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Month Eighty-One was another big travel month spent entirely on the road but it was more special than most because we spent three-quarters of the month in the Galapagos on a trip of a lifetime!
We started the month with three days on Santa Cruz Island based in Puerto Ayora, doing excursions to swim at beautiful Tortuga Bay, to see the giant turtles and a lava tunnel in the highlands, and for snorkeling at Las Grietas.
From Santa Cruz, we took a ferry to Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island where we spent five nights exploring the south of the island on snorkeling trips, electric bike adventures, a kayaking tour, and hiking the Wall of Tears and its viewpoints. We loved the vibe of this remote Galapagos town with its sandy streets and relaxed atmosphere.
Then it was back to Santa Cruz for a night before boarding our eight-day Galapagos cruise. We did end up getting swapped to a different boat that wasn’t as nice at the last minute as our boat broke down but the itinerary was the same and we were compensated for the difference.
The islands we visited and the animals we encountered were absolutely incredible and it was one of the best travel experiences of my life, despite not getting much sleep and getting a touch of seasickness here and there (more in the lowlights below). I have somehow managed to break it down into distinct highlights below but I could have listed so many more – every day was a highlight.
We had two nights back in Puerto Ayora where I promptly got sick (not sure what was wrong with me but it could have been that I still had my sea legs), then we took a ferry to San Cristobal where we spent our last four nights in the Galapagos.
I still felt sick for the first day there so we didn’t do a lot but honestly, at this stage, we were starting to suffer from Galapagos burnout (I know, what a douchey thing to say but it’s true) and had seen everything we had ever hoped to see and more.
We did visit the Interpretive Center, treated ourselves to pizza and sushi, watched the sunset at Playa Punta Carola, visited the sea lions along the Malecon, and walked to Playa Loberia for a swim.
Our last stop in Ecuador was in Quito where we spent three nights recovering from the hot temps in the Galapagos and exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town.
Then the last four nights of the month were spent in beautiful Mexico City where spring has sprung and the jacarandas are in bloom.
We spent our three days there just exploring the thoroughly cool and charming neighborhoods of Roma Norte and La Condesa, and I could easily have spent another couple of weeks just doing this – luckily we will be back again at the end of our trip.
Now onto the stats!
Countries Visited: Ecuador, Mexico
- Ecuador: Galapagos Islands – Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, San Cristobal Island, Lobos Island, Floreana Island, Espanola Island, South Plaza Island, Santiago Island, Bartolome Island, Genovesa Island, Santa Fe Island; Quito.
- Mexico: Mexico City
National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Galapagos National Park and UNESCO Site, City of Quito UNESCO Site.
Islands Visited: So many this month as I spent most of the month island-hopping in the Galapagos – Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, San Cristobal Island, Lobos Island, Floreana Island, Espanola Island, South Plaza Island, Santiago Island, Bartolome Island, Genovesa Island, Santa Fe Island.
Best Meals: The garlic shrimp lunch deal with creamy vegetable soup from Rosy Mar in Puerto Ayora; Sushi from Midori in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal; Pavlova with cream and berries from Fournier Rosseau in Roma Norte, CDMW; the incredible pain au chocolat from Deep Bread Experimental Bakery in La Condesa, CDMX; Shrimp tacos from El Pescarita in La Condesa, CDMX; Steak tacos and crispy potatoes from Taqueria Orinoco in Roma Norte, CDMW – I was surprised how much I liked these tacos as I very rarely eat beef but they were so good!
Worst Meals: We had a few bad set menus in Ecuador including an undercooked and tiny chicken drumstick and overcooked beans. Colombia definitely excels in its set menus!
Best Craft Beer: Lemongrass beer from Zaroa Brewing on Isabela Island, and Honey Ginger Saison from Bandido Brewing in Quito.
- Tortuga Bay hike in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos – 4.5 miles out and back
Lots of short hikes in the Galapagos on our boat trip but not a lot of actual trail hiking this month.
Watching: Pieces of Her, Worst Roommates Ever, The Adam Project.
Reading: I read six books this month and the best were Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris, and Elsewhere by Dean Koontz.
I wrote this post about the best places to visit in Jodhpur in 2 days because I loved my time there so much when we visited for Holi (just before the pandemic was announced) two years ago.
Snorkeling at Los Tuneles
The best day trip I did during the island-hopping portion of our Galapagos trip was snorkeling at Los Tuneles on Isabela Island. As well as hiking over the interesting lava tunnels and bridges with cactuses growing on them, we also got to swim with around twenty sea turtles, lots of colorful fish, some sharks, and – best of all – a Pacific Seahorse!
I have loved seahorses for as long as I can remember so getting to see one in the wild was magical. I also got to see my first blue-footed boobies of the trip here, and they were doing their mating ritual dance which was very interesting to see.
Kayaking to Tintoreras
Another great day trip we did from Isabela was to the Tintoreras islets just offshore. We kayaked out there then snorkeled for around an hour, but the best part was seeing the first Galapagos penguins of the trip.
There were three penguins sitting on the rocks and sunning themselves, and one was calling out to the others. Getting to see them by kayak was great because there was no noise pollution and we got to be within about 3 meters of them.
A Kitty Friend on Isabela Island
It’s weird but cats just seem to gravitate to us, like they know we are obsessed with them. This month it was a kitten who ran into our room when we opened the door at our hotel on Isabela Island.
This little cutie ended up cuddling up with us and sleeping in our room on our last night. I wish she had come to see us sooner but one night of kitty love is better than none.
Seeing Giant Tortoises in Their Natural Environment on Santa Cruz Island
Probably the most famous animal in the Galapagos is the giant tortoise and I loved that we got to see them in the wild at El Chato Ranch in the highlands of Santa Cruz.
We had a one-hour guided tour and learned so much about these gentle giants as well as getting to see them hanging out around the grounds and wallowing in a muddy pool, and there was even one that was upside down! Luckily our guide righted it as an upside-down giant tortoise will die pretty quickly if left like that.
We also walked through a massive lava tunnel on the property that was pretty impressive and visited Los Gemelos, two giant sinkholes surrounded by vegetation.
The Sheer Amount Of Incredible Animals We Saw in the Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands really are an animal lovers’ paradise and the abundance of native and endemic animals here is mind-blowing. The fact that most of them are not scared of humans and will come up close to check you out made it even better.
I was so surprised that there are sea lions, frigate birds, pelicans, and marine iguanas just hanging out in town too!
Falling in Love With All the Baby Sea Lions
Although I loved all of the incredible animals in the Galapagos, the sea lions ended up holding a special place in my heart – especially the babies. I could spend hours just watching them play and interact with each other, they are just so cute and funny.
Swimming With a Galapagos Penguin
I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to swim with a Galapagos penguin! We saw a bunch of them swim right by the rocks where we were standing when we landed on Santiago Island and we were so jealous of the snorkelers who were in the water with them. Once we started snorkeling ourselves they were gone and I was really bummed out.
We were at the beach waiting to catch the lancha back to our boat when Toby spotted a penguin just offshore. I didn’t even think about it, I grabbed my snorkel and mask and jumped in the water.
Usually, penguins will zoom past you really fast but the little guy I was in the water with was chasing a ball of fish that kept changing direction so I ended up getting to spend about 20 seconds with him swimming around me – it was one of the best animal experiences of my life!
Snorkeling with Hammerhead Sharks and Manta Rays
I was excited and nervous that we had the possibility of snorkeling with hammerheads off Genovesa Island and although it was a little scary, it was incredible to see them in real life, swimming below us!
We also saw blacktip reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, a small species of manta ray, eagle rays, and lots of colorful fish. It was pretty damn amazing for our first snorkeling experience on our boat trip.
Swimming With Inquisitive Sea Lions
As much as swimming with sharks and tropical fish was cool, swimming with sea lions was even better! As I said earlier, sea lions ended up being my favorite Galapagos animal, and I got to swim with them twice – once at Santa Fe island and again at Lobos Island off San Cristobal. The first time was great but the second time was too good to be true.
We were surrounded by inquisitive baby sea lions that came right up to us, swam all around us, and nibbled on a few people’s cameras and flippers.
These cuties were so energetic and curious and just wanted to play. At one point we snorkeled into a sea lion creche with tons of babies. It was guarded by a large male sea lion that was not happy we were there so whenever he went by we had to freeze so he wouldn’t attack us – definitely scary!
Loving the Gorgeous Beaches in the Galapagos
Although the Galapagos is better known for its diverse array of native and endemic animals, the islands are also home to some pretty incredible beaches with super clear turquoise water and powdery white sand.
My favorites were the remote beaches including Cerro Brujo on San Cristobal, Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island, and Gardiner Bay on Espanola, but Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz and the main beach in Puerto Villamil on Isabela were so beautiful too.
There are also golden sand, green sand, and red sand beaches in the Galapagos so if you are a lover of beautiful and unique beaches, then you should definitely plan a trip!
Up Close and Personal With a Flock of Flamingos
I wasn’t happy about having to wake up at 5am, especially after only getting a couple of hours sleep, but our early morning landing at Floreana ended up being very worth it.
There were about 100 or more flamingos hanging out at the lagoon we visited and a group of about 30 of them were doing a weird and interesting song and dance routine around the lagoon. They ended up coming within about 20 feet of us making it my closest flamingo encounter.
We also saw a bunch of sea turtles hanging out in the shallows at the beach, and a sea turtle covering up its eggs in the sand. Very cool!
Making New Friends on Our Galapagos Boat
Although our new boat wasn’t as nice as the boat we were meant to be on, we had a really great group of people – which was lucky because we all spent a lot of time together over our week on the boat.
Two of the ladies in particular we especially hit it off with, and one of them we already met up with again in Quito. I hope to visit both of them in the UK next year.
Walking Tour in Quito
I did a free walking tour in Quito through Community Hostel and had such a fantastic guide who was so happy and proud to share his heritage with us.
We got to do a fruit taste test at the local market, trying fruits I have never even heard of before, we were taken to important historic sites around the old town, tried a couple of local drinks, and we finished with a chocolate taste test.
I highly recommend taking this tour if you are visiting Quito.
Wandering Around Roma Norte and La Condesa
We spent four nights in hipster-tastic Roma Norte in Mexico City and I absolutely fell in love with Roma and neighboring La Condesa’s colorful squares, leafy parks with blooming jacaranda trees, taquerias and international restaurants, cool bars, and grand art nouveau buildings.
I think Mexico City is one of my new favorite cities and I am looking forward to exploring more.
Extreme Heat in the Galapagos
Wow, was the Galapagos hot when we were there! February and March are the hottest months and we suffered for it. It was hard to be outside in the middle of the day for long and I overheated and got a terrible headache when we were hiking the Wall of Tears on Isabela.
Luckily on our boat trip, we did most of our hiking activities really early so we missed the extreme heat although even at 7am it was already really hot.
The air conditioning in the bottom rooms on the boat was broken too so we baked at night. Even though my trip was incredible I was really happy to get off that damn boat!
Seasick While Snorkeling in Rough Water
I didn’t have any really bad bouts of seasickness as I took pills but I did feel seasick snorkeling a few times – ridiculous, I know, but my body just really likes being on land. The worst was when we went kayaking and snorkeling at Las Tintoreras and we went out into the open ocean where it was quite rough.
I felt mildly seasick a few times on the boat too because we were literally always bobbing around but as soon as I took a pill or lay down I felt better.
Flies and Horseflies in the Galapagos
The flies drove me crazy in the Galapagos and were especially bad on Isabela and San Cristobal where there were also a lot of horseflies. Those little fuckers bit hard and we weren’t able to hang around on the beach without completely covering up – which was uncomfortable because of the heat.
Rough Seas on Our Galapagos Boat Trip
I didn’t know that despite us traveling in what is meant to be the season with calm seas that it could still feel so rough. The boat we were on was like a cork in the water and it moved around so much, both when we were moving and at times when we were stationary too.
We often sailed at night and I literally couldn’t sleep when we were sailing because the boat rocked so much that it felt like I was going to fall out of my bunk. The first night I only got two hours sleep and the second I only got five so I felt like a zombie the first couple of days. It didn’t help that our room was right by the motor so it was really loud when the boat was moving too.
We did end up getting off the boat a night early because it was going to be another night sailing until 2am with a 6am wakeup call with only 1.25 hours spent on North Seymour looking at birds we had seen before on other islands before the tour ended. We would then have had to spend 1.5 hours or more, and $20 each, getting from our dropoff at the airport into Puerto Ayora town.
It actually cost us less for a night’s accommodation in Puerto Ayora than it would have for the transport from the airport to town and I couldn’t do another sleepless night. Next time I will choose a larger boat and a catamaran, and will bring sleeping pills!
My Lip Virus Strikes Again
My lip must have got sunburnt the day before we got on the boat because I got the lip virus (like a cold sore but worse) that I get when my lip gets sunburnt and had to deal with that on top of not a lot of sleep and occasional seasickness on the boat. It was especially painful when we snorkeled – which we did everyday.
Sick – Again
I have been a lot more sickly than usual the last few months and this month I was struck down with slight nausea and dizziness when I was upright for three days after getting off the boat.
It could be because I still felt like I was on the boat or it could have been something else – who knows. Luckily it wasn’t too bad and I felt better after a couple of days.
An Expensive Flight Penalty
When I booked our flights from the mainland to the Galapagos with Avianca only a couple of weeks before our trip I was surprised how much the prices had gone down. We ended up paying $200 return instead of the $400 that is the norm. We had no issues entering the Galapagos but when we checked into our flight back to the mainland, we were charged an extra $150 penalty fee each because we had booked a flight that was meant to be for Ecuadorians.
If you aren’t meant to be able to book these flights if you are not Ecuadorian, then the system shouldn’t allow you to – simple as that. I definitely didn’t notice anything saying about the fare when I booked it, and I always read the small print so I think that Avianca does this on purpose to trick people into booking with them over other airlines.
I was not happy and will think twice about flying with Avianca again.
Flight Change and Delay
Along with getting hit with a $150 penalty by Avianca on our flight from San Cristobal to Quito, they also changed our flight, which was meant to be direct, to go through Guayaquil, and then there was a 1.5-hour delay on top of that as well.
More Bad Flights and More Anxiety
My flight from Quito to Bogota and Bogota to Mexico City both had near-constant turbulence which made me feel on edge and anxious the whole time we were in the air. I hate that my fear of flying has come back with a vengeance and I think I will have to get valium or CBD gummies to help with the anxiety going forward.
A lot of these costs are my half with Toby paying the other half. I also don’t include international flights in my recaps.
This was one of the most expensive months for a long time but that’s largely because of the nearly $2000 we spent on our boat trip in the Galapagos. This was a massive splurge for us but 100% worth it.
My 22 nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of six nights in a hotel in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz), five nights in a hotel in Puerto Villamil (Isabela), four nights in hotels in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal), three nights in a private room in a hostel in Quito, and four nights at a hotel in Mexico City.
The cost for our six nights on our Galapagos cruise is included under activities.
Food and Drink $526
Food was generally not cheap in the Galapagos but we managed to find menu of the day meals from $5 – $7 so most of the time we stuck with these, although we did have a few splurges too.
- Galapagos singlet $15
- Galapagos socks $8
- Dress $40
- Bra $22
- Return ferry and water taxi transfers from Puerto Ayora to Puerto Villamil $52
- Airport taxi, ferry, and bus from Puerto Ayora $18.50
- Ferry and water taxi transfers from Puerto Ayora to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno $26
- Taxi from Quito Airport to Old Town $14
- Quito Ubers $5
- Uber to airport from the Old Town in Quito $10.50
- Taxi from Airport to Roma Norte in Mexico City $4.50
- Mexico City Ubers $2.50
- Flight San Cristobal to Quito $220
- Los Gemelos and El Chato Turtles transport, guide, and tip $30
- Las Grietas entry and boat transfer $12
- Los Tuneles Half Day Tour $85
- Kayaking Tintoreras Two Hour Tour $45
- Half-Day Electric Bike Rental on Isabela $15
- Eight Day Galapagos Small Boat Cruise including tips $1910
- Quito Walking Tour Tip $15
- Entry to Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus in Quito $5
- Taxi and Entry to Virgin of the Panecillo in Quito $2
- Entry to towers of Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito $3
- Entry to Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City $4
- Hulu $7.50
- Phone plan $35
- Toiletries $33
- One Month Travel Insurance $42
- Laundry $12
- Book $5
- Entry Fee to Isabela Island $10
- Port Fees at Puerto Ayora $3
- Souvenirs $10
- Donations $2.50
- Laptop charger $45
- 128GB USB $20
- Hair cut $28
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
Van/RV Costs $25
- Van Insurance $25
What’s in Store for Next Month
The next month will be spent wholly in Mexico, one of my favorite countries in the world!
The first couple of days we will be in lovely Queretaro before embarking on a five-day road trip to waterfalls, a surrealist garden, and some Pueblos Magicos (magic villages) in the Huasteca Potosina region.
From there we plan to visit the beautiful colonial cities of San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato, bustling Guadalajara, the vibrant coastal city of Puerto Vallarta, and hippie Sayulita for some beach time.
Other than the road trip, we are slowing down a bit and spending 5+ nights in each place which will give us more time to relax and enjoy each place before a busy last two weeks of our Mexico trip where we have a family wedding and activities planned with everyone.
It’s going to be great (I hope)!
To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here
For a sneak peek that was pretty amazing. Can’t wait to see the whole story. You took some incredible pictures , Ilove them.