Because we left for the airport so early, we were able to get there by 6am with no problem! Our flight was moved up to 9:40, so we didn't have to wait at the airport for too long.
Since the Galapagos are islands far removed from the mainland, they take foreign contaminants very seriously. These could be seeds, bugs, or any fresh food that could have bugs or disease. Because of these precautions the flight attendants sprayed our carryon luggage, and once we landed, there was a K-9 unit smelling everyone’s bags.
I was so surprised when we got there. I was not expecting the islands to be so large. They are more desert-like than jungle-like, and there were a lot of people living on Santa Cruz. All things I was not expecting.
Also, visiting the islands is expensive. There are a lot of fees that add up in addition to normal traveling expenses. In Quito we had to pay $20 at the checkpoint; then you pay $100 when you land, then $5 for the bus, $1 for the ferry, and $25 for the taxi to the hotel. Also, when you go to a new island, you have to pay another fee. Our ferry was $25 each, plus $1.50 for the water taxi, and then when we landed on Isabella, it was another $10 each. Small fees, but they add up.
That being said, the Galapagos are just as amazing as people say they are. On the taxi ride to our hotel, we saw giant tortoises by the road, and as we walked around the port in town, we saw sea lions sleeping on benches. We walked to Tortuga Bay and saw cacti, marine iguanas, and pelicans. We were able to see all of this wildlife without even trying!
Tortuga Bay is a white sand beach and lagoon inside the National Park. There is an area for surfing, and the lagoon is calm enough for swimming. You can also see sea turtles and other marine life if you go snorkeling.
That night we saw a sea lion sleeping on a bench right in the town square; when we went back the next day, we saw that the square was actually the local fish market, and the sea lion was there begging for scraps like a street cat! The fishermen were stepping over and around him filling orders. It was so funny to see!
On our last day on Santa Cruz Island, we went to the Charles Darwin Research Station. It’s run by scientists and National Park personnel and is mainly a giant tortoise preserve and breeding center. We were able to take a tour and see tiny little one-year-old tortoises and huge 150-year-old tortoises. It’s crazy how big they can get!
After a 2-hour ferry ride, we made it to Isabella Island, and tomorrow we will go to the school to learn about what our volunteer positions will be!