The wonderland of Galápagos

Galápagos has been, like several other destinations of this trip, a dream for many years. Words spoken or written from previous visitors has all been the same: Galápagos is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Thus, our expectations were set really high. In despite of this, we were absolutely blown away. In the past week we have seen and experienced things we never thought possible. The tales, the stories… they were all true.

Since Galápagos was one of the absolute highlights on our journey (and Viktor being a little motion sickness sometimes) we chose to do a cruise for eight days on one of the more comfortable boats, securing a great and experienced guide. Everyday, we had 2-4 activities, which could be anything from hikes, panga rides, beach time or snorkelling. All the activities had something in common: spotting for wildlife.

The islands we visited: Bartholomew, Santiago, Plazas, Santa Fe, San Cristobal, Espanola, Floreana and Santa Cruz.

Viktor the first day on the panga. One of the most iconic symbols of Galápagos – the Pinnacle rock. Our first hike on Galápagos! Bartholomew, where a scene from Master and Commander with Russel Crowe takes place. The majority of islands in Galápagos are made of lava. This particular basaltic lava flow is called pahoe-hoe (the name has Hawaiian origin) and has the nick name of rope lava. Sally light foot crabs on the lava rocks. Just one of all the beautiful sunsets we viewed from our balcony.

It was here, in Galápagos, Charles Darwin made his revolutionary discoveries about natural selection and the evolution (which he did based on mocking birds, not the finches as stated in most of our literary!) and we could see this with our own eyes visiting different islands. The iguanas for example, have adjusted to the conditions their island has to offer. A result of this is the marine iguana – the only iguana in the world living on algae in the ocean. They don’t have gills but can hold their breaths for an impressive amount of time!

The Galápagos land iguana, yellow to its colour, on Plaza Island. Pale iguana on Santa Fe. The ancestor to marine iguana.One type of marine iguana on Espanola. Their pigment change over time due to the algae they eat (it’s the same for red crabs and flamingos), hence their red and green colours. Another type of marine iguana on Santa Cruz Island.

What makes these island even more special however, is the way the animals acts around humans. They have no predators here, and since they are protected by many laws (killing or hitting a iguana e.g. with your car would give you five years in jail and thousands of dollars in penalty), the animals are not afraid. Everyone has to keep two meters distance from all species, yet sometimes they make their own delicious on coming closer. The sea lions are particularly friendly and the younger they are, the more curious and bold. However, you have to have respect of the so called Beach Master. We encountered one while snorkelling and he made clear that this is his territory and his harem. By slowly swimming away, we let him know we got his message…

Baby sea lion on the shore. Minna and sea lions on Santa Fe. Could sit here all day just watching these gorgeous animals.

Even though spectacular things were seen on land, the highlights were discovered under the surface. On the first snorkelling opportunity we had our guide said “try out your gear in this area, but just so you know this is not the best spot for snorkelling”. Surprised by say the least, when we 20 min later had seen several new species of fish, a massive lobster and three giant sea turtles so close we could touch them – and not swimming away as they don’t fear us! At the end of our cruise, we had seen tens of sea turtles, all of them equally special. We were also lucky enough to swim with playful sea lions, watch penguins hunt for fish and on one of our deep water snorkelling swims, a two meter big hammerhead swam just below the two of us! Truly unbelievable and very rare even in Galápagos. Sadly, we have no photos of our under-water experiences, but the memories will definitely stay for ever.

This fellow had never snorkelled before our world journey. Luckily, he has had a great teacher of his fiancé and is now close to a pro. Pitt point on San Cristobal. Through the arcade, Kicker Rock can be seen in the distance. Close-up of Kicker Rock. It was when snorkelling alongside these steep cliffs we spotted the hammerhead! White coral beach and perfect snorkelling water at Espanola. Viktor arriving to Santa Fe. Do you see the difference in beach colour from previous? This one is partly made of green lava glass, thus the glimmer and the olive colour.

Even animal species in the sky are colourful and unafraid. Finches and mockingbird are important from a historical perspective, but it’s a different type of birds that steal the show once you are on the island: Boobies! The funny name originating from the Spanish word bobo, which means “stupid”, as they would land on ships and getting easily caught for food and they nest in direct sunlight. And yes, they look kind of silly but cute.

Blue footed booby protecting her egg from the sun. No need for a secure inaccessible nest as there are no predators. Another blue footed booby showing off his shiny feet, which becomes blue once they matured. Funny thing is that they aren’t actually blue, since the blue colour is non-existent in nature. It’s just the reflection that makes us think it’s blue – just like the ocean or the sky, which aren’t actually blue either. Red footed booby sitting in the nest. A female Nazca booby and her baby. The Galápagos Princess enjoying the sun deck. Pink flamingos.

While we spent lots of time on different islands and under the sea, we still needed to be on the boat for navigation and resting. After an activity, we were welcomed aboard with a refreshing cold drink and a snack. Just what you need after spending time in the water or under the hot sun. The occasional nap was inevitable so to say, at least for grandpa Viktor.

The Galapagos shark, cousin to the white shark, catching fly fish in the dark. Sunset. Post office bay. Back in the days, travellers would leave/take letters to friends and families at this place. If you lived close by to an adress, you would hand-deliver this letter yourself (if you wanted), just like a personal mailman. This tradition is still upheld and we collected a letter to be delivered by us to one, supposedly happy, Swede. Also, Viktor got an important call from the sea god while we were there. Galápagos princess waking up.

Another unique animal for Galapagos is the giant tortoise, with different species for different islands. During this time of the year, it’s the mating season for the tortoise. Females walk down from the highland to find a mate, crossing roads and farms. Some of them are huge, weighing hundreds of kilo! The age they reach is uncertain, but it’s believed they can become hundreds of years. This was our last stop on this amazing week. The animals we’ve seen are incredible. Memories for a lifetime.

Next stop is Panama, adios!

Peekaboo! Swimming pool. No humans allowed. One happy fellow. Vamos de la playa, adios amigo!