The Galapagos. Everyone knows about them, even people in Iowa (I assume, I would never go there myself – though might make for an interesting side blog post trip write up). At any rate, when we began our trip our goal was to make it to Macchu Pichu at a very minimum (i.e. meaning that since we started in Chile/Patagonia, a worthy goal of at least three months on the road). Funny thing is, once you get closer and closer to achieving your goals, you begin to reset them to things further and further away. Thus once we brushed past Machu Picchu and the resplendent Sacred Valley in early July, we set our sights on a new venture: (you guessed it!) The Galapagos.
For those who don’t know and have been too lazy to go to Wikipedia thus far, the Galapagos are a collection of islands well off the coast of Ecuador, filled with evolutionary discrepancies. In fact, the islands are often cited as a key instigator behind Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, though as our surly tour guide was frequent to point out, the British scientist actually only spent five total weeks visiting a few of the islands, and got so seasick on his journey to South America that he almost turned back home well before arriving off the Ecuadorian coast. Regardless he taxidermy-ied a slew of random island creatures, brought them back to England, and decades later used them as evidence behind his “theory” of evolution.
In this sense, the anomalies of Galapagos-ian creatures, such as iguanas that swim or a general lack of fear of humans due to millions of years growing up without natural predators, clearly inspired Darwin at some level. I was half expecting my own Darwin-eqsue sort of revelation that would shock the world to its very core, or at least get me labeled as a heretic by some random European churches. Needless to say, that did not quite transpire. So instead of filling up this space with a newfangled but scientifically laking theory about something or other, I’ll instead use the power of photos to show you what is there (much better than listening to me talk about it)!
Our sea-sick inducing route
We undertook an eight-day cruise focused on some of the more far-flung Western areas of the Galapagos. We also picked the smallest boat we could, with a capacity of 16 passengers, but with only seven on board during our week (note: small boats typically do not undertake such long itineraries, because they are slower and rock more, which equals more sea-sick inducing travel time). The lack of an underwater camera also prevents demonstration of our daily snorkeling ventures, where the water got colder and colder the further west we went, and thus shorter and shorter in duration. But I do have photos (and video) of some of our land forays . . .
Day 1: Arrival & Santa Cruz Island (Bachus beach)
Not too much as we fly in from Quito this day, but did see a sea lion right off the bat. We spent the afternoon on a beach with small preview snippets of what was to come . . .
Day 2: North Seymour Island & Bartolomé Island (Sullivan Bay)
Day two the action really started, with a sea lion who tried to force his way onto our tour. Blue footed booby sightings abounded, along with puffed up frigates trailing our boat, land-based cactus-loving iguanas, and many an obstructionist sea lions.
Day 3: Bartolomé Island (James Bay & Buccaneer’s Cover)
Day three got us some pretty scenery and a penguin sighting! We also got up close and personal with a baby sea lion, and finally found some swimming sea iguanas, which promptly blew my mind. I also lot my Local H hat at sea. I assume some penguin is that much cooler for wearing it now.
Day 4: Isabela Island (Tagus Cover) and Fernandina Island (Espinoza Point)
Day four we hiked up to a point – finally venturing to the interior of an island. The crabs were not impressed.
Day 5: Isabela Island (Elizabeth Bay & Moreno Point)
On day five, the iguanas took over. This island had it all though, including dueling crabs, sea lions, birds of a sort, and even a beached tortoise. An afternoon visit to a lava field and am venture in the mangroves revealed sting rays, more turtles, flamingoes, and even a reclusive, camera-shy shark.
Day 6: Isabela Island (Puerto Villamil & Sierra Negra Volcano)
Day six involved a long navigation southeast along Isabela Island, but also a land venture to the even more reclusive and camera shy Sierra Negra volcano (which was completely obscured by clouds during our visit – it was “perfect” the day before, helpful advice from a park ranger).
There is supposed to be a volcano behind us . . .
Day 7: Santa Cruz Island (Dragon Hill & Punta Carrion)
The last real day of action involved a turtle breeding center and time in Puerto Ayora, one of the towns in the Galapagos that felt surprisingly like a normal beach town. A morning sunrise hike on Dragon Hill provided picturesque photos, while a seal stole Christine’s spot on a bench.
Day 8: Santa Cruz Island & Return to Quito
On day eight we returned to the airport after a quick jaunt to the Charles Darwin station and a drive across Santa Cruz island, finally leaving boat life for good. At the airport, I also heeded local advice and specifically did not recycle my teddy bear.
All in all despite the endless, rocky navigations, the cold water, and the expenses involved in visiting the Galapagos, it was a magical sort of experience to see the islands and get up close & personal with the wildlife. I fully expect the experience to pay dividends in the future as Darwin had a multi-decade gap between his visit and the theory of evolution – so I still have time to formulate my own world-changing thoughts. Get ready, because they are coming soon-ish to a blog near you!