Upon arrival I didn’t quite see what all the fuss was about.
People rave about how wonderful the Galapagos islands are to visit, but my first impression was that it just looked like a desolate bunch of lava rocks, scraggly trees and cactus as far as the eye could see. I wasn’t sure it was worth the $100 National Park entrance fee to gain entrance.
It didn’t take long to discover the magic of the Galapagos, however.
All you have to do is look a little closer to discover the islands are packed with the most amazing wildlife you have ever seen. The wildlife is spectacular both in terms of the number and variety of species – several of which can only be found on the Galapagos islands – as well as their indifference to humans.
The lack of fear of humans means you can get up close an personal with the wildlife as they go about their daily activities. According to National Park rules, however, you can not get any closer than 6 feet to the wildlife and you can never touch them even if they come up to touch you (as the young sea lions are apt to do if you happen to be sitting on their favorite napping bench at the pier).
There are countless other protections in place to preserve the wonder of this place, such as bag inspections when coming, going or transferring islands to ensure visitors are not bringing any prohibited materials in or taking anything out. You are also prohibited from going into the National Park areas, by boat or by land, without a certified guide employed by the Park.
We spent the week hiking, biking and snorkeling on various islands. Every outing resulted in us seeing something new and amazing. I’m having a hard time deciding what my favorite moments of the trip were. In all honesty, so many things blew my mind and were truly a once in a lifetime experience. Several of my “did that just happen?” experiences included:
Having a swarm of penguins swim right past me.
We were snorkeling off the the Island of Bartolome, which isn’t known as a great place to see the penguins. Our guide told us it would be a big day if we saw one or two of them…we counted 16 of them! Glenn was snorkeling closer to the beach and the group of penguins spent several minutes swimming around and through his legs chasing a school of fish. They were flipping the little fish up into the air and hitting Glenn in the chest and face with them. Truly a magical experience for both of us.
Swimming with a sea turtle that was as big as me.
Like other wildlife in the Galapagos, the sea turtles are comfortable being in close proximity to humans as they swim and feed. We were lucky enough to see several sea turtles on our snorkeling outings, but this one in particular was amazing because she was so huge. The guide said that she was likely over 100 years old. It was awe inspiring to be in the presence of such a gorgeous and graceful animal.
Blue Footed Boobies doing their mating dance.
I’m not really a bird person, so I wasn’t expecting too much when our guide got super excited when he heard their distinctive whistle in the distance and said “My friends, come, hurry, see the Blue Footed Boobies!” It turns out the birds were in the middle of doing their mating dance, which has to be one of the most adorable things I have ever seen in my entire life! The male (the smaller of the two) would tuck his chin and do an exaggerated waddle to show off his pretty blue feet. Apparently, the blue coloring of their feet is hard to maintain without a healthy diet, so the males show off how pretty their feet are in hopes of convincing the female that they would be a good mate. Then, they would make a whistle sound and strike a pose with their wings spread up into the air. It was spectacular, absolutely adorable and I could have stood there watching and giggling at them all day.
Swimming with the sea lions.
Of all the experiences I wanted to have on this trip to Galapagos – swimming with the sea lions was at the top of my list. Thankfully, on the last day, we got the opportunity to do just that! The juveniles are particularly playful with snorkelers. They would swim up to you head on, sometimes upside down, only to veer off at the last minute and go twirling off in an amazing display of acrobatics before coming back again. They were so dog-like I had an immediate affinity for them, and watching them essentially play fetch with each other with a wooden stick made me ache for my sweet puppies at home.
There were countless other amazing experiences and I’ve included several more pictures below. I can honestly say, without a doubt, the Galapagos is everything people say it is and then some.