We returned from the Galapagos Islands yesterday. Honestly, its kind of surreal to have been there – and yet at the same time we kind of got used to seeing Giant Tortoises, Marine Iguanas and the famed Blue Footed Boobies.
The islands are amazing and we can’t wait to return. The return rate to the Galapagos is low – somewhere around 2% – which is a little hard to understand. It has become an item to cross off the South American bucket list: Machu Picchu, the Amazon, Cuenca and the Galapagos Islands. But it is so much more than a place to visit for just a couple of days. The islands are also much more than what you might expect from the Caribbean Islands. The focus is on the islands – and preserving them. Of course, you can expect to be very comfortable – great hotels, amazing food and top notch service. The experience was different – and better – than we expected.
Whats it like to spend a week in the Galapagos Islands?
In a word: amazing. To have seen these animals that we’ve heard about for our whole life was a little hard to believe. For example, I expected the giant tortoises to be big. But they actually were GIANT. More like an office desk than the coffee table I was picturing.
Here is what our week in the Galapagos was like for our family:
Day 1: We arrived at Red Mangrove Lodge on Santa Cruz Island via the airport on Baltra Island. The amount of animals was surprising. We expected that we would need to travel away from the town and hotel to start seeing wildlife, but they were literally right there. Check out the pictures and posts from our first day. Traveling from the mainland was really easy. We left Cuenca at 8am for Guayaquil. We left Guayaquil at 10am and landed on Baltra Island at 10:45 local time. There is a one hour difference between the islands and mainland Ecuador.
Days 2 & 3: We traveled from the main island of Santa Cruz to a smaller and sparsely populated island (really, just 125 people) of Floreana. Although the boat ride was a little rough we didn’t get sick. When we landed there was a sea lion and marine iguana there to meet us. The hotel was a row of really great cabins right on the beach. At night, the stars were amazing. As you can imagine, 125 people don’t have too many lights on – and there is zero pollution. The view was outstanding. The trip to Floreana was worth it just for the stars. Day 3 took us to the next island of Isabela – the largest of the Galapagos Islands. Check out the pictures and post from days 2 & 3.
Day 4: We started our day on Isabela Island hiking up Sierra Negra Volcano. It rained. A lot. And we got really wet and muddy. But the hike was a blast. The fog cleared temporarily so we could see into the crater – the second largest in the world – but not clear enough to get a clear picture. Sorry. On the way home we visited a great little place called Campo Duro that has a number of Giant Tortoises. I’m not sure why, but we were invited (by the licensed Naturalist Guide) to feed them. So we got to feed them freshly kicked-out-of-the-tree papayas. It was a highlight for us, and Drew was tickled. Videos will follow. Check out the pictures and post from day 4 of our week in the Galapagos Islands.
Day 5: This was our second day on Isabela Island. The real highlight of the day was seeing the flamingos. We visited a wetlands area that had Marine Iguanas and Galapagos Ducks. But it was the set of more than 50 huge pink birds that really stood out. They group was made up of all males in the brackish swamp. Drew said that they must be embarrassed to be pink. Our guide said it was very uncommon to see so many at the same time there. Check out the pictures and post from day five in the Galapagos Islands.
Day 6 & 7: Without any planned tours we had the day free to see some of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. We saw two main highlights: Tortuga Bay and the Charles Darwin Research Station. Because of timing, we didn’t get to snorkel at Tortuga Bay. But this will be the first place we go when we return to the islands. It was beautiful. Drew saw a few schools of fish as she waded close to shore. This trip really gave her a love of snorkeling. Can’t wait to get back to this area to snorkel as a family. Check out the pictures and post from our last two days in the Galapagos Islands.
We’ll be posting lots more in the weeks to come. Many more photos and videos. Stay tuned.
More reading: Travelers Guide to Galapagos Islands Animals