I'll start by saying straight out that the Galapagos is probably the most unique and exciting place I've ever seen. It helps that I like to be outside and observe nature. Just imagine all wild animals sort of playfully behaving like pets. Or imagine walking around in a nature documentary, but nothing is trying to eat you. Sea lions spun circles around us while snorkeling- almost everyday. Penguins shot right by us in the water like darts. A colony of dolphins raced on the bow of our ship while others jumped 20-30 feet out of the water doing seaworld tricks. A bird landed on a guy's head from our boat. A pelican clipped my shoulder with its wing as it flew by me on a sea cliff, then turned skyward and dove straight into the ocean to catch a fish. Sea turtles, giant iguanas, blue-red-footed boobies, giant tortoises, pelicans- its all there and all right in front of your nose. I'm not even a big fan of beaches or being on boats, but this was something remarkable that I will never forget in a life of pretty unforgettable experiences. That being said, now I'll get back to complaining and making fun of the hard times of the travel.
We actually got to the main town Puerto Ayora without too many snafus. We decided to go total south american style and plan nothing in advance. Well, okay we bought our plane tickets, but that was the only frame we had to plan from. Getting from the Baltra airport to Puerto Ayora involves a bus followed by a ferry followed up another public bus- par for the course. In Puerto Ayora we found a decent hotel, then wandered around and visited agencies to look for a cruise leaving in the next few days to visit the uninhabited islands where most of the wildlife action is. After about an hour we had a good idea of our options. We also were solicited by a 'captain' of a boat who tried to sign us up for a cruise, only to later see him bussing tables at a cafe. We decided on the Samba which left in a day and a half, leaving us time to spare to explore a little around Puerto Ayora. No one should leave town without seeing the Darwin Research Station, which is where they raise giant tortoises for all to see up close. These were the only tortoises we would see. We also explored a couple of beaches within walking distance and saw plenty of black marine iguanas, which I still call "imps from hell" after reading historical accounts of their description, beautiful bright red sally lightfoot crabs, and various birds. At one very small fish market we saw a cluster of gathering animals- various pelicans, a frigate bird, one blue footed booby and suddenly a sea lion who jumped up onto the dock as if summoned in a magic trick.
We ended up paying $1250 per person for a 7 day cruise on the Samba- about half of what everybody else on the cruise paid when they pre-booked from home. I highly recommend this strategy for flexible backpackers. We had plenty of good options. Our fellow passengers consisted of a group of 6 friends from the west coast, another Californian, an Itailian, an Australian couple and a crabby Dutchman. I really enjoyed the company of the group and it made for a more rewarding trip. The cast and crew on the boat was over the top firiendly as well. The only thing lacking was our guide who was a last minute replacement for a more reputable guide who couldn't make the trip due to an injury.
Day in and day out we'd typically snorkle once or twice per day and visit an island for a short hike to see more wildlife. In between activities the crew would ply us full of fresh fruit and sweets and nuts. Mirja and I enjoyed sharing our cozy little cabin and never really felt any affects of motion sickness. Every day offered up something a little different. Most days we would see sea lions. I remember one flipped sand in Mirja's face when she got a little too close. Another day we saw nesting Albatrosses and their giant eggs. Yet another day we saw a lizard eat a baby Galapagos pigeon. Then pink flamingos, then snorkling with a shark, then a hawk, then land iguanas, then a giant manta ray, then... it went on and on. I honestly could have done another week long cruise to the islands we missed. We never made it to Isabella- the largest island. I wouldn't have regretted spending the extra money and time staying there. But life moves on and we flew back to the mainland to Quito.