Ecuador is an incredibly diverse country. From the Highlands of the Andes, to the Amazon rainforests and the costal beach region, it appears that this country has everything that any traveler could wish for. But, as beautiful as the country is, one region stands far above all else, setting a global bar for eco-tourism. Far from the beaten path, the Galapagos Islands are rich in wildlife, offering a selection of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. This thriving network offers a glimpse into one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world to travelers in an accessible, natural environment.
The best way to see the Galapagos is undoubtedly through a small cruise ship, as my parents are currently doing. The boat is a floating hotel providing comfortable living arrangements and quality food paired with expert naturalist guides and pre-planned excursions. Once you walk onto the boat, the company organizes everything, and you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the diversity of the Galapagos in luxury.
Being on a strict teacher’s budget, this was absolutely not the experience that I had.
I had no personal guide. I moved between islands and hotels, dragging my suitcase behind me, bartering with tour companies and hotel owners. I booked my tickets to different islands at the last minute, ate rice and beans for the majority of the week, and followed my two guidebooks religiously. Obviously this was a headache.
But, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
My experience in the Galapagos was phenomenal. Sure, I needed a nap by the end of it, but I did almost everything that I wanted to, and all for only $1,100!!!! (Compare that to the $2,000-$5,000 luxury cruises).
In the Galapagos, marine iguanas, sea lions, sea turtles, and reef sharks are a dime a dozen. I snorkeled with them all at a distance of about 1 foot. I didn’t need to spend money to find these animals; I just dove into the water. Another blog post will explain my financial breakdown if you are interested in doing the Galapagos on a budget, but the next few posts will explain my adventures on the three big islands that I visited—Santa Cruz, San Cristobol, and Isabella.