From sea lions to swimming lizards, everything you’ve heard about the Galapagos Islands is true. It’s a once in a lifetime trip.
Each island has its own personality and animals that call it home. But regardless of what island you visit, you will find one thing in common; the animals seem just as taken with people, as people are with them.
I spent five days cruising with Metropolitan Touring and explored five islands. Cruise ships in the Galapagos max out at 100 people. The boat I sailed on, the Santa Cruz II held 90, but since I went in October, a time that’s considered shoulder season, it was only about two-thirds full. Bottom line, animals outnumber people almost everywhere we went.
The wildlife is what draws visitors to the Galapagos Islands. Some of it, like sea lions, will be familiar. But then you meet critters like marine iguanas on Fernandina Island. Marine iguanas aren’t the prettiest of Galapagos residents but they are fascinating. Marine Iguanas can dive more than 30 feet deep, and stay submerged for extended periods because they can slow their heartbeat to four to five beats per minute. When on land they often look like they are sneezing. It’s how they remove excess salt from their system. Marine iguanas may hold the majority on Fernandina Island, but there’s plenty of other animals to see including sea lions, birds, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and sea turtles bobbing in the water.
Over the centuries, Tagus Cove, on Isabela Island, has been a favorite anchorage for whalers and pirates, and they left often left their mark on cliffs along the shore. An up-hill hike pays off with views of Darwin Lake, a salt-water crater lagoon. Isabela Island, is home to five active volcanoes. After hiking, you can explore along the coast in pangas, or small boats, and find a variety of wildlife including penguins, blue-footed boobies, and other bird species.
Humans also left their mark on Floreana Island. Along a sandy beach off Post Office Bay there is a wooden barrel that serves as a beachside post office. In the late 1700s, sailors would leave letters in hopes other seamen heading in the right direction would come along, pick them up and make the delivery. Today, visitors leave behind postcards addressed to friends and family. Tradition is, if you find a post card intended for someone who lives nearby, you take it home and hand deliver it.
With a human population of about 12-thousand, Santa Cruz Island is the spot where you’ll feel as though you’ve returned to the real world. But it’s not about people here. It’s about the Galapagos giant tortoises. They just slowly eat their way from place to place. They can weigh up to 550 pounds and often live to be more than 100 years old. And unlike other critters that don’t seemed to care about people, if they think you are getting a little close for comfort, they have a hiss that will definitely get your attention.
If you have the opportunity to visit Cormorant Point, on Floreana Island, don’t hesitate. The Galapagos Flamingos are worth the stop alone. But when you lay eyes on the stunning stretch of sand that is Flour Beach, you’ll be planning another trip to the Galapagos.
Review and photos by Dana Rebmann. Her stay was hosted by Metropolitan Touring, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.