Water sports in Galapagos – A Kayak expedition experience
One day, I saw a video on TV about a group of people who were making a kayak tour on the sea and I thought, this looks exciting as I like adrenalin and to be alone facing such a marvellous scenery. Finally this eagerly awaited moment came. In January I was lucky to return to the Galapagos Islands, an amazing place, unique on earth.
Along with my sister, I travelled to Puerto Ayora, the town with the most inhabitants of the archipelago, in order to get to know the new hotels in there. We took the afternoon flight that goes directly from Quito to Baltra. After a few hours we reached our destination. We landed and disembarked at the new Seymour Airport. The sun and the heat were strong and I remembered I had the same feeling the last time I was in there.
After the landing, we could appreciate the new installations and facilities of the airport. The most astonishing things were the giant fans that refreshed around 200 passengers who were waiting with us for the typical routine at the airport: stand in the line, fill out a form, pay the Galapagos entry fee and get the luggage. The entrance fee for the Galapagos National Park is $6 for Ecuadoreans and $100 for foreigners. For further information check: http://www.galapagos.gob.ec/tributo-de-ingreso/)
Once we got our bags we stored them in the luggage compartment of the buses that would bring us to the Itabaca canal. This is a free of charge service offered by the local airlines. For locals this transfer is quite normal but for visitors it is completely new. We crossed the canal with a ferry. This takes about 10 minutes and costs $1. Finally we reached the island of Santa Cruz. Compared to the last time when I was there in the 2016, the amount of motor vehicles that are seen, has increased.
We saw many buses and pickups, which serve as taxis on the islands. Suddenly the taxi drivers started to offer their services to anyone they saw. We were lucky to get on a tourist bus. It would not leave until it was full with seated passengers, standing up in the aisle was not allowed. Our last drive for today began and some people were already tired due to the two hours flight from the mainland, sadly there was still a 45 minutes ride to the main port.
Once we reached the main port we went straight to our hotel. Nowadays Puerto Ayora has numerous hotels, hostels and hosting houses. As I mentioned before this was one of the main reasons for this trip. Crossing the street a couple of foreigners were passing by in front of me. By listening closer I noticed that they were Germans. Also Portuguese could be heard. So I could confirm that tourist from all over the world visit the Galapagos.
The local population in Santa Cruz was formed by emigrants from the mainland, people from the Andes and from the cost of Ecuador. Nowadays the migration laws are very strict. In fact it is quite difficult for anybody to get a resident permit for the islands, even for Ecuadoreans from the mainland provinces.
Later the day we called our local guide Jaime to book the kayak trip for the next day. It was planed for the afternoon. He had to make a call to check if the tide levels are safe for doing the activity, which is more likely to happen for a few hours in the afternoon. Jaime also gave us information about the clothing, which should not be so heavy. He recommended to bring water, sunscreen, hat, shoes and sandals for walking in the water, towel and if possible a waterproof camera.
On the next day, my sister and I met Jaime at the main port and we all took a water taxi (price: 50 cent per person) to the other side. We walked around ten minutes to the Playa de los Alemanes (lit. German beach). Nearby the hotel Finch Bay we reached the Kayaks storage house. We checked the equipment and the life vests. There was also a water hose, we used it to refresh ourselves and to moisten the towels that would protect us from the sun, it helped a lot later. I also moistened my hat. Then we received our briefing about how to use the oars, how to turn them in order to brake and how to insert them correctly into the water.
Listening to Jaime we soon noticed, that it was not difficult at all, even for beginners like us. On this occasion we took two kayaks – one for two persons and one for a single person. Each one had belts and comfortable waterproof seats. The kayaks have small compartments without doors where we could pack away our stuff, the only problem was it was going to be exposed to the harsh sun. Jaime asked us if we had any experience on rowing in open sea, we said we hadn’t any, this was going to be our first time. We only rowed on a artificial lake in the Ejido park. We laughed to loose some strain.
We put on the life vests and pulled the kayaks towards the shore. Jaime gave us our last briefing on how the oars work and how to turn right or left.
Jaime and my sister went on the double kayak and he indicated that I would go on my own in the single one. I felt the adrenaline level rising but I was sure that I would make it.
I sat in a position that would not affect my back and finally we were moving. I kept rowing in the same way and with the same rhythm as Jaime. We passed some people who were swimming and after that we were in open sea. It was an incredible feeling to sit there while floating and to be able to see clearly the sea ground.
Jaime moved zigzag-like in between the rocks in order to continue navigating close to the mangroves. The sea welcomed us without many waves and I copied what Jaime did with the oar.
Suddenly I looked downwards and saw a stingray passing me very closely. This was a nice surprise and I stopped for a while to take some pictures of it and the submarine ground.
Because of that I was a few minutes behind the first kayak. Jaime shouted that an oceanic whitetip shark, which is endemic of the Galapagos Islands, was close to them. I hurried up but when I caught up with them I could only see its silhouette. Anyway it was an unique feeling being so close to it and I was very grateful.
We continued slowly towards a rock reef observing some blue-footed boobies nesting. A shadow covered our kayaks which was refreshing against the incandescent sun. We took advantage of it to rest, take photos and make videos. We also realized that the physical strain under these temperatures was high so we had to take care of ourselves more. It is important to take breaks and to drink water in this activity.
We continued rowing and went to the mangroves again, we passed some small boats that anchored there. Nearby we encountered a sea lion that was taking a nap on one of the new designed private piers. At a distance we also saw other ships navigating with tourists. Finally we started the return, rowing the same way we came there.
At this point it is very important to mention that it is mandatory to book a local guide who knows very well the currents as well as where to enter, where to leave, what to do when high waves appear and who can estimate the appropriate sea level.
At one occasion a strong current moved me to a small rock where I got stuck. I was a bit worried but with the help of the oar I could get free and kept rowing normally. Fortunately the sea stayed smooth and we could return without problems.
After a refreshing bath with the water hose and getting rid of the salt, this marvellous experience on the sea that lasted 3 and a half hours, ended.
For me it was sensational to escape the daily routine and the noise of the cities for a little while. I really enjoyed to be part of the unspoiled nature that still exists on the Galapagos Islands.
Commentary and recommendations:
- Book a local guide that confirms the state of the sea level.
- The activity may be done in the morning or in the afternoon.
- Moisten very well the towels and/or hat, this helps to maintain the body temperature stable.
- While resting I recommend to change the body position in order to avoid problems on the legs or cramps since they remain fix during the navigation.
Links of interest:Entrance fee for the Galápagos national park:
You can add this activity to any of our Island Hoppings in Santa Cruz.
For more general information and practical tips for the Galapagos Islands, read our page Galapagos Travel Tips.