We have spent the night in a very modest hostal with locals, before our morning flight to the Galapagos Islands, more specifically travelling to the airport on Baltra Island. 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 tropical savanna climate – hot and humid most of the year. When exiting the airport building, we definitely feel it!
Where to stay in Galapagos? White House Galapagos small family-run hotel with patio/garden & hammocks, Hotel Coloma Galapagos excellent location with garden, Hotel Galapagos Suites B&B 5-minute walk from waterfront with balcony or patio.
Before going through the security check in the airport, we have looked 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 do, seemingly, not pose any imminent risk by appearance. 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.
In the far corner of the departure hall we now find ourselves in the midst of the more casually dressed passengers. We are at the gate with departure to Baltra Airport, the airport situated 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. All seem to be full of expectations, excitement and impatience to get going.
For our Galapagos flight I am seated next to a middle-aged man from Bellavista on Santa Cruz. Even if the flight to Baltra Island is relatively short, I get useful info about the more unconventional things we definitely should do on the island 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.
When we are seated on the plane, on one of our connecting flights to Galapagos, we have a wide range of fellow passengers. There are Peruvians dressed in traditional woven dresses, neat nuns and a number of international tourists. LATAM now turns out to be extremely child-friendly. Before take-off a staff member announces a boy’s birthday in the speaker. Seconds later we see a flight attendant walking down the aisle holding a small birthday cake with a candle in her hands. Everyone on board claps their hands as the most natural thing to celebrate a birthday on board the aircraft!
How to fly to Galapagos?
Minutes later when the aircraft is taxied towards the runway, our native fellow passenger makes the sign of the cross. She has a serious expression on her face indicating a fear of flying. Next, she pulls the curtain down so that she will not be forced to see us airborne. Unfortunately, it turns out that there is quite some turbulence during the flight. She ends up spending a good deal of the time speaking to herself and to some extent to the one among the five of us who speaks no Spanish at all. We soon realise that making the sign of the cross before take-off is not such an unusual thing to do here. More than once during our flight do we notice this act.
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. Nevertheless, no one seems to pay attention to the message. People continue bustling around right until the doors eventually open.
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Buses at Baltra Airport await 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 carrying just hand luggage. So there has been no wait at any conveyor belt, 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 acquaintances, all locals. Just before the ferry sets in motion, he spots and climbs onto an adjacent smaller and apparently more fast going vessel.
Within a few minutes we have left Baltra Island and find ourselves in the middle of a variety of bird species which are unusual in our latitudes. Pelicans dive for fish and touch the surface of the sea with gigantic splashes. We get an immediate impression of the biodiversity. All of a sudden it becomes real that there are awesome creatures to be discovered during our stay on the islands, being UNESCO World Heritage with a unique and remarkable wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. We start getting the sensation that our stay here may even exceed our wildest expectations.
Hotel located in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. The hotel has a nice patio and garden with hammocks, as well as an open common room. There is access to a shared kitchen in the common building.
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