go? What are the pros and cons? What are the bad things about Galapagos? Things I loved, hated and was shocked about. This is my last post on the islands, I hope everything has helped you out if you are reading this blog.

Good

The abundance of animal, plant and marine life and the proximity of them to humans. I don’t think you can get like this with animals and marine creatures anywhere else in the world and they are not scared of us at all, we are on the their turf. This makes Galapagos a completely unique place. Something very special.

You can visit the islands in many ways, if I had my tent and hammock with me it again would have changed everything. But it is a place that can definitely be done cheap. The main key to this is having a kitchen, being able to cook food. Eating out is expensive.

There is a huge range of tours, for backpackers, catering up to people who are filthy rich. So there is good diversity not only in the land and life but in what you can do and how you can do it.

Bad

$110 to enter the park for foreigners and $10 for locals? Come on. That’s it outrageous. And if they care so much about preservation and using the money to sustainably develop the islands then we all should be paying the same price. Ecuadorians also get cheap airfare so are able to travel to and from the islands very easily due to the governments fuel subsidiary.

The place is overpopulated for what it is. My guide-book, published in 2010 said the population in total was 20,000 people. Three years on and it is now in actual fact… 30,000. How far will this go? Still hard for me to imagine there are that many people and hordes of tourists passing through such a fragile place every year. It’s no secret we are the most destructive species on earth, intended or not. What will the population be in two or three more years as tourism continues to grow (Ecuador is one of the top ten destinations in the world now) and more locals flock to the islands for… mooooney.

UNESCO has labelled the Galapagos Islands as being in DANGER. So this is all serious business. What will prevail, preservation, meaningful, useful preservation and seriousness, or the dollar?

Ugly

The rubbish. How on earth can the Galapagos Islands be so untidy and polluted in some parts? Have we absolutely no respect for any environment at all? Even something as special as this? Do we need to fuck everything up before we learn? Anyway not going into detail, same shit, similar story across much of South America and much of the world but Galapagos? Baffled. Astonished.

Dumb ass westerners with no brains and too much money. They are everywhere. I am not sure everyone who visits the islands gives a shit about Darwin’s finches or sustainability, history, evolution or more. Galapagos should be a place of much learning and enlightenment, and it should be looked after, leading me to my last ugly point…

Full of shit people branding their company as being sustainable or eco-friendly but doing nothing beyond that – simply branding themselves so took look good, or like they actually give a shit about animals, plants, nature, the environment in total. It goes a lot further than making your company look green. And this is something that applies all over the world from food shops to boat companies to hiking business. Leave bullshit for Hollywood. They got it covered.

The above is a phenomenon I am so sick of seeing and really pisses me off. I see it back home in Australia, throughout South America, and even Galapagos. Come on. Pretending to be green isn’t going to solve anything, in fact, it’s only going to slow and already slow change that should be happening at a much faster pace and sadly is a global condition. Not a one-off.

So… Sure, you should go, but as my friend Lukas said, don’t go there looking for a cute animal experience where you can be all cuddly with seals and touch things that you would not normally touch, see or even be close to. Go there to learn, to experience, to respect and to widen your eyes and understanding of the world and something as raw and real as evolution and diversity which Ecuador is number one for, especially Galapagos. But be respectful, be mindful.

… And please, put your fucking rubbish where it belongs!

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Galapagos Islands: the money side of things

All things money:

Fixed costs
Flight with Aerogal, return to Quito via Guayaquil $450
Park entry fee and airport fee $110
9x nights accommodation (at $10 per night) $90
Inter-island transport (at $25 per boat, 4x boats) $100
Taxis across whole stay (I walk a lot) $5
Tips and skiff boat fees $5
Isabela entry fee $5
Total $760

Variables (San Cristobal)
Disposable underwater camera $18
Ecuadorian flag and Galapagos bag patches $4
Food Groceries $45
Bike hire for one day $10
Day tour with Chulo’s Tours $40
Internet $10
Total $127

Variables (Santa Cruz)
Beer and cigarettes $20
Food & Groceries $40
Bike hire (motorised) for one day $15
Internet $10
Total $85

Variables (Isabela)
Food & Groceries $15
Internet $2
Total $17

Total (all inclusive): approx $990 for 10 days on the Galapagos Islands.

A few things…

I left my tent on the mainland of Ecuador, I should have bought it, there are plenty of places to camp and I am sure people would let you camp for a small fee if you were to ask them to use your land. There are some areas that are off limits. I was only paying $10 accommodation per night, but it is nice to be outdoors, so maybe a tent is a good idea. If you have a hammock, that could be useful too, I also left mine on the mainland this time. Next time I will bring both. You can definitely be sneaky and camp in places where you are not meant to or squat for a night. :p

I am obsessed with ceviche and encebollado, I ate these a lot in the mornings, they cost more than normal, I also drink a lot of coffee, everyday, and I’ve become a bit addicted to glass bottled Coke since coming to South America, so I spent a bit more on these items. Everything is a bit more expensive on the islands. If you want to really save bring canned stuff that you can cook with from the mainland and buy pasta, vegetables and fruit when you arrive. You can’t bring any fresh food onto the islands.

I am a bit of an internet addict, I also realised I hadn’t backed up photos in a while so did this sometimes at night as nights were very chilled. It was also Christmas so I was on Skype a bit to people back home. Internet is generally slower and costs more than the mainland though there are some fast outlets.

I know of people who paid around $200 for their flights, non-Ecuadorians too, I thought I got a decent deal for $450, but there is definitely room to save money, book ahead, and try and get something really cheap. Aerogal was a decent Airline to fly with, no complaints from me. Note: you don’t exit the plane at the stopover in Guayaquil.

Try and stay for at least two weeks, I lost a lot of time in my ten days with flying in and out and then the speedboats inbetween islands. Two weeks would have been ideal for a budget visit of the islands and I could have bummed around Isabela even more. Though, I think, a month would be the best.

Hope this is of some use to other travellers. Thanks to Brian and Lukas for a lot of tips and help before and during my stay. If you have any questions or need more information on anything, please ask!