We loved the Galápagos.
There are three places where boats can visit in the Galápagos. Going anywhere else requires special permission and a guide on board for $200 a day. This is a real pity as being in the Galápagos has really made me wonder what characteristics 19th century Latin Americans desired in their ports. There are lots of nice coves in the Galápagos, while we are restricted to three marginal anchorages. From east to west the ports are:
- Isla San Cristobal, Puerto Baquerizo MorenoThe port here is a good tourist town with plenty of attractions. There are seals everywhere: in the crystal waters of the anchorage, on the docks, the beaches, the roads, and on the swim deck of every vessel that has one (
Scream does not). Provisioning is okay, if clearly less good than on the continent.
Excellent snorkelling can be found by walking to Tijeretas, taking a cab to La Loberia, or by boat at Isla Lobos. We took a snorkeling tour of Lobos and Kicker Rock. At Lobos we swam with sea turtles, seals, rays, and various tropical fish. Kicker rock rises vertically from the depths to about 100m above sea level. We swam with reef sharks there.
We also went to the tortoise breeding centre, where we saw a handful of adults and dozens of young tortoises.
The anchorage is open to the north and the west, so the predominant SW swell rolls right in. The anchorage is large, which is good considering that several dozen cruising sailboats share it with an equal number of anchored local boats and a few small ships. The bottom is sand, mostly 40 to 50 feet. Shallower depths can be found along the east shore, but there are patches of rocky bottom there.
- Isla Santa Cruz, Puerto AyoraPuerto Ayora is the largest town in the Galapagos, but the anchorage is by all accounts far worse than the other two. After rolling around in San Cristobal, we had no interest in experiencing far-worse, so we sailed past.
- Isla Isabela, Puerto VillamilIsabella is a tropical paradise! The water is clear and the exotic wildlife is plentiful and frisky. Most mornings we watched penguins and seals fish for their breakfast in the shallow water near our boat. Swimming lizards, flamingos, sharks, blue footed boobies, and eagle rays are also on display. The snorkelling the anchorage is good and even better snorkelling can be had in the swimming hole by the dinghy dock.
The tortoise breeding centre here has five different species with 895 tortoises as of 2009 year end. The walk there is past/west of town and is very nice.
Unlike the other two, Puerto Villamil is just a small town with sand for streets. There are a few hotels and restaurants, but the shopping of all kinds is marginal. Internet access was out everywhere about half of the days we were there. Town was always hot when we visited.
Easily the best of the anchorages, in a small, shallow harbour between Isabela and barrier islands. Anchor in 10 feet, sandy bottom and crystal clear water. The south west edges of the harbour have depth, the middle is shoal. There were no mosquitoes while we visited, but various kinds of flies were a little annoying.
We've already discussed the bureaucracy. Suffice it so say that Ecuadorians seem to feel the need to make everyone's lives difficult, especially their own, for reasons that no one can fathom.