Birdwatching and visiting the Enchanted Islands is a dream that can be materialized by many more people than one would guess. The fact is that the entire tourism industry benefiting from Darwin’s discoveries want you to believe that you must spend a small fortune to be able to realize your dream. In fact this is not true, and if you are a little adventurous you could bypass the foreign-own boat-tours that do not benefit Ecuador, bypass the travel agencies that sell you preconceived dreams, and bypass the sea sickening trips that take you to the most distant Islands.
(But if you have lots of money and do not mind the boat motion then by all means take a boat tour, but please do it with an Ecuadorian company so that your money will benefit our country and our people.)
To do GALAPAGOS ON YOUR OWN you first must get an airline ticket with one of the three airlines that fly to Galapagos; Tame, AeroGal, and Lan. If you have problems getting the tickets it is because they do not want you to buy your own ticket to force you to buy a pre-packaged tour. I was told by some software savvy experts that you can download software that allow the airlines web-page to think that you are in Ecuador and therefore allow you to purchase the tickets on-line from anywhere in the world. If you do not want to follow this method then you can buy the tickets when you reach Ecuador, and possibly do it on-line. If all else fails go directly to a ticket counter (in Ecuador) and buy the tickets yourself. You may have to be a little flexible if the flights are booked but if necessary take a stand-by ticket.
When you do Galapagos On Your Own, you will be limited to visit four Islands via public transportation: Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal, and Floreana. Other islands are possible but you will have to take private boats at higher expenses. The public transportation are power boats that take anywhere from two to three hours to reach and island and cost about $30 per person. Depending on the condition of the sea these trips can also get you sea-sick so take a pill (Dramamine) an hour before the trip, always look forward at the horizon, and try to relax. If you do not want to take the boats, there is a small airline company that can do Island hoping between Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal. This is a great option if you must avoid boats!
You will be able to find very economic and comfortable places to stay in the three main islands; also food prices will be very reasonable. My favorite place to stay is Isabela and the all time best place is Rincon de George.
I am not sure about economy lodging arrangements in Floreana.
Here are the best photos from my last Land Based Tour to Galapagos :
The most important tool you have for bird watching are your eyes. If you’re having trouble picking out details during your trips, seek an optometrist and see if you may need contact lenses or glasses to make your experience better.