I was only in Ecuador for 8 days with my cousin who lives in Quito. We had heard that not only was the Galapagos a little on the pricey side, but it was a committment of 4 to about 5 days.
There was so much we wanted to do in the short visit while I was there though! I had my heart set on the Galapagos months prior to the trip. I convinced myself that I could fit everything in. I couldn't.
So when the trip crept closer. My cousin threw out the idea about seeing the humpback whales. I have ALWAYS wanted to see the whales. It turned out that this was the suggestion that made all my woes about the Galapagos go away.
The day I flew into Quito, we hopped onto a bus to get to Cuyabeno Wildflife Reserve. We stayed in the rainforest for about 3 days with food and guide provided for about 200 USD.
Incredible...incredible time there!
I was sad to leave so soon and had made friends with people at the lodge. We were on the far east of the country so we took a plane to the other side of the country to Manta. Ecuador is so small that each flight was about 45 minutes.
This is where the "Poor Man's Galapagos" came into the picture.
We flew into Manta a little late and had to take a cab ($40) to Puerto Lopez. It was better that we got to the beach that night, because we were wanting to go see the whales the next morning. So in order to see the humpback whales, we had two options. Either a boat ride to just see the whales, or a tour of Isla de la Plata and seeing the whales. The Island of Silver (in English) is an abandoned island. The only habitants on the island are the birds and rats. So no cute sea lions or iguanas, but Blue-Footed and Red-Footed Boobies instead!
The next morning we set off on the tour group that was affliated with the hostel we were in.
Best tour group out there. They have a strict policy on only 20 guests per boat, which helps when everyone is trying to view the whales. They spent so much time watching out for the beautiful mammals jumping out of the water.
I could've stayed there all day. It was amazing!
There were jumping, waving, nosing, and we saw babies and mommies. Then we finally set into port at the island. My cousin and I decided on the hiking tour that was more relaxing to be able to take pictures of the birds and enjoy the day. We got to get so close to the birds and took all sorts of fancinating pictures. We were able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view from a long hike up the mountain.
Once we were all back down, we were given an opportunity to go snorkeling off the shore of the island.
I get a bit nervous around water that I cannot see the bottom of within the ocean, but when was I going to snorkel in the Pacific in Ecuador again?! I stripped down to my suit and jumped in! It was a bit cold, but not freezing. Hardly anyone was coming in with me. Suddenly a researcher who had been tagging along on our tour shouted out to me, "Go about a meter under and you can hear the whales singing!" Without hesitation I did. I couldn't see anything but the darkness of the ocean.
On my way up I heard the sweet gentle moans of the whales.
As I swam around, they grew louder and louder! It was by far the best experience I have ever had!
Not only did I get to see them jumping to close to me, but now I was able to listen to them while snorkeling!