Flying over the Galapagos archipelago was surreal and from the plane I couldn’t believe the scenery I was observing. It was like we were flying over another planet entirely. Once we landed I was overcome by emotion and stunned by its beauty. I had always wanted to visit Galapagos but it seemed like an unattainable far away land. As a biology undergrad it was the place one dreamt about moving to or visiting but never actually had the courage (or money) to go. Now, here we were standing on this magnificent and awe-inspiring land making our dream a reality.
Still unsure whether we were going to take a cruise around the islands or island hop, we arrived at the airport and began comparing prices with different tour operators. Fellow backpackers we met on the mainland informed us that travelers were obtaining good last-minute cruise deals but there was a risk that we may not be able to book. Thankfully we found some space on the Galaven and were able to get a sweet deal on a 4-day/3-night cruise.
From the main terminal we hopped on a bus for about 10 minutes that took us to a dock where we boarded a dinghy headed for the Galaven. We had no idea what the itinerary entailed but we were ready for an adventure. After settling into our cabins and mingling with fellow passengers our guide gave us a brief overview of what to expect over the next 4 days. The adventure ahead looked exciting and the food and accommodations on-board were quite good so I was already glad we had booked the cruise.
Our first outing was a visit to Black Turtle Cove off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. A short dinghy ride took us into the cove surrounded by numerous mangroves. The afternoon was perfectly overcast and this made the scenery even more enchanting. Soon we got our first sighting of the infamous blue-footed boobies resting on the rocks. We watched as they clumsily plopped around displaying their incredibly bright blue feet.
The group quietly waited in anticipation while our guide looked for sea turtles. Soon we spotted a large turtle quickly and elegantly making its way through the water. We were able to get some great pictures here and it was truly a magical experience.
After some rough seas we arrived on the island of Genovesa the next day. We climbed the infamous Philips Steps to arrive at what I can only call “boobie paradise”. It was amazing to see such a diverse array of Red Footed, Blue Footed and Nazca boobies. We were able to observe baby chicks, eggs, boobies feeding and also mating in their natural habitat.
Due to their lack of natural predators on the islands, the animals in the Galapagos are not afraid of humans and are incredibly tame. While respecting their space, were able to get unbelievably close and take some fantastic pictures of these awe-inspiring creatures. We then had our first snorkeling experience on the cruise where the visibility wasn’t so great but even so we were able to observe gorgeous coral reefs and a diversity of fish.
Later we visited Darwin’s Bay Beach where we first took a quick hike around the island. Our guide showed us the some interesting animal bones that washed up on shore including a dolphin. He also pointed out a cliff with graffiti, which was a common practice before the Galapagos Islands were declared a national park. We saw a variety of animals on this island as well. Sea lions just lazily rested near the shore, boobies nested in the trees and lizards moved quickly almost undetected while blending in with the lava rocks. During our snorkel from the beach Manu even spotted white-tipped reef sharks!
The following day we arrived at Sullivan Bay and were greeted by a stunning sunrise. Manu went onto the island for a quick hike on the lava formations. With the distinct mountains in the background and the black rocks that surrounded him the landscape had an extraterrestrial feel.
In the afternoon we were ready for more snorkeling. I had yet to see all of the animals everyone else had spotted swimming in the water. This was the most incredible experience for me since while snorkeling I was able to swim among sea lions, penguins skirted by me, and we hovered over a magnificent sea turtle while it was feeding.
It is hard to express all of the emotions I felt in that short hour but I had to pinch myself just to make sure it wasn’t all a dream. Once I saw the sea turtle I had to try incredibly hard not to cry and I kept thinking how I didn’t want to fog up my mask so that I could remain with my head underwater watching her.
After getting some incredible photographs we headed back to the boat for lunch and to gear up for our last snorkeling experience on the cruise. Later that afternoon we arrived at Rabida Island and were greeted by rambunctious sea lions jumping out of the water onto the shore. The sight was outstanding and the unique red color of the beach served as the backdrop.
We quickly dove in the water excited to swim with so many sea lions. These guys came very close to us and playfully swam around the group. The visibility was fantastic and we swam far out to observe diverse fish and reefs that were not only plentiful but also clear as day.
Our last day we headed to the populated island of Santa Cruz to visit Darwin’s Research Station. Here we saw the incredible marine iguanas coming in from the ocean, huge land iguanas that looked prehistoric and the fascinatingly enormous tortoises. Our guide was very informative and provided a great tour of the site. Overall our whole experience was excellent and we were glad we booked the cruise.
-Shop around for a good price. When tying to book last-minute attempt to haggle the price. Remember they are trying to fill up the boat.
– The guide makes or breaks the cruise. If booking in advanced research and make sure the guides on your cruise are knowledgeable. Many of them have a master’s degree in marine biology and are trained naturalists.
– Fellow landlubbers: Don’t forget your motion sickness medicine!