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

Sea lions at dock in Baltra, Galapagos IslandsOur lazy welcome committee on the dock of Baltra, where we started our Galápagos journey.

Yacht Archipell II in Galapagos IslandsThis 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!

Boat deck of Archipel II in Galapagos IslandsThe deck of Archipell II, which we shared with 14 other passengers. It may not be as nice as the Queen but it was comfortable and we liked that it run on solar power.

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.

Our first sighting of a black sea turtle!

 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.

Hanging out with the sea lions on Gardner Bay. The animals in Galapagos are very approachable as their isolated evolution has not conditioned them to fear humans.

Keith chatting with a seal.

 The divas of Gardner Bay basking in the sun.

Napping in piles.

Mommy seal nursing her pup.

 “We need to get more tan!”

 From Gardner Bay, we hiked around the island and encountered the delightful wildlife right along our path.

An oystercatcher.

Sally Lightfoot Crabs

Sally Lightfoot crabs are named such because they walk on tip toes and can run very fast.

 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.

Upclose and personal with an iguana of Espanola.

Young iguanas looking at a much more colorful old folk. They too will get more colorful as they age.

A blue-footed boobie.

Blue feet!

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.

A masked bobbie.

A male lava lizard.

A female lava lizard.

With our new friend in Osborn Bay.

A pair of swallowtail seagulls. Unlike most birds that change mates every season, these birds are lovers for life.

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.

The cliff in Espanola Island.

A colony of Nazca boobies.

 A blowhole. It is a fissure in the lava that spurts water high up in the air like a geyser.

Pelicans on a panga.


Day 3:  Floreana  Island (Post Office Bay – Devil’s Crown)

Exploring Cormorant Cove on a panga.

A group of turtle passing by our panga.

 A white pelican.

Post Office Bay

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.

We picked up a couple of postcards addressed to our city.

Our guide Mauricio putting back into the mailbox the postcards that were not picked for delivery by other travelers.

Snorkeling in devil's crown in Galapagos IslandsSnorkeling in Devil’s Crown, a volcanic crater that was eroded by the waves and is teeming with myriad of corals and fish.

Parrot fish in Galapagos IslandsThe parrotfish was one of the many beautiful species of fish we saw in Devil’s Crown.

A large Sally Lightfoot crab in Floreana.

Centipede in Galapagos IslandsSome kind of centipede found by one of our fellow traveler.

Hermit crab in Galapagos IslandsA hermit crab on Mauricio’s collar.

Landscape in Floreana in Galapagos Islands

The landscape in Floreana.

Floreana daisies in Galapagos IslandsFloreana daisies.

Hill in Floreana in Galapagos IslandsA hill in Floreana.

Flamingo colony in Galapagos Islands A colony of pink flamingoes.

 Pink flamingo in Galapagos Islands A pink flamingo.

Track of sea turtles in Galapagos IslandsTrack of the sea turtles. This part of Floreana island is their breeding ground.

Sea turtle in  Floreana in Galapagos islands

 A  sea turtle and an island.

A heron and some Sally lightfoot crab.

 A  head of a Moray Eel peering out from the water.

Rainbow in Floreana in Galapagos islandsA rainbow in Floreana.

Rainbow watchers in Galapagos islandsWatching the rainbow with our fellow travelers.

Mauricio, a naturalist guide  in Galapagos islands Our excellent naturalist guide, Mauricio, giving a lecture to the group.

In Floreana Island in Galapagos islands  Keith and I enjoying the beautiful late afternoon sky in Floreana.

Dusk in Floreana in in Galapagos islandsFloreana Island just before sunset.


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.

Port in Isabela Island in GalapagosThe port of Isabela Island.

One of the ubiquitous benches in Isabela.

Lava tunnel in Isabela in Galapagos islandsThe group checking out a lava tunnel.

 The iguanas in Isabela Island are darker and tend to blend with lava rocks.

An iguana in Isabela in Galapagos islandsMini-godzilla!?

Landscape of Isabela in Galapagos islandsThe exuberant landscape of Isabela Island.

The floras that thrive in Isabela.

Giant cactus in Galapagos IslandsA giant cactus.

Trees in Isabela in Galapagos islandsA mangrove forest.

Mangrove seeds and pods in Galapagos islands

Mangrove seeds and pods.

Mangrove root in Galapagos islandsIntertwined mangrove roots.

Striped heron in Galapagos islandsA striped heron in the mangrove forest.

Darwin’s weed

Giant turtles in Isabela in Galapagos islandsThe 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.

Tortoise in Galapagos islandsShell 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.

Giant tortoise in Galapagos islands Waiting for a pedicure.

Face of giant tortoise in Galapagos islandsReady for her close-up.

Here comes the 200-pounder.

Shark resting area  in Galapagos islandsDon’t dive, read the sign!

 A shark canal.

in Puerto Villamil in Galapagos islands    The port in Puerta Villamil, a small village in the south end of the island.

Puerto Villamil, Isabela in Galapagos islandsThe beachfront in Puerto Villamil.

A cute little boy in the village who didn’t look happy. He was on a time out. He was adorable and reminded me of my nephews.

boat captain in Galapagos islands         I took over as captain.

Sleeping on boat in Galapagos islandsKeith and Samu napping on the elastic deck of the moving boat.

Dolphins in Galapagos islandsThe dolphins raced our boat to Punta Ayora while performing their best acts.

Pink sunset in Galapagos islandsPink sunset.

Puerto Ayora in Galapagos islandsOur boat docked in Puerto Ayora in the island of Santa Cruz for the night. It  is the most populous town in the Galapagos and has the most developed infrastructure.

Bar in Puerto Ayora in Galapagos islandsCelebrating Valentine’s Day in Puerto Ayora.


Day 5  Santa Cruz – Reserva El Chato

Cruise in Galapagos islandsFellow passengers preparing to disembark the boat for the last time as we headed to Santa Cruz Island for our final leg of the journey.

Giant tortoises Charles Darwin Research Center in Galapagos islandsWatching the giant tortoise having breakfast at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Santa Cruz. The center helps preserve endangered Galapagos species from extinction.

Giant turtles in Charles Darwin Research Center in Galapagos islands“I love greens for breakfast.”

Giant turtles in Charles Darwin Research Center in Galapagos islands“Got more greens?”

Giant turtles in Charles Darwin Research Center in Galapagos islandsA saddleback and a domeback.

Giant turtle in Charles Darwin Research Center in Galapagos islandsThis 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.)

Yellow Land Iguana in  Galapagos islands A  land iguana.

Shedding Land Iguana in Galapagos IslandsHer peeling skin means she just finished mating.

Ferry to the airport in Galapagos islands.jpgOur wonderful Galapagos journey ended and one of these ferries took us to the airport.

Aerial view of Galapagos IslandsAdios Galapagos! Thanks for an adventure of a lifetime!


Travel Notes

Travel Date: February 2008

Travel Guides:  Lonely Planet Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Suggested Links:

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

Related posts:

About Marisol

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

19 responses to “Galapagos Islands: Following Darwin’s Footsteps

  1. Leigh Tsang

    Beautiful photos Marisol!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Leigh! Thanks, glad you enjoyed them.

  2. Carrie Sieber

    This pbotoessay is so delightful! I enjoyed viewing those marvelous wildlife and learning about Galapagos. What an amazing place. Thanks for sharing this journey.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Carrie, It truly is an amazing place. Glad you enjoyed the photos and found them educational Thanks for dropping by again.

  3. Kira

    Marisol and Keith, what can I say? Such an amazing trip! This is a kind of place that most people can only dream about.
    As always, I enjoyed the photos and captions. Thanks again for taking me vicariously in your travel.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hey Kira, we’re glad you enjoyed the trip with us. Thanks again for visiting.

  4. Samu Viljanen

    Thanks for letting me to guest star on your story! :-) That was certainly one of my best trips ever. Amazing pictures, as always!

  5. Traveling Solemates

    Hi Samu, it’s our great pleasure to have you as our guest star. I hope someday you can guest star in one our trips again.

  6. Sere

    What an awesome trip! Ahhh a travel dream come true for me :). So glad you were able to do it, so I could read about it haha. Wonderful pictures and so many unique animals that you were able to see. Thanks for letting us come along for the ride.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Sere, so glad you enjoyed it. I hope you can get there soon and see it for yourself. Thanks for dropping by and see you soon at your end. -Marisol

  7. How I wish I’ll win the lottery, hahaha! I’ve always wanted to visit this archipelago but they tend to be pricey.

    • Traveling Solemates

      HI Dennis, you definitely should visit! You can actually find reasonable packages. Go check out Galaterra (see link above on Travel notes); they offer packages in all range of budgets.

  8. Beautiful photos!! We visited the Galapagos in January this year. We did a land tour and stayed in Puerto Ayora. We visited Floreana and Islabela also. It was an amazing trip and I loved reading about your trip.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Natalie, Galapagos is such an amazing place indeed. I’m sure you had a grand time during your trip. I’m glad when I hear from people who had been there because I know they had experience something really extraordinary like we did.

  9. I dream of making it to Galapagos one day… Your photos are simply stunning and looks like you guys had TONS of fun! Would love to see BLUE FEET with my own eyes – those are especially astonishing!
    Antoinette recently posted..Panamá City in a Heartbeat – A Photo EssayMy Profile

    • Hi Antoninette,
      Galapagos and its wildlife are truly astonishing. I hope you get to go there soon. Yes, we had tons of fun and I’m pretty sure you’ll have a time of your life as well when you get there.

  10. Shannon

    WOW – all your photos are really beautiful, but I’m awfully impressed with your shot of the dolphin mid-jump. It looks like your trip was pretty amazing! We recently got back from the Galapagos and couldn’t help sharing some of our favorite wildlife shots, too – some even made it in as GIFs :) Hehe.

    Anyway, love this recap. Just beautiful!
    Shannon recently posted..Galapagos Wildlife and Scenery on Land, Sea, + Air (with Animated GIFs!)My Profile

  11. Wowwwwww amazing picture and very great travel experience . . . . U make me so jealous and want to come there,, i wish soon can visit this wonderful islands. Btw, what’s inside lava tunnel, is there any secret room?

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