We have spent the night in a hostal in Guayaquil before our morning flight to Baltra Island in the Galapagos Islands. The hostal is conveniently situated within walking distance of the airport, just across a pedestrian bridge.
Guayaquil, the largest and most populous city in Ecuador with a population of 2 million people, features a tropical savanna climate – hot and humid most of the year. Outside the airport building we definitely feel it!
Before going through the security check in the airport, we look for the counter where all Galapagos travellers need to pay a fee of 20$ for the INGALA Transit Control Card (TCT). We need to go through a baggage screening process which checks for live products such as animals, plants and seeds. This is in order to avoid the transfer of organisms that are not native to the habitats and ecosystems of the isolated islands, each possessing a uniqueness of species.
Our hand luggage sized bags don’t seem to pose any imminent risk, and therefore we are waved through at the checkpoint amazingly fast. We are kindly informed that the additional Galapagos National Park entrance fee of 100$ must be paid upon arrival on Baltra Island.
The well-dressed business people dominate the departure hall of Aeropuerto José Joaquín de Olmedo de Guayaquil at day break, lining up to board the plane to travel to Quito. The only ones standing out is a group of Andean people in vivid, woven dresses and traditional hats.
‘How to Arrive in Galapagos via Baltra Island’
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In the far corner of the departure hall we now find ourselves among the more casually dressed passengers. We are at the gate with departure to Baltra Airport, the Galapagos Islands’ airport on the small Baltra Island just north of the Galapagos main island, Santa Cruz.
The atmosphere is rather relaxed among our fellow passengers wearing loose hiking shorts and carrying tightly packed backpacks. Everyone seems to be full of expectations, excitement and impatience to get going.
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For our Galapagos flight I am seated next to a middle-aged man from Bellavista in Santa Cruz. Even if the flight to Baltra Island is relatively short, I get useful info about interesting things we definitely should do in Puerto Ayora during our stay.
Shortly before arrival on Baltra, an insecticide is released from the panels above the cabin storage space. We are again reminded that the islands have endemic species of animals and plants. Therefore no kind of pollution or bacteria should be brought to the islands from the outside world.
Our flight includes a few other unusual phenomena. Before take-off a child’s birthday is celebrated. Everyone on board claps their hands while the flight attendant walks down the aisle holding a small birthday cake with a candle in her hands. Minutes later when the aircraft is taxied towards the runway, a fellow passenger makes the sign of the cross – which seems not to be such an unusual thing to do here since we observe similar acts more than once during our flight.
- There are two Ecuadorian airports with flights to the Galapagos Islands: Guayaquil and Quito.
- Galapagos has two airports. You either fly to Baltra Airport / Seymour Airport north of Santa Cruz Island or to San Cristóbal Airport on San Cristóbal Island.
- Consider flying out of another airport than you fly into – this may well save you a ferry ticket while visiting the islands.
Anarchy takes over when we go down and touch the runway with the wheels. Seconds later the first passengers unlock their seat belts, jump up and open the overhead compartments to get their personal belongings. We are not speaking of just one or two passengers – it seems to be rather the majority! The aisle is already crowded with people when one of the flight attendants announces through the speaker that everyone should stay in their seats. It is not allowed to unfasten the belts until the safety signs are turned off. However, no one seems to pay attention to the message and most passengers continue bustling around!
Nevertheless, after a slightly unusual and ‘entertaining’ flight we have now arrived on Baltra Island!
Buses line up at Baltra Airport for the passengers flying into the Galapagos Islands. They take us down to the small ferries that cross the narrow strait between Baltra and Santa Cruz. We are among the first ones to embark due to having only hand luggage. There has been no wait at the conveyor belt in the airport, and we are immediately off for the crossing.
It is in fact a relief that we only carry small cabin-sized backpacks which we can take inside the ferry. Most fellow passengers must leave their normal size baggage on the unprotected roof of the ferry. Probably with a silent prayer that the waves will not cause any sliding into the water!
My local friend sits in front chatting with an acquaintance. Just before the ferry sets in motion, he spots and climbs onto another smaller and apparently more fast going boat.
Within a few minutes we have left Baltra Island and have to our surprise now a variety of bird species within sight. Pelicans dive for fish and touch the surface of the sea with gigantic splashes. We get an immediate impression of the great biodiversity around the islands. All of a sudden it becomes real that there will be outstanding species to discover during our stay in the Galapagos Islands, which are UNESCO World Heritage with a unique and remarkable wildlife as found nowhere else on Earth.
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‘How to Arrive in Galapagos via Baltra Island’
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