‘How can you visit Ecuador and not go to the Galapagos?’ asked my colleague when I had told him of my travel plans. I shrugged. My initial ideas had been to travel from Ecuador down through South America into Argentina where I would meet a friend and explore Patagonia, but realising both the cost and timescale, these ideas were minimised to spending the full three months in Ecuador. That way I could get a proper, fuller impression of the country. I didn’t want to flit or fly through places too quickly and miss… I don’t know… the true essence of the place.
So yes, why the dilemma with going to the Galapagos islands if I was choosing to base myself in Ecuador? Don´t many people come to Ecuador primarily to visit the Galapagos? I was surprised to meet so many cash conscious backpackers throw out their travellers’ attitude to finances and say ‘sod it! I’m going to the Galapagos!’, but they did. Only two people I’ve met on the road thus far have decided not to go and in both cases it was down to cost.
‘You will regret it if you don’t go’, said one new friend who had just got back, ‘it’s so amazing… a once in a lifetime experience’. ‘You’ll do it,’ said another, ‘you just can’t not do it’. I could go in the future, I argued, but it wasn’t a strong argument when measured against the increasing likelihood that they will start to restrict visitor numbers to the islands and that prices will push upwards.
So why the hesitance? Possibly because everybody keeps raving about it. I find anything over hyped a little off putting. ´It was´, said a couple of people who recently went to the Galapagos, ´a bit of a disappointment. Maybe our expectations were too high´.
Others talked about being stuck on board with a bad crowd (realistically when a bunch of strangers are thrown together into a small space the dynamics can be great, or in some cases disastrous). Sticking to schedules and being lumped with a bad guide were also cited as affecting the experience (although I´ve been told many guides are fantastic too, luck of the draw I guess).
And yes, cost is a factor. Do I really want to blow my entire redundancy payout, my little bit of security, on a trip of a lifetime? Maybe. I´ve got a bit of thinking time.