Of all my travels so far, this trip has been my favorite. I spent a couple of weeks travelling around mainland Ecuador before flying out to the Galapagos Islands and spending 7 days cruising around.
It was mindblowing. I’m a scientist. I love nature. Unsurprisingly, I love going out into the jungle and venturing on to uninhabited islands to check out the wildlife. As an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer, I also unsurprisingly like to head below to check out the marine life! While I didn’t have the opportunity to do a liveaboard dive trip to the Galapagos (both time and budget constraints), which would have been my preferred option so that I could get up to Wolf and Darwin Islands, I did manage to get out for a 2-tank day trip from Puerto Ayora. It was awesome.
As for the food?
On the mainland, it was relatively easy to find vegan food. The places I visited were big on the fresh fruit, salad and seafood diet. Was never too difficult to order the dishes sans seafood. And when eating out, all of the restaurant staff understood the concept of ordering dressing on the side. So I managed to avoid gluten relatively easily as well.
At the time, LAN Ecuador wasn’t flying from Quito to the Galapagos, so I ended up flying out on an airline called AeroGal. I didn’t even have the option to specify a special meal on those flights for some reason. I tried to organise it, but was told I couldn’t. However, as annoying as that was, at least I knew about it in advance and managed to pick up some fruit in Quito before going to the airport. Upon landing in Baltra in the Galapagos though, they check you and your bags for any food. If the park rangers think you have anything that may pose an agricultural risk, they won’t let you keep it. Think about what Australian Customs and Quarantine is like when you land in Australia from overseas? It’s like that. I totally understand why they do it, and I agree with it. Just fair warning that if you decide to try and take your own food to the Galapagos, you need to be prepared to lose it at the airport on arrival. I’d eaten my fruit on the plane without drama so was fine when I landed.
On the other hand, I think the old adage of “you get what you pay for” is certainly fitting when it comes to cruising around the Galapagos. I did my research, sure. I went and booked onto a boat that had had some online feedback that said they could cater to special dietary needs. What those special dietary needs were, I don’t know. But they certainly couldn’t cater to mine (or another passenger on board who was simply vegetarian). That’s right, they couldn’t even sort out a vegetarian meal, let alone a vegan or gluten free one. She and I ate nothing but fruit for 7 days. Every meal on board, we were served the same food as everyone else. We never ate it. The kitchen staff kept asking us if we didn’t like their food and seemed to take personal offense because it was left untouched. We explained multiple times what the issue was. Yet it still kept happening.
Ultimately when I returned home, I wrote a letter to the company that operates the boat I went out on. Because I had been assured multiple times before booking that they could cater to my dietary needs. And unfortunately due to the food import restrictions into the Galapagos was unable to bring my own food on board as a contingency plan. I never got a response from the company.
I later found out that several of the other more expensive boats that deal with more affluent passengers unquestionably do cater to special dietary requirements. So I think it would have paid to shell out the extra money for a better boat that provides a superior level of customer service. Like I said “sometimes you get what you pay for“.
Honestly, I loved my time in the Galapagos. The boat just left a little to be desired.
Got boobies? Sorry. Obligatory joke.