Posted: 04/16/2011 | April 16th, 2011
You always hear that the Galápagos Islands are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see lots of wildlife (on land and in the sea) as well as unspoiled beautiful islands. After visiting here, I can tell you that these islands are definitely something special. They are incredibly beautiful, totally unique, and filled with such a diversity of life. I can see why they fascinated Darwin so much. I’ve already posted photos throughout the week, but even seeing photos before I left couldn’t prepare me for how wonderful they were in real life.
I arrived at the starting point on Santa Cruz, where my trip started out with trying to coax the famous giant turtle, Lonely George, out of hiding so I and the other tourist paparazzi could photograph him. But he was nowhere to be found. He had had enough of gringos flashing lights in his face. Disheartened, we found some of his cousins eating and took photos of them instead. Heading back to the boat, we had our tour introduction, welcome drinks, and dinner before hoisting anchor and setting off into the sunset.
Itinerary-wise, our days were each pretty much the same. In the morning, we would anchor and set off on a hike before it got too hot. We would go looking for birds, reptiles, and different types of plants. I was amazed by the diversity of land here. In the lowlands you can find an almost scrubland-like landscape, yet in the higher hills, there were tall trees and jungle. I often went from desert to jungle on the same island.
In the afternoon, we would go snorkeling. This was my favorite part of the tour. Sure, the islands were great, but what’s below the surface is where the Galápagos really shined. There’s way more life below the water than above it. What I saw has only been rivaled with what I saw when I dove the Great Barrier Reef. I’m still beating myself up for not having an underwater camera. My preferred tour company for this is Intrepid.
My whole trip was wonderful, and I could bore you with the minute-by-minute breakdown, but I won’t. The pictures tell the story far better than words. Instead, I’ll tell you my personal highlights:
- Swimming with sea turtles. (One almost swam into me.)
- Swimming with sea lions. (One chased me for a bit. I was a bit worried it was the dominant male but I think he was just curious.)
- Seeing reef sharks. (We saw about seven sharks swimming together.)
- Seeing eagle rays and manta rays.
- Finding a camouflaged octopus. (Even the tour leader was impressed I spotted that. It moved before anyone could get a picture.)
- Seeing multiple colored starfish.
- Spotting sea turtles throughout the trip.
- Watching sea lions chase fish one night as our boat was anchored. We had dinner outside, as no one wanted to leave this amazing scene. (The lights attracted fish, which attracted the sea lions as well as some turtles and rays.)
- On our last night, dolphins swam with the boat and seemed to glow in the dark because of the phosphorus (luminescent algae) breaking over them. They even did some flips. Perfect ending.
- And, of course, seeing blue-footed boobies.
Gap Adventures was the first company I ever traveled with, and it was that first tour that gave me the travel bug. I have a special affinity for them and have never had a bad tour with them. This tour was no exception. In terms of what Gap could control, I found the boat to be well kept. The interior was clean and comfortable, and the rooms were spacious. My bed was made every day. The bathroom was cleaned. The food was quite good, and the last night we even got wine with dinner. Plus, they had snack time twice a day (mini pizza!) and it made me feel like a kid coming in from playtime. Our guide spoke fluent English and was very knowledgeable.
However, I have history with Gap, and even if there was something I didn’t like, I’d still take them again. What I love to know on these trips is what other people think. Would they take a Gap tour again? Most of the others had the company recommended to them by friends (always a good sign) and, like me, enjoyed the tour leader, the food, and the accommodation. No one had anything really negative to say. So when I ask “Would you take a Gap tour again?” and everyone says yes, then I know Gap is still doing it right.
On a trip like the Galápagos Islands, there isn’t much to write about. How many synonyms can I put for “beautiful” and “stunning”? This is why I started this series with photos. The beauty of the islands speaks for itself. And so I’ll finish by saying go back to the pictures and see for yourself why everyone loves this place.
Disclaimer: My trip to the Galápagos Islands was free as part of my Wanderers in Residence partnership with G Adventures. As of 2018, I no longer work with them and prefer their competitor Intrepid.
Book Your Trip to the Galapagos Islands: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel on the Galapagos Islands with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates. (Here’s the proof.)
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I never ever go on a trip without it. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. You should too.
Need Some Gear?
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use!
Want More Information on Ecuador?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Ecuador for even more planning tips!