Visiting the Galapagos Islands has earned a spot on bucket-lists across the globe. The reason is obvious, but the price tag is hefty.
To the average twenty-something, with two weeks vacation a year, it is a postcard of the unobtainable. In similar fashion to many before me, I spent hours scouring through the endless photographs of volcanic rock and surreal ocean life in the Galapagos that you can find on the internet. I dreamt of adding to the vast collection of Galapagos photography, but the price tag that accompanied the ability to take these photos was simply unrealistic. Or at least that is what I believed.
It was while I was lost deep in this vortex of Galapagos internet searches that I came across a website that changed everything. It is known that the best, and only, way to experience the most remote islands in the archipelago is aboard a ship. These ship’s can range from small catamarans to monstrous yachts, encompassing the entire spectrum of budget to luxury accommodation. The website I found was, Galapagos Last Minute, a website that offers last minute deals on ships that still had vacancies. Working in an office, my schedule was dictated by client projects so needless to say, my vacation days were not very flexible. Flexible schedules and last minute deal websites normally do not go hand in hand, so unfortunately, although the website offered great deals it did not seem to be a good fit. But it gave me hope. The reality of the The Galapagos is that it is a premium destination, but it made me think maybe there was another way, maybe I could find an alternative to meet my budget. I am of the mindset that if you can’t afford a hotel, camp. If you can’t afford restaurants, cook. In my case, I couldn’t afford the desired accommodation aboard a ship, but I did not let that stop me. With more research I discovered that I did not need to stay on a liveaboard boat, I could find cheap accommodation on the mainland and take day trips to the surrounding islands. So I said screw-it and I booked my flight, all I needed to do was get there. I would figure the rest out along the way.
I must have earned some good karma somewhere though, because 2 weeks before my departure date I checked Galapagos Last Minute’s website again and, to my surprise, found an ideal itinerary which perfectly aligned with my travel dates. The route included visiting the islands of Santa Cruz, Genovesa, Santiago, Isabella and Fernandina. I booked on the spot! I did not let my obstacles define my outcome and it worked, if you have a vision do not settle for anything else.
It is always a funny feeling when you are able witness first hand what you have only dreamt about, in my case in front of a computer screen, for so long. The Galapagos is the epicenter of that feeling for me, a land full of mystery and intrigue where the habitat is often untouched and the animals are as curious about you as you are of them. It is a nature lover’s haven, a photographers dream, and any travelers happy place.
AS MUCH AS I NORMALLY PREFER WANDERING BACK ALLEYWAYS AND STARING AT GRAFFITI, IT SIMPLY DOES NOT COMPARE TO THE ALLURE OF THESE ISLANDS, THE BEAUTIFUL CREATURES THAT INHABIT THEM, AND THE ATMOSPHERE THAT WILL, SIMPLY PUT, CHANGE YOU FOREVER.
Within minutes of arriving at the islands and jumping into the Pacific Ocean I had my first encounter with a green sea turtle and my resulting smile did not leave my face for the entire week. I am not exaggerating when I say that everyday exceeded my expectations. When I truly believed it could not get any better – it some how did. From swimming with turtles and sea lions, to stepping over thousands of iguanas, the beauty and raw power of nature just never ended. Dolphins surrounded our boat at night and danced around us, as if it was all part of a musical number. When the show stopped an orca popped up in the distance to drop the audience’s jaws one last time before the curtains closed.
The video above is a small testament to the wildlife one will encounter during a week’s time in the islands, it truly is a remarkable experience. The one animal I was unable to catch on film was the hammerhead shark. Despite snorkeling in their territory for over an hour they never showed themselves. It is however, hard to feel disappointed when you feel so lucky just to have been there at all.
I ate every meal on the boat feeling appreciative. The food was delicious and the drinks were on point. There were four other couples on board and one other solo traveller, the majority of them retired and in their late 60s. They pointed out how lucky it was that I was able to partake in an adventure that most would consider unaffordable at the young age of twenty-five. I simply explained that there was no luck involved in me being there, if you truly want something you can find a way to get it. I do not believe you have to wait until you are retired to truly start living. This is not to imply that money is not an issue, but I think of it as motivation to save. Whether it is $25 a week or $25 a month, anyone can make it happen, the only variable is time.
If nature is what you seek in a travel destination then I urge you to make The Galapagos Islands a priority. It will surpass all your expectations. It will also, however, ruin snorkeling for you for the rest of your life, as nothing will ever be quite like how it was in Ecuador.