The Galapagos Islands 16 – 23 June, 2011

The beautiful Galapagos Islands

Suhail and I had long wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands and had planned to spend time in Ecuador on this trip, but time in the islands was still not guaranteed. For most folks, traveling to this very special place is the “trip of a lifetime.” It is also rather remote and tourist activity is restricted, so travel (and the cost of living for those on the islands) is priced accordingly.

We poked around a bit, looking for a deal, before arriving in Ecuador and were pretty discouraged. In the end, we decided we would just hope for a good last minute price once we were settled in Quito. Lucky for us, our Spanish teacher has connections (after years of working with students like us) and we were able to find a boat that had the right combination of amenities (not many), itinerary (lots of interesting islands and snorkeling) and price (small!), the Yate Floreana. We booked our trips less than a week before we departed, so we barely had time to anticipate the incredible experience ahead of us.

Victor, our guide, leads us right to a resting land iguana. It is so amazing how close you can to many of the islands' creatures when you are with a small, quiet group.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to express this experience in words or photos, but to put it simply, it truly is like no other place on earth. Once again, Suhail’s video comes to the rescue…you can read my blabbing about the details of the trip, or if reading isn’t really your think, you can just link to more photos on Flickr, or just scroll down to the bottom here for the video. Suhail did a great job of capturing the overall feel and some of the highlights of our trip. It’s lengthy, but be sure to check it out!

At any rate, on with my blabbing! Due to their isolation, the islands are unique in so many ways – flora, fauna, etc., but the other unusual aspect is that people realized the value of the islands’ special traits and took steps to protect them. Travel and development are restricted and, although the islands are experiencing stress from new residents coming to take advantage of the tourist trade, they are still sparsely populated (only 3% of the land is covered by human development). The Ecuadorian government is continually trying to control and manage the population growth. Even in spite of all this, at times, you truly get the feeling that the animals run the show and you are only there because they ok’d it.

Most of the animals on the islands also lack predators, so they are nearly tame (though, of course, you are not allowed to touch them!). This does mean, however, you don’t need to bring your zoom lens to get hundreds of great photos of sea lions, iguanas (both land and marine) and several types of unusual birds.

Finch on lava rock (sorry, not sure which type)

Land iguana feeding on a shrub

The islands are best viewed by boat and our package on the Floreana covered 8 days aboard the yacht (we were on the boat all the time other than when we were visiting an island or snorkeling), which seemed like a lot, but easily could have been more. I tend to get seasick, so I was a bit worried about spending so much time on the boat. However, with my trusty Bonine by my side, I was fine all but one of the nights, which was particularly rough. I was surprised to find the experience of living on the boat was awesome!

A typical day consisted of waking up every morning in a new place (and once with sharks circling our boat!), eating breakfast, heading out for a nature walk, then snorkeling, back to the boat for lunch and a siesta (during the hottest part of the day), then another excursion or two in the afternoon, dinner and socializing with our fellow passengers before heading to bed.

I should add that we were particularly lucky to have other people on board that we actually enjoyed spending time with. After all these months of travel, we have learned that, as much as you try not to let it/them bother you, the other people on this sort of trip can really impact your experience. On the Floreana, we were also lucky that there were only five of us on board (out of 16) for the first two days, and the five of us had a great time enjoying the extra space and pretending we were on our own private charter!

Last shot of the trip, sunset on the final day and the Ecuadorian flag from the deck of the Floreana

The whole trip was amazing, but we have really special memories of those first few experiences on the islands. I have edited our photos down a lot, but there are still many which you can view more easily via Flickr – just click here. And, if you can’t make it to the islands yourself, here’s the next best thing:

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  1. Christie wrote:

    Saw this last night!! Loved it! So awesome!

  2. orel levy wrote:

    awesome video, really brings back memories =D

  3. orel levy wrote:

    so far i am, got back home a couple of weeks back and slowly getting back to routine, lots of fun studying and working =D
    hope you guys are doing well as well by the way =) started climbing yet?

    • kristen wrote:

      Orel, hope being home is treating you well – nothing like sleeping in your own bed, eh?!
      We are doing well, but no climbing for me yet and no more for Suhail either. We did ride horses here in Argentina, but other than that, our most frequent activity has been drinking wine!

  4. Claire Woolley wrote:

    Love this –

  5. Em y Devin wrote:

    Hey guys!! Devin and I spent some time catching up on our jealousy tonight! 😉

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