Posted on February 7, 2019
By Liza Verbeek, Marketing intern
Exploring the Galapagos Islands by boat is like waking up from a beautiful dream and realizing it wasn’t a dream after all; everything was real! When it was decided upon that my brother and parents would come to Ecuador when my internship would come to an end, it was a no-brainer that we wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands no matter what. After lots of research and great help from the team of Pure! Ecuador, the last day of my internship and the day my parents and brother would arrive came closer and closer in no-time. In between two unforgettable tours, first to the Cotopaxi National Park and afterwards to the jungle near Tena, it was time for our Galapagos cruise.
Shortly after arriving to the Galapagos Islands, we took our first steps on San Cristobal Island. The first thing we all noticed was the warm temperature, way better than the colder mountain climate. After a bus ride of less than ten minutes, we arrived at the dock from where a dinky (rubber boat) would take us to our ship. As soon as we stepped out of the bus we were surprised by the amount of sea lions lounging on the rocks below the docks and, if you looked close enough, crabs could be spotted everywhere. Some iguanas peeked around the edges of the docks while everyone tried to get as close to the animals as possible to take good photos. Our guide just stood by laughing, saying this would not be the best pictures we would take of these animals – he, of course, already knew this was only a little sneak peek of what was to come in the next five days.
When everyone had enough opportunities to get some good views and photos of the sea lions, it was time to climb into the dingy and boat towards our ship anchored a short distance away from the dock. The ship was great and provided all the luxuries you could think of. On each bed a bottle and bag were laid out to minimize the waste of single-use plastic bottles. Just a short rest, a quick change of clothes, and some sunscreen later, it was time for our first activity. We were to visit the island’s inspiration center. Here, the whole story of all the islands, from their history to ecosystems, was told, giving us a great impression of what was to come. It was inspiring to hear our guide talk about the stories of Charles Darwin, but also about how the islands are working on becoming more sustainable to conserve all the ecosystems and species of the islands.
When our visit to the inspiration center was over, we had some free time on San Cristobal. After a short walk around, we choose to sit down on a seaside terrace and enjoy a cold drink while looking over the sea and watching the sea lions play. It was a great time to enjoy the view and let the fact that we were lucky enough to be here sink in.
Back at the ship, we were welcomed with a small snack and told that our dinner would be ready soon. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were buffet style every day; this gave everyone plenty of options to enjoy what they liked. All meals were deliciously cooked and created a great moment to reflect on the events of that day. Also, every evening after dinner there was a briefing for the following day, explaining the activities, what we should bring along, what animals we were likely to spot, and more. This was great, because it got everyone very excited for what was to come as soon as the sun rose the following day. We were all waked bright and early the following morning, but this was made up for by a delicious breakfast and the thought of the events of that day.
The order of islands we visited is the following: San Cristobal, Española, Floreana, and Santa Cruz. Now, I will not bore you with a description of our day-to-day activities. Instead, I will write about some of the highlights that were just too amazing and unforgettable not to focus on.
The first highlight for me were all the sea lions; I can honestly say they are now my new favorite animals. Don’t worry about missing out on seeing them on your visit to the Galapagos, they are literally everywhere, which also adds to the charm in my opinion. At the beginning we were told to stay at least two meters away from all animals out of respect, but this sometimes proved to be quite difficult, as the animals were super curious themselves as well! One time I was sitting on the beach and a sea lion came closer and closer, eventually the sealion was so close it started sniffing my bag and towel. It was cool to see them so up-close, but I have to admit, they are also quite big!
Another one of the most unforgettable highlights of our Galapagos cruise was the snorkeling. We were able to go both deep water snorkeling and along the shore. During the deep water snorkeling you see a lot more schools of fish and this was definitely my favorite, but both were amazing. We were lucky enough to spot sea turtles, sea lions, and even a small reef shark when snorkeling! The sea lions were again the most common visitors, beside the numerous varieties of fish species. I have to say, the first time it is pretty scary to see a big black shadow swimming towards you very fast, but after you realize it is a sea lion and not a big shark, it is very cool. The sea lions are also super playful. If you dive below the surface, they will dive with you and swim circles around you. Such a thrilling experience!
A highlight I cannot skip is definitely the tours that were organized for us. Each day, we would visit two different sites, sometimes even three! The great thing about the Galapagos is that every island is super diverse, so even if you stay on the same island for a day, each side still feels like a completely different spot. For example, on one side of the island the beaches were the color green, while on the other side the beaches were so white it could have been photoshopped. The tours were all very diverse and our guide was so enthusiastic that you could not help to enjoy everything and learn lots during the activities.
On the last day, right before we were supposed to go to the airport to fly back to Quito, we went to see the giant land tortoises on Santa Cruz. They definitely live up to their name, as they are truly giant. I learned there that they always continue to grow, so, the older the bigger! These animals were truly interesting and it was amazing how enthusiastic a bunch of people can get about a tortoise moving his head or leg just a tiny bit.
What I have to say is that I maybe expected to see a little more land animals; the islands we visited where home to mainly marine species and birds. It was still an unforgettable experience to see this many different species, like iguanas, sea lions, giant tortoises, red-footed, blue-footed, and Nazca boobies, sea turtles, albatrosses, and many more, from up close. And all of this wildlife can be spotted in stunning volcanic landscapes!
All in all, my experience on the Galapagos cruise was unforgettable. We really enjoyed going to different sites every day and visiting the far away spots that maybe could not be visited on day tours. That being said, I truly believe the Galapagos is an experience for everyone to enjoy to the fullest, whether that is through island hopping or on a cruise. The islands have so much to offer, and every visitor will live an experience that is truly unforgettable and impossible to find anywhere else!
If you would like to have some more information about the Galapagos Islands, please do not hesitate to contact us!