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.
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:
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!
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!
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!
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…
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!
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:
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.
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”
Many, many more pics of our time in Galapagos: