Our journey begins with an early flight out of Quito. For this trip I opted to book through G Adventures. They have small boats with a 16 person capacity. They drive you between islands at night while you sleep, so your not burning up all of your time getting to each island every day.
They had a wonderful chef, Walter, who cooked 3 meals a day for us, including snacks, and Jorge who took care of us at meal times and helped on the Pangas. I cannot say enough good about this company. They were exceptional in every way!
Stephanie from G Adventures picked us up at 4:15 am from the Hilton Colon in Quito, Ecuador. They drove us to the airport. Stephanie gave us a G Adventures water bottle for our backpack. She walked us through everything at the airport, getting our boarding passes and sending us through. We stopped in Guayaquil, stayed on board, then took off for Baltra on the Island of Seymour.
We landed at Baltra and were met by Sandra from G Adventure. She helps us get all of our things gathered and loads us into a bus. We take the bus to the ferry. We cross on the ferry where a driver is waiting for us. He takes us on a 40 minute ride to Puerto Ayora. She walks us out on the dock and introduces us to Julian, our G Adventure guide for the trip. Julian introduces us to the rest of the people traveling on the boat with us. We meet Tom & Patti, Patrick & Jennifer, and Danielle, from Canada, Marie Louise and Nils from Denmark, and Roohi, Rita and Alan, Rachel and Jane, Les and Jane from the U.K. Everyone is very friendly! We board a panga and head to the boat. Once on the boat Julian shows us our cabin.
It is a cute little cabin that reminds me of camp when I was a kid. I start singing "Hello Mudda, Hello Faddah, here we are at Camp Granada." My friend Julie has a good laugh with me. We get our stuff situated and head to the main room on the main floor of the boat.
They serve us lunch and everyone tells us to sit at different tables so we can all get to know each other.
Chef Walter prepared yellow fin tuna with potatoes and slaw. They show us where the purified water station is and instruct us to get all of our drinking water from there. We fill our cute new G Adventure water bottles up. Julian gives us some rules for the boat.
Julian shows us the map in the main room and tells us we meet every evening before dinner to see what we will be doing the next day. He shows us the dry erase board for that day. It has wet landing or dry landing. (So you know what shoes to where.) He gives tips on what to bring. Camera, insect repellent, water, etc...Then it has what we are doing and the approximate time.
Each evening we gather around on this nice sofa before dinner and talk about the day and have a meeting for the next day. On one evening, Rita and Alan, from the U.K. talk about University of the 3rd age. It is a place where seniors go for classes. Rita is taking Ukulele classes and Alan is taking Magic for Grandads. Alan does a few magic tricks for us. What fun! This couple is in their 80's. They went on every snorkel and every hike. They were wonderful to be around!
After lunch it really starts to rain. We go by panga to the dock and then board a bus to go to a farm where the giant tortoises are at. When we arrive at the farm, they have a large thatch roofed cabana where you can have coffee or drinks. To the right of it, is where you get your rubber boots for the walk about. We walk out into a pasture and it has giant tortoises wandering around like cattle on a ranch. Julian explains about them and their age. He tells us to keep a 3 meter distance and then walks us through the pasture pointing out different things we should know about the tortoises.
It is raining cats and dogs. Our rubber boots are filling up with water and we tromp through the pasture as if we are looking for Easter eggs. It was great! I had a raincoat on with my $2.99 clear poncho over my camera. I had my trusty clear plastic umbrella bag from Publix supermarket over my camera and steadily shot pictures. I have a really nice camera rain cover that I hate. It is very cumbersome. Thanks to a great photography friend, Chris Calohan, I now use the free, clear umbrella bag from Publix with a hole cut in the end and a rubber band. It is the best camera rain gear I have found.
Julian takes us to a pond where the females are buried up in mud, getting ready to lay eggs.
We walk, it rains, and we are all laughing and oooing and aaahing over these magnificent creatures. We decide they look like ET. Julian says that Steven Spielberg got his inspiration for ET from the turtles.
Afterwards, we take off our rubber boots and go into the big thatch roofed cabana. They have big tortoise shells on display.
Of course we have to try them on for size. Julian puts some grass down for Tom to eat.
Julian gets into one and has some fun.
They have a ginger tea for us and Ecuadorean coffee. I don't even drink coffee and I was drinking this wonderful elixir. We sat for a bit and tried to dry off. Afterwards we all head back on the bus to Puerto Ayora. Julian gives us some time in town to shop a bit. We then board the panga in pouring rain and head back to the boat.
We have our evening meeting to prepare for the next day's activities.
Chef Walter prepares another amazing meal of smothered beef, potatoes with pineapple, slaw, bread, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Over dinner we switch seats and everyone gets to know the new people they are sitting around.
There is a bar on the boat. I have a glass of wine and relax. You have a ticket at the bar. You sign for your drinks and settle up at the end of your journey. I am thinking this is going to be a grand adventure.
That night, as we sleep, El Capitan, Cesare, drives us to our next spot. Floreana.
We wake up at Floreana Island. I had read stories about this island. Some people call it cursed. Stories about Dr. Ritter and Dore Strauch, his mistress. A baroness with 3 lovers, and the Wittmer family who moved there for their son's health.
We have a wonderful breakfast of omelets, french toast, (or as the Brit's call it, eggy bread), cheeses, bread, fruits, granola, cereal, and a sweet yogurt. After breakfast Julian takes Julie and I to get fitted for our wet suit and flippers. All of your snorkel gear is numbered. Each time you go snorkel, you grab your numbered gear.
We take the pangas to Post Office Bay and a little bird keeps landing on all of us. I am fascinated that the wildlife is not afraid of us.
Julian explains about Post Office Bay. You take your post card and put it into the box. Then, you look through the post cards in there and find one that is near where you live. You take it out and hand deliver it. Everyone looks through the cards and gets a card or 2 to deliver. The little bird keeps taking turns hopping from one person to the next. We walk back and get on the pangas and head back to the boat.
We head out on 2 pangas to snorkel. The water is a little murky from all of the rain. My friend Julie had a bad experience snorkeling years ago. She was a little apprehensive. Julian took her by the arm and helped her snorkel. He said it was too beautiful to miss the snorkeling trips. He was such a kind young man! He had Julie snorkeling and confident in no time! We saw many fish and a sea turtle.
After snorkeling, Julian tells Julie and I to grab our cameras. He knew we were photographers, so he told us we could go for about 30 minutes on a panga while the others were getting ready.
Right away, we see the blue footed booby on a rock. When booking the trip, I thought, if I could just see one of these birds, I would be thrilled. Now I laugh, because we saw so many. Too many to count.
Julian looks over and says, "What does that sea lion have?" Oswaldo, the best panga driver in the world, (I know this because he told me so) gets us over to the sea lion quickly. Hence the reputation of the best panga driver. Julie and I are shooting rapid fire and we get some good shots of the sea lion with his catch.
He was so proud of his new toy. He flipped it up in the air and tossed it around like a dog. It was all fun and games until a frigate bird decided to steal his toy. Julian tells us we need to get back to get with the others for our hike.
We pass some flamingos on the way.
After lunch there is deep water snorkel at Devil's Crown.
After snorkeling we do a hike on Floreana. Julian tells us more bits and pieces of the people who once inhabited the island.
We walk up on a 2 month old booby sitting on a rock. Julian explains that he just waits there for his mother to take care of him. The sand has a green cast to it. Julian explains that it is Olivine. We hike to a lagoon with flamingos, then head to the other side of the island.
Cormorant Point. We see Sally Lightfoot crabs and some small birds.
Sally Lightfoot Crab
We pass the flamingo lagoon on the way back and get some nice pictures with reflections.
We leave Floreana on the pangas and head back to the boat for our evening meeting and dinner.
At dinner that night, I learn that a soft boiled egg in England is a dippy cup. You toast the bread and 5 slices are in each piece of toast. They are called soldiers. You dip the soldiers into the dippy cup. I share all about a crawfish boil. I show them pictures and we have a good laugh about the differences in things we eat. The people on the boat are such a good group. We stay up late talking. In the night Capitan, Cesare, drives us to the next island, Espanola. We sleep as the boat sways in the water.
We are up early and have breakfast. We take the pangas for a dry landing on Espanola. We immediately see marine iguanas and sea lions.
We hike the rocky path to the top where there are Nazca boobies nesting.
We hike further to the top to see where the Albatross nest each year. There are 2 juvenile albatross' left. Most of the albatross' have flown to Peru. As we are walking, Julian tells us to be on the lookout for a Galapagos Hawk. He tells us it would be rare to see one, but if we were going to see one, this would be a good place.
We get to the top of a cliff and have a little rest. All of us sitting on a rock overlooking the ocean and the cliffs.
I am busy taking pictures of a Galapagos Dove, when I look up and a hawk is flying straight at me.
I tell the group with my camera mashed to my face, rapid fire shots going, "Guys, there is a hawk coming straight at me."
Julian gets very excited and tells us this is very rare for one to come straight at us. I keep shooting and the hawk goes out of my line of vision in my viewfinder. I feel a flutter on the side of me. Our group is talking in hushed whispers with "oooh's and aaaah's."
I lower my camera and this hawk is about 8" from me on my right side.
He turns his head to the side, then completely upside down looking at me.
Julian is telling us in a quiet whisper, "This is a million dollar moment!"
The hawk decides whatever was on my backpack was of no interest to him. We think he was looking at a strap blowing in the wind. He fluffs up and hops over a few feet.
He stretches his wings and hops around right by me. Not in the least worried about my presence.
He finally decides to take off and fly across the cliff. My friend Julie was shooting with a 70mm-200mm lens. She looked at me and said, "I never thought I could say I had too much lens for a hawk." We both had a good laugh.
We sat there for a while longer, soaking up the sun and enjoying the moment of the hawk before we all got up and started the trek back down the rocky path.
There were more babies on the way down, nestled in spots that we hadn't noticed as we hiked up.
Passed a lava lizard.
Passed a mockingbird. Neither moved as we hiked along the rock right next to them.
Back on the pangas to change for a snorkel. We snorkeled with sea lions and saw many fish.
Chef Walter had baked parrot fish w/sauce. Guacamole, sliced tomatoes and onions in vinagerette. Broccoli, fried plantains, watermelon, and peaches. After lunch we boarded the pangas and headed to Gardner Bay.
Gardner bay was a nice beach walk. Sea lions everywhere! Sunning themselves in the sand on the beach.
They laid around like a bunch of puppies in a litter.
This guy was out in the Bay swimming. He saw me walking down the beach. He raised his head up, turned towards me, and rode the surf in to see what I was up to.
They are so curious and playful!
OOH, I have an itch right there!
I got to a point where I was telling myself, "You cannot take another sea lion picture!"
And then I would look and say, " Oh, but how cute is that one?"
We all had a sit down on some driftwood by these whale bones and just relaxed. Some of our group swam, while others just rested. What a glorious day! Back to the boat on Pangas for dinner and relaxing. In the night Capitan, Cesare, drove us to San Cristobal.
On this day, some of our group were leaving. Mostly our new friends from the U.K. We called it Brexit. They did a last deep water snorkel at Kicker Rock, where there were supposed to be many hammerhead sharks. One of the most sought after sites in Galapagos, Kicker Rock, also known as León Dormido, is the remains of a volcanic cone, eroded by the sea across hundredths of years. Now, where I come from, we avoid known hang outs with sharks. Being a 6 am snorkel with sharks, I opted out.
After breakfast we went by panga to the mainland in to the town of San Cristobal. We went to the Interpretation Center. There were boards with stories of settlers that came to the islands and how the islands have changed over the years. It also had paths for walking.
After the Interpretation Center we went to a big boat on the the street in town. Julian told us we had an hour to shop or explore and to meet back there. We milled around town and met back at the boat. We said our farewells to the friends we had met that were leaving.
They gave us another hour before we had to meet at the main dock to meet our new guide and pick up 3 new passengers. Julie and I bought family gifts and walked around taking pictures.
Town was lively with wildlife. Sea lions would walk on the sidewalks in town. The rocks in the harbor below were full of sea lions, crabs, and pelicans.
It wasn't unusual to see a sea lion on a park bench sleeping, or an iguana underneath. When we arrived at the dock, we met our new guide Graciela and our new people coming aboard. Jeanine from the U.S., Chris and Tracy from the U.K. We headed on the pangas to the boat. We ate lunch and went for a snorkel.
After our snorkel, we headed back to the boat in the pangas for a hike.
This hike was the most difficult of the trip. Isla Lobos. Solid volcanic rock. No trail.
There were cacti everywhere.
Isla Lobos is a nesting ground for the frigate birds. This is a male. They blow up this red balloon like skin on their chest.
There were land iguanas.
Baby frigates. Graciela was nice, but she was not Julian. We had a little adjusting to do to get used to her personality.
The trail of volcanic rock.
Our last day starts with a snorkel after breakfast. When we unloaded off the pangas into the water, sea lions were everywhere!
They swam in and out, under, and between us.
They would grab our fins and tug on them like puppies. It was wonderful!
Patti, from Canada is telling me the sea lions are grabbing her flippers!
We saw so many beautiful fish!
We headed back to the boat for lunch, then off to Isla Plaza for our last hike.
This island was very narrow. There were land iguanas, and swallow tail gulls nesting.
Just like every place else we hiked. The wildlife did not move. They just watched us walk by.
There was a curious innocence about them. It made me feel so blessed to be in this place.
To experience creatures that knew no fear from humans.
The land iguanas were bright yellow.
The marine iguanas ranged from black to red and green.
We sat on a cliff on the opposite side of the island. We watched red beak tropic birds zooming by us. Graciela bet us a beer that we couldn't get a good picture of one. I drank a beer on Graciela that night.
Chef Walter and Jorge made sure we had breakfast at 5 am on our last morning on the boat. We said our goodbyes to the rest of the group the night before. The boat crew were all up for the send off on our last day. Graciela rode the panga over to the dock at Puerto Ayora with us and introduced us to Sandra, who would take us to the Darwin Center.
Sandra took us around the center and explained the breeding program.
She explained the difference between the saddleback tortoise and the others.
She introduced us to the tortoise, Diego. We took the 40 minute ride back to the ferry. Then caught the bus to the airport. Sandra stayed with us until we got our boarding passes. We flew back to Guayaquil, then into Quito. Jeanine and Wellington from G Adventures were waiting for us and took us back to the Hilton Colon in Quito.
I would definitely book with G Adventures again. They were amazing from start to finish. They were very prepared and took excellent care of us. If you want a vacation with leisure, this is not the trip for you. If you want an amazing, physically challenging, adventure of a lifetime, this is the one to take.
This trip has been on my bucket list for about 20 years. I knew it would have to be amazing. I never knew how amazing it would end up being! The feeling you have when you are there with the wildlife cannot be expressed with words. I can only describe it as a peace filled with wonderment. I have heard people tell about going to the Galapagos, but never truly understood about going to the Galapagos until I went. Every night when I would lay my head on the pillow in the boat, I would think, today was so amazing, how could tomorrow be better? The next day would always exceed my expectations!