By Cheryl Ryan
It turns out that I like birds now. The last thing I cared about seeing in the Galapagos were birds but watching a male Blue-footed Booby during mating season kind of captured my heart. Like much of this trip, I had limited expectations since it could’ve easily been canceled, given the past two years.
It didn’t, and I’m so glad. To get to Galapagos, you need to go through Guayaquil, Ecuador. Then take a six hundred plus mile flight to the volcanic islands. Once there, and especially since it is a Unesco site, you are only allowed into specific areas to maintain the health of the land and wildlife population. The number of boats and places that allow non-resident visitors are also restricted.
The archipelago lies on the equator, which means it can get hot on land, yet the water is much colder than I expected. There is a confluence of three significant currents, The Humboldt, Panama Flow and Cromwell, which converge at the Galapagos, carrying water-rich nutrients from all around the globe. It was pretty cool to learn.
Our ship was brand spanking new and boasted a darling chef that prepared wholesome lunches and dinners of fresh-caught fish and Ecuadorian fruits and veggies. Our meals were served around a schedule of hikes, snorkels and lessons taught by our naturalists. They held sessions about everything from geography and island history to conservation and biodiversity.
A big highlight of the Galapagos is that the animals and birds aren’t afraid of humans because they don’t fear being hunted. This allows visitors to walk right next to or even over them. We were there during the mating season of the Blue-footed boobies, Frigate birds and Penguins. We saw many types of boobies, the Galapagos Albatross, the famous Darwin finches and much more. It made for some really cool bird watching.
We started on the ship for both our land and snorkel tours and boarded a smaller inflatable boat that took us to our destination for the day. I grew really fond of these boats. It was fun. On our land tours, we saw Marine and land iguanas, the two main types found there. The Marine iguanas are black and found only in the Galapagos. They drape themselves over the lava rocks or on top of each other for heat during the day then dive into the water and eat algae from the ocean. One explorer exclaimed that he’d found hell on earth when he saw these creatures. They are pretty creepy looking but way cool when they swim.
The land iguanas have greater color variation and eat vegetation, their favorite is cactus. Finally, we saw the Giant tortoises walking at their tortoise pace. Conservation groups are working to rebuild the population through protection and breeding since they remain in jeopardy of extinction after being over hunted for many years.
We usually did our land hikes in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day and snorkeled later. Luckily they provided us with wet suits because it could get cold. The sea lions loved accompanying us. It was actually pretty scary at first. They would swim with lightning speed right up to your face and then dive beneath you right before it appeared that they would run into you. It was a bit terrifying but we got used to it after a couple of times. There were white-tipped sharks, rays, sea turtles, and many other sorts of tropical fish and urchins. Sometimes the water was so weird and mottled looking. It would bend your vision. It’s hard to describe but wild. Unfortunately I’ve got no pictures from under the water.
It’s a very unique place and I absolutely recommend it. I do think 5 days could be enough to see everything you want. If you end up on a 7 day cruise just take a few days to relax and you’ll still get to see it all.