I studied Spanish in Ecuador for a month in the summer of 1999, but did not have the time or the money to visit the Galápagos then. A Galápagos trip was high on my list of things to do when I decided to head to Colombia for Phase II. I was even more interested having listened to this episode of Radiolab a few months before my trip (the tortoise story is especially interesting).
Seeing the giant tortoises: While snorkeling in Santa Fe Bay, we saw two giant tortoises swimming together and then many in the Cerro Colorado Breeding Station.
Appreciating the differences between the islands: The vegetation and topography differed between the islands (from sparse vegetation to densely green). There also were some differences in wild life, although sea lions were everywhere. The sun was strong, but we didn’t experience crushing humidity until the last morning, on San Cristóbal.
Enjoying the cruise: I was worried about seasickness and bad food. I started popping pills the moment we boarded, and mostly was fine with the motion of the ship. The food was delicious and varied.
Proper equipment: I was so pleased that I made a wrong turn a few days before I left and ended up walking amongst street vendor tents. The $7 straw hat I purchased came with a chin strap, which I thought was silly at the time. You know where this is going. Even with the strap on, my hat was blown off a few times. As someone who is anti-sun, I also appreciated my long-sleeved, sun-blocking shirts.
Best swag: The tour company gave each person a small black bag with two zippered pouches—actual, separate compartments. Brilliant design (I later learned that they were created by women). They were just the right size for water, sunblock, the camera, and sun glasses. It only took me two days to realize that the stitching is the feet of a blue-footed booby.
Overall impression: I’m grateful I had the opportunity to visit the islands. I was disappointed we didn’t see more varieties of wildlife. Although the sea lions were adorable, they lost their appeal after a few days, especially when the wind blew their odor directly at us.
In some ways, I enjoyed the experience of an African safari more because the animals are more animated and interesting to watch. While some iguanas are beautiful, seeing them walk or climb on a rock just is not as compelling to me as watching giraffes or elephants. The sea lions were playing occasionally, but mostly they were lying in the sun. On the other hand, the Galápagos are a more interesting place to learn about geology and the evolution of plants and animals.
Dates: May 25-28, 2015
Islands visited: Mosquera Inlet, South Plaza, Santa Fe, and San Cristóbal. Detailed descriptions here (scroll down to “M/V Galapagos Legend Cruise “C” 4 days / 3 nights – (Mon-Thu)”)
Guide: Valerio Repetto, a passionate advocate for protecting the Galápagos
Ship: Galapagos Legend, booked through Klein Tours