First thing you need to know about the Galápagos, is that they’re VERY STRICT.
You have to apply in advance if you want to visit the islands and even then you are restricted to three islands unless you are willing to pay more than the already hefty “entrance fee”.
Most cruisers tend to avoid the Galápagos because of this, but ironically for us as South Africans it isn’t so bad. We need to get expensive visas for pretty much anywhere else we go, so to pay to visit the Galápagos archipelago wasn’t so bad.
The three islands we visited were San Cristóbal, Isabela and Santa Cruz.
Our port of entry was San Cristóbal. (They pronounce it with an accent on the o – San Chirs-TOE-val.)
We contacted our agent, Bolivar, and he said he would bring all 7 officials to our boat the next day. What an interesting experience! Just as he had said, all seven officials crowded onto the boat and each one had his or her turn inspecting something on the boat. I don’t even know about all the paperwork involved, but I had to do with two specific individuals – the team who inspected the boat for contamination. (Animal, insect, etc.)
All the floor-boards had to come up, and we had to dig out all our pop-corn, rice and pasta. Mostly, we seemed pretty okay. No cockroaches climbed out from anywhere, there were no insects in the pop-corn or rice. I had to pack out all the pasta under my bed, handing them to the inspector one by one so he could shine a light into it, squinting with the effort to see little black bodies between the tan noodles. I think he was oddly satisfied when he did at last find one lonely packet of pasta with bugs in it. 😉
Everybody in the Galápagos seem to be able to speak and understand some English, but mostly it’s only a few words. The inspector was no exception and Franci and I were frequently called upon to “translate.” That is, listen very intently while understanding maybe one word out of ten, then smiling apologetically with a ‘lo siento’ and quickly discussing among ourselves what to report back to the family.
Hehe, not really. Our ‘emergency Spanish’ is still basically just that, but we were able to understand that the inspector wanted us to clean the boat very well after the fumigation. We received a receipt for the packet of contaminated pasta, (I think they incinerate those on the island), then he told us he would come back to the boat after two days to inspect again.
He never did. We never got our paper to say we had been inspected and approved, but fortunately the other islands accepted the receipt of the pasta as proof that we had been inspected.
The fumigation is compulsory and not a big deal. A man comes to the boat with a full-body suit, mask and a poison contraption. Everybody is ordered off the boat before the fumigation starts, so we didn’t actually see what happened. We were told to stay off the boat for at least 3 hours before returning, so to be safe we decided to stay away 5 hours and get our first good look at a Galápagos island. =)