Going to the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador is expensive, there is no question of this. But I recentely discovered that there are many ways to experience the magical wildlife in this incredible country without having to completely break the bank. I´ve had a brilliant week…
Visit Puerto Lopez on the coast and Isla De La Plata
Puerto Lopèz is a touristy beach town with the softest sand I’ve ever sat on. It is easily accesible from Guayaquil (3.5 hour direct bus) or Quito, or any other coastal town here. From Puerto Lopez I visited the beautiful Isla De La Plata, which is part of the Machalilla National Park.
“Hey ladies. Check out my big inflatable red thing” – horny frigate bird
This is said to be the ´poor man´s galapagos´ because it is riddled with wildlife and the birds have the same famously tame attitude towards the tourists taking photos than they do on the Galápagos islands.
Blue footed boobie – look at their crazy feet!
Ít´s mating season for the Blue footed boobies and the Frigate birds, and one horny couple almost made new blue footed babies right infront of us, they were so un bothered by our presence.
“I love you. Please let me stand on your back” – Blue footed boobie boyfriend
“Only if you dance with me first” – Sensible blue footed girlfriend
“Let me rub my big red thing against you Darling” – Frigate love
Frigate mummy and her very cute baby
I am also so so lucky to be here in whale season!! (This is mostly in July and August, with a little bit in June and September). This meant I was practically garunteed to see whales on the way to the island and I did. Lots
It´s a whale!! And it´s jumping!!
We spent about an hour and a half just hanging around with some whales. They are here in Ecuador to breed, so the male whales jump out of the wáter to try and impress the females, which is stunning for the little tourists watching from the boats. I hope the lady whales were impressed too.
The island tours usually include snorkelling, and in that área you can see leatherback turtles (my absolute favourite) and lots of colourful fish. A friend also saw mantarays on her trip, so that is another list of Galápagos type animals to tick of the list.
This day tour cost $37 when booking through my hostel, but the standard price is around $40-$45. My hostel was called Piedra del Mar and was really lovely for only $12 per night in the dorm, including breakfast. So definitely not breaking the bank.
Playa Los Frailes
The Galápagos have some pretty awesome beaches. But so does the mainland! Just up the road from Puerto Lopez is Playa Los Frailes, a beach that is also part of the Machalilla National Park.
Frailes is a little pocket of Paradise. It´s winter at the moment here so everywhere else on the coast is cloudy and not exactly warm. But Frailes, only 10 minutes away on the bus, is really really hot and sunny and the sea is a perfect blue. It´s completely crazy, but we spent a full day lying like sea lions in the sun, toasting ourselves and watching the crazy crabs.
The beach is free to get into and the bus costs 50 cents. You have to walk about 2km from the road, but it´s also easy to hitch a ride with some friendly locals, of which there are many in Ecuador.
Surfing in Ayampe
Why go to the Galápagos to surf, when you can do so in the lovely village of Ayampe.
I had only one day here, and really didn´t want to leave. It´s posibly the most peaceful place I have ever been. All you can hear for the whole day is the sound of the waves. If you are lucky, you can also see whales from the beach!!
The village has a laguna that has a lot of bird life hanging out, so there was lots more wildlife to enjoy.
I stayed for $10 per night for a private cabaña with hot wáter right on the beach. A perfect day.
Visit the Galápagos Independently
This is apparently a lot more posible that most people might think. You have to pay for the flight there, which is about $450, but after that you can stay on 4 of the islands in the same way as most independent travel – hostal dorms and cheaper local food. There are accesible beaches and walks you can do independently and you can take snorkeling or diving tours also if you want to. I´ve heard you can stay for $15 per night and eat for around $5.I´m flying out there tomorrow, so I will soon find out….
So, the moral of this story is don´t assume you can´t afford a Galápagos experience, because there is always a way.