If youâ€™re staying in Puerto Ayora for a while, a day tour of Academy Bay is a great way to spend the time. The city is located right on the bay, and itâ€™s tempting to overlook it because itâ€™s so close, but the bay has a lot to offer.
There are several â€śtour boatsâ€ť which will be happy to sell you a spot on a bay tour: these range from genuine, safety-inspected motorboats with qualified, official guides to smelling-of-fish converted water taxis featuring a driver/guide who is perhaps best described as â€śa local Dude with a boat.â€ť Surprisingly, when all is said and done there is little difference, and what the â€śDude with a boatâ€ť may lack in wimpy things like safety inspections, life jackets and radios, he may make up in local color and personality. As long as you donâ€™t need a lot of in-depth information â€“ the Dude will not know the geological history of every island, or the name of Charles Darwinâ€™s dog, or any of that other stuff that they teach in guide school â€“ you wonâ€™t know the difference. Anyone can operate a motor and point out a blue-footed booby. Besides, youâ€™ll be in sight of Puerto Ayora the whole time. Radios are for pansies.
There are little travel agencies literally everywhere: you canâ€™t fart in Puerto Ayora without a â€śtour operatorâ€ť getting a whiff. To book a bay tour, just walk into one and set it up. They go every day, and should cost you about $15-$25 depending on where you want to go and your negotiating skills. They generally go from about 1 or 2 in the afternoon to 5 or 6.
Bay tours generally include some or all of the following: you may go snorkeling at La LoberĂa, which is a small island in the bay with a sea lion colony, snorkeling along the rocky coast (where you might see a shark), a visit to a half-sunken fishing ship, and a walk along a short trail where you can maybe see some sharks in a narrow â€ścanal.â€ť There is also a beach that some tours go to. Your guide (or Dude) will point out sea turtles, rays, fish, and birds as they present themselves.
Bring a camera, a windbreaker, some walking shoes (tevas are fine) and perhaps a bottle of water. Youâ€™ll also want to bring your own snorkeling gear: you should be able to get it from the â€śtour operatorâ€ť before you go. They will tell you that the Dude has all the snorkeling gear you need, and they will be lying. The Dude will have a few leaky masks that look like they were left on the islands by Charles Darwin himself because they were too crappy and beat-up to take back to England. He will have no fins. There will be snorkels, but what do you think the Dude does in his spare time? Wash snorkels with an appropriate solution of water, salt, Listerine and bleach? Not on your life! The Dude is far too busy with Puerto Ayoraâ€™s hooker population to do that.
God only knows where the Dudeâ€™s snorkels have been since the last time they were properly washed.
Puerto Ayora, Ecuador
Boating, Hiking, Birdwatching
Tours can be arranged at any one of the many tour operators in Puerto Ayora. They leave from the main pier after lunch.
Price Description: $15-$25
Relative price: Budget
Travel Skills: beginner/easy.
Be sure to mention if you want to do extra snorkeling or hiking: the tour itinerary is somewhat flexible.