Day 71 to 76: Galapagos on a “Budget” – Isla Isabela

After a great start on Isla Santa Cruz we decided to continue our discovery expedition and set over to the next beautiful island, Isla Isabela. The breathtaking spot was just 2 hours away… just two veeeeeeeeryyyyyyyyy looooooooong hours!

We did not take the rough sea into account which gave us or at least me a pretty tough time. While focussing the whole time on the horizon and trying not to throw up, Chris was reading a book like a rock in a storm. A BOOK!!!! LOL!!!! I could not believe it… I felt like in the middle of a box fight and the waves kept on punching me in my stomach like “Mike Tyson”. Chris had an iron stomach which I would have loved to borrow for a short while, too.

However, before we could actually take off the captain asked me to change the boat which I happily denied. Certainly, I did not want to be separated from “my better half” and was not keen to risk losing also my baggage. We were still in South America and trust is a value one has to work very hard for.

Obviously, the crew messed up the number of people and we had too much weight on board. The lobster we had yesterday was for sure not to blame for, lol. Anyways, after 10 minutes they decided to get a second boat ready which was in fact the boat we were supposed to take from the beginning on. They messed up our tickets… Of course! Changing the boat and taking our luggage with us, we were “ready” to finally hit the sea.

After anchoring in front of Isla Isabela another smaller boat was picking us up from the main one and shipped us over to the pier. I got pretty much upset when suddenly the new captain was asking surprisingly for one dollar. Not sure, but I could have bet that the whole transfer was already paid.

Well, in fact this was not the case. A tiny detail the tour operator did not tell us when buying the tickets the day before.  One dollar is not much indeed but the way the locals were handling this “fee” was absolutely not acceptable (ONE DOLLAR, ONE DOLLAR, ONE DOLLAR) and consequently I denied to give the tip. Lessons learned: Keep the costs transparent and don’t ask future customers for additional “tiny” fees after finishing the main transaction.

However, after finally setting our feet on land we walked straight into town which was only a 20 minutes walk away from the pier (no taxi needed). Another couple of dollars which we could invest in a possible next lobster or in the “One Dollar Fee” for our way back, “damn it”! 😀

Where to Stay

After comparing the price of three hotels, we decided to stay in the lovely Hostal of La Gran Tortuga.

Since time was limited (at least for Chris, hehe) we decided to book already our first tour at the same day of arrival. After comparing different options we immediately penciled in our first tour for 4 pm.

The tour “Los Tintoreras”

Arriving at the meeting point we discovered we were not alone and a pretty large group of South Americans were already waiting for us. Unfortunately, the tour guide only spoke a few words English and the majority of the explanations were lost on the way which reminded me of my experience in Torotoro, Bolivia. Speaking Spanish is definitely an advantage and even at “international” places like Galapagos.

The tour was brilliant though and after some few meters we already spotted our first marine wildlife in the water. A huuuuuuuge ray approx. 2 meters in width was majestically swimming under the pier which reminded me more of a beautiful dance.

Before diving into the cool water, we set anchor in front of the small volcanic islands which were not even a 10 minutes ride away from Isla Isabela. Besides meeting again plenty of “baby” sea iguanas we discovered also why the islands are carrying the name of sharks (Tintoreras means White Tip Reef Shark, lol). Approximately 30 – 40 2 meter long individuals were sleeping on the ground in between a volcanic tunnel which mother earth has formed millions of years ago.

I was not too sure if I wanted to go snorkelling anymore, lol. Before I could change my mind Chris was already jumping into the water and I had no choice but to follow, lol. The current was pretty strong and made the water unfortunately pretty murky which influenced our view. “Great, The sharks will be only visible when it is already too late”, I thought.

Trying to forget my thoughts I focussed on the magical underwater world while we did not have to wait too long to see and swim with sea turtles, sea lions, sting rays, sea cucumbers and plenty of other colourful and fascinating fish.

Going with a huge smile on our faces to bed, the next tour was already waiting for us the early next morning

Visiting the “Sierra Negra” or the “The largest volcano caldera of South America”

At the beginning we got surprised by pretty nasty weather and a grey wall was blocking any possible view on the crater. Luckily, the amazing English speaking guide was absolutely right when he said not to be worried. “The fog will be gone anytime soon” and after 10 minutes of walking along the rim of the crater the wall was gone.

Suddenly, the nature revealed one of the most amazing wonders of the world. A massive 6 miles wide crater was suddenly emerging out of the nowhere, revealing a surreal looking landscape of black lava stones which were encircled by 50 – 100 meter large crater walls covered beautifully in green vegetation. What a sight!!! I felt rather like walking on the moon than on a volcano!

After enjoying a magical view and our lunch break at the highest point of the crater, it was unfortunately time to go back and pretty tired we arrived after approx. 5 to 6 hours at the hotel again.

Not enough, we still had to “tick box” some more sights on the island while Chris already got ready for the next adventure, lol. We visited the Giant Tortoise Breeding Facilities and also the Galapagos Flamingos.

At the end of the day we celebrated our last evening with a delicious pizza and some Ecuadorian beer. We had an amazing time and Chris unfortunately had to leave again the next early morning while I still had 3 more days to go.

Tour “Los Tunneles”

There was one last day tour to do which was called “Los Tunneles” and promised to be actually one of the highlights on Isabela. Another highlight of the tour was also the price of 110 Dollars… everything on the islands was just so expensive that even a simple bottle of water was already 2 – 3 USD’s.

Locals like to put the gringos a “ATM” stamp on the forehead and believe everyone is naturally rich. They are of course right… What else?!

It gave unfortunately a bitter sweet taste that everything on Galapagos was super commercialised.

However, the tour was indeed a true highlight and Galapagos showed once more its unique facade of a more than special place.

This day the sea was especially rough with large waves which were bringing regularly the boat out of balance. The captain was struggling to keep the boat on course and it was not even sure if we were able to navigate the boat into the lagoon. The current and the waves were simply too strong at the time and were making the navigation a risky game, like playing russian roulette.

The captain nevertheless wanted to give it a try and most likely his reputation was at risk. After a couple of minutes at the same place he waited for the right moment and with full throttle we went suddenly through the labyrinth of reefs.

I got myself already ready to swim and tightened my rescue vest, lol. Luckily the captain made it and only while we were navigating through the more than narrow rock pathways the skipper had to push the boat away from the volcano rock structures.

Suddenly the waters calmed down drastically and  the boat was laying quietly on a turquoise coloured carpet of water.

The scenery was just unbelievable beautiful. The power of water washed out the lava rock formations and created splendid looking tunnels.

We also did not have to wait for very long to see the first sea turtles and colourful fish in the water and the cute blue footed boobies on the rock formations. It was simply enchantingly beautiful.

I could not believe this first part of the trip could be topped by anything but I was luckily wrong. The second part of the trip included an one hour snorkeling activity in a spot close by.

Since the water temperature was quite cold the day before I organized a long wet suite which was slightly better and made the water approx. 1 degree Celsius warmer, lol.

While exploring the underwater world I suddenly had to hold my breath. Not even 3 meters away was an approx. 2 meter long white tip shark swimming through the shallow waters. I liked him more when he was sleeping on the ground like the day before.

After a while I realized the animal was similarly scared of my presence and kept the distance. I even took all my courage and tried to swim after the shark which was absolutely an insane experience. Swimming with sharks!!! Wow!!!

When we returned back to the hotel I took a hot shower and simply watched a movie. A quiet one after a more than exciting day.

Hike along secluded beaches

The following day I decided to give my budget a rest and “simply” did a day hike along the secluded beaches and through the inland vegetation to my final destination of the day, the former US radar station on top of the highest view point along the coastal walkway.


The Galapagos Islands are a unique destination to visit and should be on everyones bucket list. Just don’t be disappointed when realising the islands are much more developed than maybe expected.

Galapagos - Isla Isabela