Adapting to the Galapagos Islands

After visiting the Amazon, George and I weren’t quite done getting our fill of amazing animals. It was time to visit the famed Galapagos Island chain about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, birthplace of Charles Darwin’s scientific research, and home to many fearless species of marine, reptile, and bird life.

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Galapagos penguins enjoying the volcanic island life


But what makes Galapagos so special anyway? The Galapagos, consisting of 18 main islands, are one of the youngest chains of volcanic islands in the world and because of the mix of currents bringing an abundance of marine life, and how remote they are, the flora and fauna developed in a very “unique” way. When I say unique, here are some examples:

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The famous swimming marine iguana, the only ones in the world are found in the Galapagos - when the island chain was first being formed there was little in terms of land food, so the iguanas had to learn to swim for food!


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Birds with blue feet? Hi Mr. Blue-footed booby


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This is the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild

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Flightless cormorant guarding his eggs - the only cormorant in the world that can’t fly. Its just too easy to fish and with no predators, who needs to fly?

Its true, most of the animals here have no predators, so what is also unique is how NOT SCARED they are of humans. Seriously, you are supposed to stay 2 meters away at all times (that’s about 6 feet for those back home), and sometimes staying that far away was difficult because of how curious the animals are of humans, especially the sea lions!

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The sea lions were very curious about the visitors to their private island

You have to fly to Galapagos, and to visit you really have two choices once you reach the island chain: 1) you can visit three of the inhabited islands where you can do day trips to popular snorkeling and diving spots, or 2) you can cruise around the islands on a yacht or catamaran and visit more sites. After checking into some last minute cruise deals, George and I decided to try our luck again at boat life (in case you forgot, here was our sailboat adventure).

We found a good deal on a 5 day Tourist Superior class cruise to the west side of Isabela island (with more abundant marine and reptile life). If you want a good deal on a cruise, booking “last minute” – meaning up to 2 weeks in advance – is the way to go. You can get 50% discounts (sometimes more) on Luxury class cruises, and good discounts on First-Class or Tourist-Superior class cruises. Also, if you are even more adventurous, you can show up in Galapagos and get an even better last minute deal in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island, which is what our friends Sandra and Eddie did (Sea2Stars). We actually got to meet up with them again in Galapagos to say hello and swap cruising stories!

So with our cruise and flight booked, we hopped on a plane from Quito to Santa Cruz Island where the airport is located, and where our cruise would be departing from. Goodbye Titus…hello Galapagos!

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Welcome to Galapagos - Puerto Ayora the jumping off point for all your Galapagos fun

We decided to spend a couple days in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island prior to our cruise so George could get a diving day in, and I could see some massive tortugas (turtles). Just one day in Galapagos made us super excited for what else we were going to see on our cruise!

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Scuba Pro


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Black tip shark - dive trip North Seymour-Mosqueras galapagos


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Jaws?


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The giant land turtles of the Galapagos


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Jenine also makes a good turtle

It was time to start our cruise, so we made the trek back to the airport for our pickup and learned that (SURPRISE!) we were being upgraded to a first class boat, The Fragata. Apparently there weren’t enough passengers to warrant two boats from the same company going on the voyage, so lucky us! Upgrade accepted. The boat was spacious and the food was really good. We also loved our 13 other shipmates who were all really cool. Although the feeling that we were somehow inconveniencing our guide and some of the crew continued for the next 5 days (it wasn’t just us, all the passengers received the same lovely treatment). A small price to pay for paradise…

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Ah, paradise

We got started right away with a trip to our first island a short hour ride away, Mosquera Islet. What is so cool about Galapagos is that even though it’s primarily a tourist destination, the Galapagos National Park Service monitors and allows only so many people to visit a site at one time, meaning that: A) they don’t tax the environment or scare away the animals, and B) you don’t see that many other tourists which makes the place feel that much more special. This was our first introduction to swimming with sea lions, and it was a blast. These guys are so curious and friendly, and we were the only boat there!

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This guy was sunbathing next to us - Isla Mosquera


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Lil friendly sea lion pup


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Swimming with our sea lion friends

We then settled in for a bumpy overnight ride to the west side of Isabela island. Each day we stopped at two sites on Isabela or Fernandino island and we were able to either snorkel and hike, or snorkel twice at different spots during that day. Some of my favorite animals are from this part of our cruise:

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Penguin rock climbing


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Lots of sea turtle to swim with in the Galapagos


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A large manta ray swimming by


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Mr marine iguanas


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One of the many deserted volcanic islands we got to hike through in the Galapagos


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Yellow land iguanas. He can't swim like his cousins, but he has adapted to hide in the brush


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One of Darwins famous finches. Each have adapted their beaks in different ways to their local food sources


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Sea lion hanging out with his friend the fur seal - despite looking friendly these two didn't really enjoy eachothers company


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What's up guys!


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Oyster catcher hanging out with some crabs


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Our hike up to the view point of Darwin's Lake on Isla Isabela

Our last day we ended up at Chinese Hat (yes that’s the formal name of the island because it does indeed look like a chinese hat). This beach and the snorkling were amazing.

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Our favorite spot - Chinese Hat (Isla Sombrero Chino)


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Hello friend


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This shark just got chased away by some sea lions!


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This guy wouldn't stop chasing Jenine - notice the shark in the water behind her

What a way to cap off our Galapagos adventure. I learned so much about the animals who inhabit these stunning islands, and how they have adapted to survive the harsh environment presented by volcanic terrain. It reminds of me of two former cubicle-dwelling city-folk who decided to give up everything and live in a van traveling south through the Americas. As Charles Darwin once stated, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”

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Come under the sea with us - Galapagos, Ecuador

Many, many more pics of our time in Galapagos:

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Welcome to Galapagos - Puerto Ayora the jumping off point for all your Galapagos fun

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Warning: Watch out for giant turtle crossing

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Jenine found some turtles bigger than her

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The giant land turtles of the Galapagos

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Jenine makes a good turtle

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Start of first dive trip North Seymour-Mosqueras

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Scuba Pro

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Black tip shark - dive trip North Seymour-Mosqueras galapagos

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Swimming with the fishies

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Diving down in Galapagos

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Needle fish galapagos

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Tortuga Bay - Santa Cruz Island Galapagos

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Tortuga Bay - Santa Cruz Island Galapagos

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First sighting of the famous marine iguana

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Tortuga Bay - Galapagos

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Ready to eat the catch of the day!

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Our home for the next 5 days - The Fragata

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First stop on our Galapagos cruise - Isla Mosquera

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The sea lions were very curious about the visitors to their private island

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This guy was sunbathing next to us

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Swimming with sea lions

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Snorkeling selfie

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Lil friendly sea lion pup

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Mind if I pose for a photo with y'all?

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Jenine sunbathing with her new buddy

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On Isla Mosquera

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On top of the deck during sunset

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Our new friends from Austria - B and Christopher. They are on an around the world honeymoon trip

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Sunset from the cruise

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The crew of the Fragata - welcoming us aboard (sort of welcoming us)

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Penguin jumping up the rocks

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Blue-footed boobies

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Hi mr blue footed booby

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Penguin rock climbing

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The whole galapagos crew - marine iguana, crabs and peguins

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Penguin swimming by

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Frigate bird following our ship

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This Frigate bird kept a careful watch over our ship

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Even whales came by our boat in the Galapagos

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Lots of sea turtle to swim with in the Galapagos

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The famous swimming marine iguana, the only ones in the world are found in the Galapagos

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A large manta ray swimming by

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Peguinos

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Golden Manta rays swimming by us

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Mr marine iguanas

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Just hanging with a hundred marine iguanas

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Jenine and her iguanas

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Flightless cormorant guarding his eggs

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One of the many deserted volcanic islands in the Galapagos

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Relaxing back on board after a full day of hiking and snorkeling

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Yellow land iguanas. He can't swim like his cousins, but he has adapted to hide in the brush

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One of Darwins famous finches. Each have adapted their beaks in different ways to their local food sources

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Darwin Finch

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Jenine's back porch

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Our hike up to the view point of Darwin's Lake on Isla Isabela

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a cactus that looks like Mickey mouse - sort of

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Ready for our snorkel time

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so many different types of starfish

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Getting up close and personal

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Can you spot the fish with very blue eyes?

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Brooke, one of our shipmates checking out a turtle.

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Swimming with sea turtles

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Seahorse

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0.00 latitude - Just crossed the Equator!

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Sea lion hanging out with his friend the fur seal - despite looking friendly these two didn't really enjoy eachothers company

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baby sea lion

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What's up guys!

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Oyster catcher hanging out with some crabs

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Fur seal

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Our fearless leader Julio

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Our cruise ship docked near a wonderful sandy cove

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Our favorite spot - Chinese Hat (Isla Sombrero Chino)

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Honeymooners!

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Jenine getting ready to snorkel!

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Here we go! Last snorkel trip of the cruise

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These guys chased a shark away

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Run shark, run!

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Hello friend

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This guy wouldn't stop chasing Jenine - notice the shark in the water behind her

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Saying goodbye to our crew! Great times

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The giant turtles are called "Lonesome George"

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Here is a lonesome george at the Darwin Museum

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This sea lion is on the surfboard rack - San Cristobal Island (Lobitos Beach)

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Sea lion doing an excellent job guarding my board

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Surfing galapagos - San Cristobal Island

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Surfing on San Cristobal Island - Galapagos - Tonga Reef

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5 comments on “Adapting to the Galapagos Islands
  1. Jenine and George, This is amazing…The pictures are beautiful. I want to go there now 🙂

  2. Emma says:

    Wow, wow, wow! The Galapagos looks amazing, so much unique (and overly friendly) wildlife, you’re getting some great photos 🙂

  3. Karie says:

    I love the quote about being able to adapt and survival. It is a good reminder even for decisions after this big trip.

  4. Noelle says:

    Hi guys! My husband and I love your blog! We are on a 10 month trip around the world and just arrived in South America for the last 3 month leg of the trip! We’re trying to figure out some boats to look into for a 5 day cruise around the Galapagos. What boat did you book? Were you happy with your experience? Were you able to get a good deal? We are planning to visit several boat operator offices in Quito and negotiate a last minute rate as we have learned that we can save a lot of money that way. We’d love to hear any advice you have on picking a boat!
    Thanks!

    • Jenine says:

      Thanks Noelle! Just took a look at your blog and it looks great. I will definitely be following your adventures. As far as the Galapagos goes, the best deals on the best boats would definitely be had in Puerto Ayora in Galapagos (on Santa Cruz Island) if you have the flexibility to book 8-10 days on the islands. You can get fabulous 5-8 day Luxury cruises pretty cheap there. We were on the boat The Fragata and while the itinerary was really great and the food was good, the guide and crew weren’t that special. So I would definitely be open to other boats. We booked in Quito – I would try for a First Class or higher boat since you can get a pretty good discount. And we heard going directly to the boat operators is the way to go, rather than a third party tour agency, which is what we did. Once you know the class of boat, I would definitely focus on itinerary rather than the boat (of course look online to make sure that there are’t terrible reviews). As far as itinerary goes, we really wanted to go to the West side of Isabela because the current comes from the open ocean, is a little colder, and therefore brings more sealife. In retrospect doing that itinerary in 5 days was a lot – its pretty far and pretty bumpy. If you decide to do the west side of Isabela, opt for a 6 day (Odyssey boat has one and we saw the boat – it looks great!) or an 8 day in my opinion. Also be sure to note the size of the boats. We did a 16 person and it was perfect, however our friends did a 45 person luxury cruise (they got a good deal booking on Galapagos) and they loved it. Other itinerary notes: I heard that the southeast islands are better for bird-life rather than reptile or sea-life if that interests you. I really loved Chinese hat and others rave about Genovesa island if you can make it there. If for some reason your cruise itinerary doesn’t stop near Isabela (either west or east side), and you do have a few extra days on land, I would suggest taking a ferry from Puerto Ayora to Isabela’s Puerto Villamil. There are great day trips for snorkeling and people love the town. Sorry for the ramblings. I hope this helps!