Review: Galapagos Islands
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Thank you David Attenborough!
141 people found this review helpful
If you were ever a fan of David Attenborough and enjoyed those amazing wildlife programmes that screened on TV, then read on. If the thought of close encounters with iguanas, numerous birds, giant tortoises, penguins and sharks fills you with dread this may not be a review for you! Because this is an account of my wonderful trip to the Galapagos Islands.
My friend and I had booked a once in a lifetime trip to Ecuador and The Galapagos. We did an 8 day trip travelling around Ecuador and 8 days on a boat sailing around the Galapagos Islands. This review is about the Galapagos part of our trip (the Ecuador part will be the subject of another review).
We had booked our trip, in London, with Trail Finders and they had recommended G Adventures for the boat trip. Included in the cost was a night in Quito either side of the boat trip. This was great, especially on the way out as it meant we had time to get over our jetlag prior to starting our cruise. We were picked up from our hotel at the ungodly hour of 3.30am and taken to the airport for a flight to Baltra, one of the larger Islands. On arrival we were met by our guide, Pedro and we were taken straight to the port to board a ferry to Santa Cruz Island. Within 15 minutes of arriving we had seen sea lions, bright red crabs, yellow warblers and pelicans. When we arrived on Santa Cruz we were taken to see the giant tortoises. These huge creatures just roam around freely and it wasn't long before our bus had to stop as two of them were walking (very slowly) up the centre of the road! We left the bus and walked through the fields seeing dozens more of these lovely creatures. They have no fear of humans (in fact none of the animals or birds in the Galapagos do) so you can watch them going about their natural business with no concerns at all. After photo shoots with these ancient creatures we were taken back to the port and taken, by small boat out to our home for the next 8 days. Our boat, The San Jose wasn't hugely luxurious but the cabins were sparkling clean, we had hot showers, a nice upstairs bar, a sun deck and the crew (who spoke not a word of English) could not do enough for us. With only 8 cabins it can only take 16 guests so there was a nice intimate feel to the boat. We were amazed at the standard of food served on board. A huge buffet breakfast, a 3 course lunch and a 3 course dinner were served each day. I am vegetarian but the chef was inventive and enthusiastic about making something delicious and different for me each day.
The days on board followed a general pattern. Breakfast, then a walk on one of the islands with Pedro giving us so much information about the wildlife that it was difficult to retain it all. We would then return to the boat for lunch followed by an afternoon snorkel. Even people who were nervous in the water were encouraged to try the snorkelling. They were given life jackets and a small boat followed us so that should anyone get cold or tired they could get out of the water when they wanted. The snorkelling was amazing! The sea lions are so inquisitive that they would swim around us, coming very close to peer into our masks. One day we snorkelled in an area where tiny sea lion pups frolicked in the sea beside us. We also saw rays, numerous beautiful fish, turtles, reef sharks and once I even saw a large Galapagos shark swimming right underneath us. (Scenes from Jaws went through everyone's mind at that time, I think!) My snorkelling highlight was one day when a tiny Galapagos penguin started darting amongst us. It was within touching distance and was like a sleek black rocket passing by!
The Galapagos are volcanic and therefore the underwater vista is like huge rock formations rather than the colourful coral that you might find in the Caribbean or Australia. To me it looked like something from Atlantis as the rock formations resembled buildings and chimneys. Not colourful but very dramatic.
The trips onto the various islands were all very different. Our first was to Mosquera Island. This was hardly more than a large sandbank but it was covered in sea lions. Again they have no fear so you can watch them playing in the water, sunbathing on the sand and even nursing their young. We were however told to keep a safe distance from the large bull sea lions as they can be bad tempered. The next day we visited Genovese Island. This island was covered in Frigate birds, Mocking birds, Blue Footed Boobies, Red Footed boobies and numerous more. We walked through the lava fields and everywhere we looked there were birds making nests, young chicks being fed or another comical looking Blue Footed Booby staring straight at us. You can get so close to these birds that they are within arms length. It is truly amazing.
The next day on South Plaza Island we encountered numerous Iguanas. Marine Iguanas, Land Iguanas and lava iguanas were lying along the path waiting for us to step over them! On Santa Fe Island we saw Green Iguanas this time and also watched an encounter between an owl and an iguana. It seemed to be about territory and it looked like the owl won as the iguana slowly slunk off.
Another day, another island. San Cristobel has a beautiful beach covered in sea lions and with a spectacular backdrop of lava rock. There was an interesting Interpretation Centre here which gave us a history of the Islands. There is even a small town on this island. It was very strange to come out of a souvenir shop to see a sea lion walking down the high street!
The next day was Espanola Island. This is the southernmost island. The white sand beach was gorgeous and again we walked amongst sea lion pups, birds and iguanas. The day after that was a completely different beach on Floreana Island. It was black volcanic sand. we walked across the island to a large lake where at certain times of year flamingos come. It wasn't the right time of year! We saw one flamingo!
The time of year is quite important in the Galapagos, if you want to see a certain species do your homework first and find out when they might be there. It is hot all year round but they do have more rain from December onwards.
Still on Floreana island we then visited the old whaling post office. In olden times people left letters in a barrel and other whaling ships would pick them up and take them home with them to deliver. The barrel is still there and now tourists leave postcards and hope someone will deliver them for them. I left a postcard for my cousin in Holland (it still hasn't arrived yet) and I picked up 4 postcards for people in London and delivered them when I got home.
Our last island visit was Bartolome Island. It has little wildlife but a wooden walkway takes you up to a lighthouse and there are beautiful panoramic views of the islands. A wonderful vista, especially at sunset.
When visiting the islands the boats moor near some steps but the sea lions love to bask on these steps and most of the time they refused to move when we arrived. This involved us scrambling over rocks to get ashore so that we didn't interrupt their sunbathing!
Our fellow passengers were a mix of nationalities but everyone was connected by their awe of the natural wonder of the Islands. However some of the island walks are on uneven, rocky paths and may not be suitable for people who are unsteady on their feet.
I could go on forever about the wonderful sights we saw but I guess by now you will have got the gist of it! A truly remarkable adventure! I want to go back!
141 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.