As a part of my trip to South America back in 2013, Bman and I spent about one week in the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands were such a unique experience that they really deserve a “highlights” post of their own. The flora and fauna of the islands were otherworldly. The cuisine was amazing. The Galapagos has left a lingering thought in my mind and flavour in my mouth. I hope this post will give you ideas of things to see and things to do in the Galapagos Islands, if that was ever even a concern to start with.
We flew in from Quito and landed in their tiny airport on Baltra island. We then spent a couple of days on Santa Cruz, did a day trip excursion to Santa Fe, and then spent the majority of our time on Isabela and nearby smaller islands. Like Hawaii, the Galapagos is made up of multiple islands. The largest of the islands is Isabela. Each island has it’s own unique character, flora and fauna.
Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz is probably the most touristic. As the main island that most tourists will visit (being the closest island to Baltra airport that has accommodation options), it has all the tourist amenities and plenty of accommodation options. It has a good selection of restaurants offering up South American cuisine and cute little shops selling island themed goods (jewelry, cute t-shirts, etc.). The Charles Darwin research station is also located here. We went to visit a giant land tortoise sanctuary, where we had the pleasure of observing some mating activity in action. Did you know that the male giant land tortoise sounds like a cow mooing when he gets horny?
There is also a local fish market on Santa Cruz with participants that are patient but eager resident seals and pelicans. This fish market is exemplary of the way the residents of the islands, both humans and animals, coexist in perfect harmony in the Galapagos. Never have I seen undomesticated animals sit so quietly, calmly, and patiently beside people. Neither the people nor the animals were disturbed by each other’s close proximity. I could and have walked up right next to many of the animals and they wouldn’t even bother to flinch. Many island residents around the world are known for their chill and relaxed attitudes towards life. Here, on the Galapagos Islands, even the wildlife residents exhibit the same chill “island attitude.” So cool!
Santa Fe Island
Santa Fe is a small island close to Santa Cruz. It remains uninhabited and the only way to reach it is by boat. You can walk from one end of the island to the other in probably about an hour or so. We spent a good half a day there. While there are no human establishments on Santa Fe, there are plenty of wildlife establishments and residents. Seals frolick by the wayside and play in the ocean. Small crabs litter the shores. Multiple bird species nest in the cliffs and on the island. Beautiful red and green vegetation all over. A little bit like Christmas to me!
Despite being the largest island in the Galapagos, Isabela actually isn’t as well developed as Santa Cruz. Accommodation options are more limited and restaurants often close early on this island. We stayed in a place that operates similarly to a bed and breakfast, except that they will also cover all three meals upon request. I’m so glad that we did because of how early the restaurants close on some days. While on this island, we also did a lot of travelling to nearby smaller islands. There we saw penguins, blue-footed boobies and giant manta rays. We also swam with sea turtles, seals, and nurse sharks. This is also where we went out to scuba dive.
Back on Isabela, we watched a flock of flamingoes doing their thing and marine iguanas spitting and lazing about on walking paths. We also hiked the active Sierra Negra volcano and explored a neat mangrove ecosystem. The landscapes and biodiversity on and around Isabela were vast and otherworldly.
And… who can forget about the food?
Lastly, but of no lesser importance, is of course the food! Fresh seafood was a given, but what took me by surprise was my newfound love for fresh plantain chips! I don’t even really know how to describe it, but it was way better than potato chips and I could eat them all day long. The fresh squeezed tropical fruit juices were also unforgettable. The cuisine was pretty simplistic, often just grilled seafood with some flavoured rice and veggies sourced locally. Everything was so delicious! I guess when you have access to such fresh ingredients, the natural flavours of the food speaks for itself and you don’t need much flair to make it an amazing meal.
The Galapagos Islands is definitely a destination that I highly recommend people to check out (though make sure you plan your trip to be as eco-friendly as possible to preserve this pristine ecosystem). The wildlife is just incredible. You can see a lot of the animals endemic to the Galapagos Islands in many other parts of the world, thanks to globalization, zoos and aquariums. However, to see them in their natural state and stand beside them without a fence or barrier between is something you can only experience in the Galapagos. The serenity between nature and the people inhabiting the Galapagos Islands is nothing like I’ve ever experienced elsewhere. It is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.