Advertorial – Our flight from Quito, Ecuador to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands was the start of one of the most awe-inspiring journeys I’ve had the privilege to experience. I could only imagine Charles Darwin’s surprise as these spectacular islands came into view when he first visited here in 1831! Being at one with nature cannot possibly hold more true than here. It was not until 1978 that the islands were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and they are indeed worthy.
The MV Santa Cruz II was to be our home for the next few days and once settled onboard this comfortable expedition vessel, we met our naturalist guides who briefed us on the history of the islands. The birds and sea life here had never been threatened by anything, so they had no reason to be frightened of us. We wasted no time in starting our exploration of these incredible volcanic islands.
Arriving at our first island, North Seymour, we scrambled ashore and were greeted by the friendly squawks of colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. It was truly incredible to watch a booby feeding its babies, just a couple of feet away! The male frigate birds, wanting to attract a partner, would puff up their red chests expanding them like balloons. As our guide led us in a hike along the shoreline, we had to tread carefully as large colourful crabs, sea lions and marine iguanas wandered unconcerned, amongst us. They looked at us as if to say “hey, come on in; make yourselves at home.” Just incredible!
Our next morning brought us to Bartolome Island where we climbed a wooden staircase to the top of the island. The views were awesome! Next, we climbed aboard a rubber dinghy and were treated to a ride around Pinnacle Rock, watching sea lions and iguanas lazing or climbing up the jagged, black lava rocks along the shore. Back on board, we sailed to the horse-shoe shaped Tower Island, a volcanic caldera whose wall has collapsed, forming the Great Darwin Bay. Lake Arcturus, filled with salt water, lies in the centre, and sediment within this crater lake is less than 6,000 years old. The island is also known as Genovesa Island and Bird Island, because of the astounding number of birds who live there.
On our last day, we made an early morning cruise around Daphne Island. We were able to sail close enough to view the many sea lions and birds, which inhabit the island. What a sight to see thousands of sea birds soaring overhead as they make their way to and from their homes in the crevices of the high rocky island face. It is on this island surrounded by the turquoise waters, that scientists perform research projects. Because of these ongoing research projects, land visits by tourists is restricted to a special permit, but the opportunity to cruise by and get up close was truly memorable!
All too soon, my Galapagos adventure came to an end. This story is just a very small part of the larger than life experience this was. As I bid adieu to the islands and its fascinating inhabitants, I pondered at the privilege it was to visit and explore nature at its very finest. It will long be in my memory as one of the most remarkable travel experiences of my life.
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