The Galapagos Islands by: Anik

Isla Bartalome

Isla Bartalome

The decision to go to the Galapagos Islands was one that surprised us all.  Prior to coming on this trip, we hadn’t even considered going to the Galapagos.  As we’ve travelled through Columbia and Northern Ecuador, we’ve met person after person, mostly backpackers, who gleamed and glowed about their Galapagos adventures.  Many,  who had opted out of exploring the islands, expressed regret for not doing so. We bit the bullet, my mom found us a last minute deal, and we forgot the rest.  We flew out of Quito early in the morning, to clear skies and a view of Cotopaxi that made us drool.  We landed on Baltra island and were transported to the 14 passenger boat that would take us around to 4 different islands.  The water was clear as crystal and turquoise blue.  The Islands were uninhabited and barren of vegetation, except for cacti, mangroves, and small endemic brush. For us, guide-shy people, Edison was the low key, laid back guide we were meant to have.  Our friend, Cindy J. would have marveled at the birds, which included frigates, nazca boobies, red footed boobies, pelicans, galapagos hawks, galapagos doves, and on and on.

red footed boobies

red footed boobies

 

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frigates

frigates

 

galapagos penguins

galapagos penguins

Male frigates trying to attract the ladies

Male frigates trying to attract the ladies

We snorkeled with sea lions, who, like dogs played with us by fetching under water sticks and blew under water bubbles. IMG_9704

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On one particular snorkeling trip, as Darin and I were putting our masks on, I saw two sets of large shark fins and finally saw the 10-12 foot bodies attached to them.  While I was trying to hide in the bottom of the dinghy, the guide urgently started yelling “VAMOS!”, telling us to jump in right away to swim with the gray monsters!  Uhm, I’m sorry but innately, uhm, HELL NO! IMG_9443

Ok, so we jumped in and swam with huge hammerhead sharks, galapagos sharks, reef sharks, and manta, eagle, and cow rays.  I figured it was good training for the next time we see a shark while surfing.

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The galapagos islands have some of the world’s strictest restrictions on the number of visitors permitted.  This makes for a feeling of being nearly alone, with only the occasional sighting of another boat or two, holding no more than 20 passengers.   This place epitomizes eco-tourism.  From the careful attention paid to proper disposal of trash and recyclables, to the assurance of keeping invasive species out, to keeping every grain of sand on the beach, the people of Ecuador have a deep respect for this archipelago.

The kids were so very happy about being on a boat for 4 days.   I’m surprised that they (Marco) didn’t suffer from more sea sickness as we made the 11-12 hour night time traverses from island to island.  We had lower bunked cabins that enthusiastically rocked and rolled while we slept.

Estreslla Del Mar

Estreslla Del Mar

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Actually, I thought for sure that Darin would lose his cookies, as always, but no, he managed to remain puke free.

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Like no other place in the world, in the Galapagos islands, the animals have no fear of humans.  They stay perched, or beached, or treading water while one walks or swims by.  Apparently, it’s been this way since Watkins and Darwin explored the area.  They’re said to have effortlessly picked up and held the fearless birds and animals.  It’s like they’re all on drugs, but not at all…it’s fascinatingly strange.

Giant Galapagos Tortoise

Giant Galapagos Tortoise

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When we weren’t exploring one of the islands or its’ water, we were on the boat reading, napping, eating, and enjoying a cold beer or glass of wine.  We felt spoiled, to say the least. We got off the boat and spent an extra 2 nights on Santa Cruz Island in Puerta Ayora.  We walked around the few tourist trap shops but still couldn’t help but buy a few t-shirts.  Lucky for our friends, we refrained from buying any of the “I love boobies” shirts donning blue bird feet.

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Darin and I spent a morning surfing at Tortuga Bay.  We hiked 6 km under the beating sun carrying our boards, hoping we’d be rewarded for our efforts.  The white sandy beach was isolated, soft, and the waves looked big and awesome.  We had a most excellent time, while catching some waves that splashed the ants out of our pants and left us looking forward to plenty more Ecuadorian surfing.  I was thankful for our previous shark training as a shark zipped by twice in a big wave in front of us.  I looked over at the 2 other surfers in the water to make sure they were ahead of me, that way, they’d get eaten first.

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The seafood and tuna were fresher than fresh.  I’m now planning all sorts of seared tuna salads and Eurovan based sashimi parties in the weeks to come.

On our last night on the Island of Santa Cruz, we went out for what was to be a slow dinner, with crazy good Passionfruit Mojitos and grilled fish and seafood.  We were relaxed, the kids were busy with the coloring posters my mom had brought, and we were enjoying a relaxed conversation about surfing.  We were waiting for our food, when the waiter came to tell us we needed to evacuate immediately due to the severe probability of a Tsunami that would touch land 90 minutes later.  Apparently this was coming from a 8.2 earthquake off the coast of Chile.

We left our drinks on the table, grabbed our nice food in styrofoam containers and took off for higher ground.  The Tsunami evacuation area was the community center area of town, about 120 feet above sea level. We immediately regretted having watched the movie “The impossible” with the kids.  Simon was in a pure hysterical panic, thinking this meant death.  Marco on the other hand,  was calm but wanted to find a basement and shut the door.  The tsunami sirens rang out as people were hurriedly running around and emergency vehicles navigated the streets, making evacuation announcements on their loud speakers.  We ate out our nice grilled dinner, and watched locals play “Ecua-ball”, which is played everywhere in Ecuador and is like 3 on 3 volleyball with a much higher net and pretty much no rules.  The tsunami warning was cancelled by 9:30pm and we all walked back to our “habitacion” as though nothing had happened.

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We now find ourselves looking forward to tourist free $1.50 meals again and to being reunited with our dirty van.  This was an unplanned, vacation from vacation that we’re thankful to have shared with my mom and we won’t soon forget.

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11 thoughts on “The Galapagos Islands by: Anik

  1. Enjoy this recent post so very much as we knew about the earthquake and wondered about you guys. 🙂 The last photo of your family with your mom was precious and beautiful. Memories!!! Thanks again for including us in your journey.

  2. What an amazing adventure!!! SO happy for you guys that you got to experience such amazing waters, beautiful animals, and soak up the sun on the boat for a few days! Of course also so happy that it just ended up being a tsunami warning! We love seeing all the pictures!

  3. I read this during class what a bad idea. I then drifted off for about 20 minutes to the Galapagos with you and didn’t listen to much hahaha. I’m beyond envious of this post it just looks amazing. An I cannot believe you didn’t buy Colin an I love boobies shirt lol! once again, so very envious of this vacation within a vacation!

  4. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your relaxing adventure to share your adventures with all of us. Your pictures are truly amazing. I can’t wait to see the pictures of the boys sitting on the beach….framed and mounted at Advantage. You both look extremely restful and happy. We are so enjoying being a part of your trip. (I am one of Darin’s patients) P.S. We miss you all, but are so happy that you get to experience this wonderful trip with your boys! Stay safe:)

  5. I heartily agree with all the comments. And I am SO GLAD you decided to visit the Galapagos; since I never will, it was good to see it through your eyes. Thanks!

  6. Love this post so much. Fabulous pictures!! I’ve been interested in the Galápagos Islands since I was 12! Remy is too- she has researched quite a bit about the unique animals found there and how they aren’t afraid of humans. We loved looking at all of the beautiful photos together, especially the one where you’re sitting on the beach with the large sea lion. Rem recognized many of the birds. It’s so nice you are all able to step away from life in the fast lane for a while. Enjoy!! We miss your smiling faces 🙂
    Stripe is doing well.

    • TJ!
      We miss you all a bunch! Yes, the Galapagos would be a dream come true for Remy. I actually thought of both Rem and Cindy a lot while we were there, they would love everything about it.
      Coming home soon! Can’t wait to see you all!
      Anik

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