This archipelago of volcanic islands, their fragile ecosystem and unique biodiversity has achieved a mythical status beyond compare. An extra-terrestrial experience awaits…
Picture stunning moonscapes, a plethora of mystical animals and birds and a blue glittering ocean as far as the eye can see. The Galapagos are located west of Ecuador, along the Equator in the Pacific Ocean and are the basis of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Born from erupting volcanoes, some of the most unfamiliar species in the world evolved here including giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue/red footed boobies, and even the world’s only equatorial penguin.
Each island offers something distinctive and rare – unique geological formations, tortoise nesting grounds, rare bird species, winding lava flows and more. Kayak along smooth shores as frigate birds hover above. Amble along serene beaches with nesting sea turtles, giant crabs, and penguins. Snorkel with playful sea lions and observe sharks, marine iguanas and millions of fish schools in their natural habitat.
A strip of glorious white sand, Bachas on Santa Cruz island is a popular nesting site for turtles and playground for sun bathing sea lions. Imagine snorkeling in clear azure waters and discovering a whole new world of marine species, including spectacular turtles swimming alongside you. Take a walk on the beach, full of brightly coloured Sally Lightfoot and hermit crabs and elegant bright pink flamingos that frequent the salt-water lagoon behind.
On my last visit there, I stopped to shoot close up video of a lactating sea lion and her eager pup. Once satiated and energized, the pup determined to explore her immediate surroundings and focused its attention on my camera bag lying close by. She scampered towards it eager to snatch it away while her lazy mother growled in discouragement. The little one was not dissuaded and every time I backed off she chased me down for the case, mother reluctantly following. The whole episode lasted only couple of minutes but for me it was an eternity and the excitement of being so close and smelling their breath and saline flesh will stay with me forever!
Genovesa Island’s Darwin’s Bay and El Barranco are the best place in the Galápagos to observe the endemic short-eared owl. They are also home to large numbers of red and blue-footed boobies, and frigate birds. Walk up the Prince Philip’s Steps, a rocky stairway that leads you past a colony of nesting nazca and red-footed boobies to an ancient lava plateau. Continuing through the thin Palo Santo forest and looking out over the plain, you will be greeted by swarms of storm petrels launching out over the ocean. A panga ride or kayaking along the edge of the cliffs offers a good chance to see the elusive Galápagos fur seals nestled on the rocks, and snorkeling is a great way to swim amongst a variety of shark species.
San Cristobal Island
The easternmost island, San Cristobal, is geologically the oldest island with the most diverse forests in the archipelago. Envision a rock formation formed over time by the erosion of the cone of an extinct volcano. Snorkel or dive in the channel off Kicker Rock’s cliffs and witness breathtaking sites of exotic marine life including spotted eagle rays, sea turtles, marine iguanas, Galápagos’ sharks and even hammerhead sharks. Kicker Rock’s steep cliffs while inaccessible, provide shelter to blue-footed boobies, frigate birds and sea lions perched high on ledges above.
I snorkeled almost every day during my cruise, but I distinctly remember the 2nd excursion. Acutely aware of the slightly chilly waters, I was mentally prepared. We anchored off a small inhabited island near Cristobal and boarded a rubber dinghy to the shore. This time the tide was coming in. I resolved to overcome and breasted the waves determined to take it all in. I have never before (except when I scaled Kilimanjaro) been so overcome with excitement. Ignoring the chill and heaving waves I put my head down and explored the world below the surface. It was lit up in rainbow colors of ever hue – fish schools, eels and sting rays were everywhere. Sea lions pirouetted graciously through the surf, dodging curious sharks as they glided by. At first sight, my heart rate jumped attracting even more sharks but as I settled in, they ignored me too. It was like witnessing a flawless symphony orchestrated by an invisible conductor. I realized then why famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau was enthralled by the oceans.
Egas Port, with its black sand beach ishome to vibrant Sally Lightfoot crabs, iguanas and exotic shorebirds. You can hike along the trails inlandto tidal pools and rocky volcanic grottoes where you can spot Galápagos fur seals perched on rocky outcrops overlooking the ocean below. They take the hard way up clambering over steep cliffs to reach this spot. Then make your way down to Espumilla beach with brilliant white sands. The name Espumilla refers to meringue-like trails of foam left by the lapping waves. It’s a special treat to kayak here as you can see octopus, eels and sharks in the clear blue waters just off shore. The Galápagos Islands with its one-of-a-kind ecosystem will kindle a newfound respect and love for nature. A journey here will reward you with sublime memories that will last a lifetime. Let us at xplorearth.us help you discover these unforgettable moments. Learn more about our next voyage to the Galápagos here: bit.ly/xplorgalapagos
With the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak in mind, our respect and appreciation for nature and the unique biodiversity in the Galápagos archipelago brings forth a whole new meaning. And I can’t wait to take my fellow travelers on this journey. Pictured – the unique Galápagos Cacti.