I wasn´t exactly sure what to expect from a trip to the Galapagos Islands, but what we got was far from what I imagined. I had known for years that I wanted to visit this place a distant land I had read so much about in all of my years of biology education a place of beautiful and strange landscapes, of unique and abundant wildlife. All of these things were present and I´d like to write of all the interesting, beautiful and awesome things we saw on the islands, but it´s going to have to wait for a few days until I am no longer red in the face with steam pouring out of my ears. I walked away from this trip feeling angry, disappointed and jipped, questioning whether it was worth going or not.
There is no such tihng as a cheap visit to the Galapagos. Even the most inexpensive tours cost a pretty penny and I quickly realized those islands are not a place to visit unless you have an extremely large bank account or have saved up many thousands of dollars exclusively for this purpose. Unfortunately, we weren´t in either of those situations and fell victims to the corruption of the tourist industry in South America.
When we booked our tour, we knew the boat would be small and crowded, the rooms wouldn´t be the most comfortable accomodations and the meals would be anything but gourmet, but we were okay with that as none of us believed the boat should be the most important aspect of the tour. It should simply be a place to eat, sleep and transport us between the islands. Other than that, the itinerary looked great showing that we were to visit a different island everyday and though the price was expensive, it was still affordable and approximately what we had planned to pay anyway.
Were we ever so unpleasantly surprised. The boat, ´The Princess of the Galapagos,´ was a crummy piece of floating crap. The cabins were ridiculously small, barely large enough for 2 people to stand in at the same time and there was a constant smell of diesel fumes present throughout the vessel. There was no warm water, though we were told there was. The ride was rocky and rough with all of us walking around like drunken sailors, feeling sick to our stomachs despite taking our sea-sickness pills. The first night I pulled back my sheets to climb into bed a cockroach (fortunately not the big, scary kind) scurried across my bedding. I´m happy to not be afraid of creepy, crawly things, smashed it with my book and proceeded to get into bed and fall asleep. The boat itself was a wreck. The anchor system didn´t work and every time we arrived or left a location, the crew had to lower and pull it up by hand. The engine frequently broke down and one of the crew members was continuously down in the engine room attempting to fix whatever was broken. There were times we were positive we´d be bobbing around in the middle of the sea for days before anyone would rescue us. There was a generator attached to the back of the boat (just outside our bedroom window) that ran day and night, providing power to the ship because the engine wasn´t doing its job. Needless to say, it was obnoxiously loud and if I had had a wrecking bar on board the thing would have been smashed within the first day.
I tried to think of reasons as to why the boat could be in such unacceptable condition, but I couldn´t find any. There´s no excuse, given the amount paid per week by each of the 16 passengers, that there´s not enough to repair and maintain this boat. The answer is simple, but it disgusts me because it´s so wrong. We pay a fat wad of cash to go on the tour and all but the few bucks it costs for food, fuel and to pay the guides their measly salaries goes straight into the hands of the owner of the boat - the fat man who´s probably never even stepped foot on his rip-off piece of garbage.
Okay, so the boat was pathetic, but I could accept that. Afterall, it was the islands and the animals we were there to see. But what do you know - more disappointment. Rather than spending the majority of our days exploring the islands we found ourselves on a boat that only allowed short excursions on land and therefore most of our times was spent on board the Princess. Yes, we did get to see a lot of animals in the few short hours we were on the islands everyday, but it made me furious knowing that other boats were spending so much more of their days exploring all over the islands and sailing at night while we were stuck sailing for much of the daytime hours. I felt like a prisioner, bored, tired and sea-sick and therefore many of us on board spent many days just laying around or sleeping. We took some very expensive naps! I spoke with our guide and asked why we were on this horrible schedule and his answer to me was, ¨I have no control. The schedule is all decided by the owner of the boat. We´ve had lots of complaints about this in the past, but there´s nothing I can do about it.¨ I don´t understand how we can pay so much money and get such crummy service in return. Apparently we fell into a great big scam and were just a few more victims of the disgusting amount of corruption down here.