We journeyed to the Galápagos Islands, whose unique and rich flora and fauna inspired Charles Darwin to formulate his theory of evolution. More than 150 years later, these remote islands are still as enthralling as Darwin described them in his journals. Much of the same animals and plants that he witnessed and studied still thrive in the Galápagos Islands today. Witnessing them for ourselves was an experience of a lifetime.
Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands lie in isolation about 960 kms/600 miles west off the mainland. It is consist of 15 main islands and numbers of smaller islands and islets. Some of the islands straddle the equatorial line. The flight from the capital city of Quito takes about a two hours and a half (via Guayaquil) and visitors can land on either the island of Baltra or San Cristobal. The only way to explore the islands is to do it the way Darwin did, by boat.
Day 1: Baltra – Black Turtle Cove
This is Archipell II, the yacht that took us from one spectacular island to the next during our 5-day journey. It came to our rescue after we were bumped off from our original vessel, the Queen of Galapagos; it was chartered at the last minute by the President of Ecuador to bring his staff to Galapagos!
From the yacht, we took a small watercraft called panga to explore the coves and to reach the shores. We went on our maiden voyage on a panga to explore Black Turtle Cove, named after the species that abundantly inhabit the area.
A brown pelican.
Our first sunset in the Galapagos.
Day 2 Espanola Island (Gardner Bay – Osborn)
Espanola is the southernmost island of the archipelago and has a high concentration of endemic fauna due to its remote location.
“We need to get more tan!”
From Gardner Bay, we hiked around the island and encountered the delightful wildlife right along our path.
An iguana and a seal along the walking path.
The iguanas in Espanola Island are multi-colored. Iguanas found on other islands are darker and some have solid colors. The animals of the same kind in Galápagos differ in characteristic from island to island – the factor that led Darwin to theorize that a species evolved into many subspecies to adapt to their environment for survival.
A nesting blue-footed boobie sitting on her egg right on our path. They are named boobie after a Spanish term “bobo” meaning stupid or fool because they are clumsy on land and can easily be captured and killed by other creatures.
With our new friend in Osborn Bay.
Keith with Samu, a friend from Finland who we met on this trip. Samu is our travel hero. He has been to ALL countries in the world! Yes, ALL of them. When South Sudan was declared as the newest country in the world, he flew there a few weeks later. We want to be like him when we grow up.
A blowhole. It is a fissure in the lava that spurts water high up in the air like a geyser.
Day 3: Floreana Island (Post Office Bay – Devil’s Crown)
A group of turtle passing by our panga.
In the 18th century, whalers kept a wooden barrel that served as post office so that mail can be picked up and delivered by any ship heading to where the mail was addressed. Today, travelers drop their postcards without stamps to be picked-up and delivered by other travelers who live in the same city as the addressee.
The landscape in Floreana.
A sea turtle and an island.
Day 4: Isabela – Puerto Villamil (Tintoreras and Playas)
Isabela is the largest and one of the most volcanically active islands in the Galapagos. The island has five active volcanoes and it is well-known for the 5 subspecies of giant tortoise. It is one of the five islands with human settlement.
The iguanas in Isabela Island are darker and tend to blend with lava rocks.
Mangrove seeds and pods.
The giant turtles of Isabela Island. The history of Galapagos may be closely linked to Darwin but the islands were actually discovered in 1535 by a Spanish Bishop named Fray Berlanga who named the island Galapagos after the impressively huge tortoises that inhabit the islands.
Shell size and shape of the tortoises vary from island to island. They are larger and have dome backs on islands with humid highlands like Isabela and they tend to be smaller and have saddle backs on islands with dry lowlands.
A shark canal.
Day 5 Santa Cruz – Reserva El Chato
This is Lonesome George, the last remaining tortoise species from Pinta Island and is named by Guiness Book of World Record as the “rarest living creature.” In order for him to procreate, he needs to mate with the same exact species as him. Scientists have tried to mate him with the closest possible species but to no success.
(Update: Lonesome George passed away in June 2012. He never produced an offspring.)
Travel Date: February 2008
To book you cruise: Galaterra Travel Agency and Tour Operator
Travel Info: Galapagos Islands.com
Suggested Reading: The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner