OMG! I’m in the f’in Galapagos!

I apologize for the juvenile and slightly crude title.  However, it seemed most appopriate.  While planning my trip to Ecuador, I had no plans to go to Galapagos, largely due to the cost.  Upon arriving, I found a good deal, and decided to go for it.  When I stepped off the plane on Isla San Cristobal, the enormity of the adventure hit me, and those words just fell out of my mouth.

Welcome to the Galapagos!

Legendary.  Mythic.   Larger than life.  And they didn’t disappoint.

From the airport we drove directly to a giant tortiose breeding facility.  Because their reproduction rate is so slow, and they were hunted by humans previously, they are raised in captivity until old enough to live free.

What a great way to start the trip!

A 5 minute Zodiac ride brought us to our home for the next 5 days, the Treasure Of The Galapagos.  Because I had never spent a night on a boat, I had ponied up for a nicer boat despite the cost.  I was unprepared though for how nice it was – essentially a Marriott hotel on the water.  My room had 2 full-size beds, 2 stuffed chairs, a large bathroom, and a private balcony.  Woo hoo!

There's no place like home...

The next few days were lovely, as we settled into the ship routine and were well taken care of by the staff.  Breakfast 7am, shore excursion 8:30am.  Back to the boat for noon lunch.  Shore excursion around 2pm.  Dinner on the boat at 6pm.  Days filled with amazing wildlife experiences.  Stepping around sea lions nursing babies.  Standing within inches of recently hatched birds.  The boat traveled between the islands while we slept, which allowed us more time to experience the islands.

Three excursions were snorkeling, which I’m still unsure about.  I’m a confident swimmer, but swimming in the ocean terrifies me.  In a protected bay I did OK for a short while.  It was amazing to see a huge sea turtle swimming just a few feet below me.  Back on shore, others told me that a Galapagos penguin was swimming with me for a few minutes.  I, of course, was oblivious.  I skipped the final snorkeling excursion at the “Devil’s Crown” – open ocean swimming with a strong current and 2 foot waves.  I’ll pass, thank you very much!

A couple of people in our group were lucky enough to have sea lions playing with them. These three played for about 20 minutes.

Rough living.

Marine Iguana. The only ocean going lizard. A highlight was seeing them "sneeze" as they blow excess salt from their eyes. Always amusing.

Life is hard.

Park rules state that we were supposed to stay 6 feet from all wildlife. Unofficially, that's nearly impossible.

This beach is famous for the hundred or so sea lions that hang out all day. It was a lot of fun, but also very smelly. Sea lions smell like rotting fish.

The Galapagos are one of those experiences where photos just aren’t adequate.  Video isn’t either, but it’s closer to the experience.  Enjoy.

Being so close to adult animals is amazing enough. For the adults to let humans within inches of their recently hatched babies - that's just... wow. We missed the famous mating dance of the blue-footed booby, but seeing the babies was a great consolation prize.

Nazca booby.

This bird let me observe from 2 feet away while it was building a nest.

Albatross

Galapagos mockingbird. These birds will land on anyone patient enough to stand still for a couple of minutes.

Sally Lightfoot crab. So beautiful!

This was my favorite shore excursion. The Galapagos are volcanic, and this island is geologically young, which meant lots of sharp but beautiful volcanic rock. It contrasted with the blue sky. Unfortunately our guide rushed us through for some reason, souring the experience for some of us.

On one of the excursions we hiked to this 6 mile wide (active) volcanic crater.

Post Office Bay, a tradition started by the British Navy 200 years ago and still going strong. Leave your unstamped letter for delivery by someone else, and grab some other letters, taking responsibility to deliver them yourself.

It's wasn't all about the wildlife. Sometimes the plant life made for nice compositions as well.

And even the humans have created some nice scenes. Looks like paradise.

With only 16 passengers, it makes for a pretty intimate experience. Our group included a couple from the Netherlands, a couple from Brazil, and two couples and a single woman from Japan.

Were I to do the Galapagos again, my only change would be to book a couple of extra days in a hotel on one of the islands.  This would allow day access to a few other sights.  For those who really love boating, an 8 day cruise might be more appropriate, but I was ready to be off the boat after 5 days.

For anyone considering a trip to Ecuador / Galapagos, here’s how to do it:  If you can be flexible with your trip plan, book it AFTER you arrive in Ecuador.  Paying full price from the US is only reasonable if you have a tight schedule.  Dozens of travel agencies, all within a few blocks of each other, in Quito are vying for your dollars on “last minute” cruise bookings.  Boats heavily discount the last couple of spots on each cruise.  My boat’s normal price is $1800, plus the $380 flight.  I paid $1350, including the flight.  I even scored with a room to myself (though I wouldn’t count on that again).  My trip started 4 days after I booked it.

I hope you enjoyed this story!  More Ecuador adventures coming soon.

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