Despite spending more than seven months in South America last year, I returned in February this year for three reasons. One was to continue to work on my Spanish, which is now at a pretty good level; one was to travel with Victoria, and we’ve been together since I returned; and lastly, was to go to Ecuador and explore the Galápagos Islands, which I finally managed to do last month.

Sea Turtle Selfie!

Galápagos is about a two-hour flight from Ecuador and in my humble opinion, should be a country of its own and not belong to a mainland country. We flew from Guayaquil and landed on Baltra Island, one of the roughly 61 islands making up the archipelago, before taking a bus, ferry and taxi to Puerto Ayora, the capital of Santa Cruz and most populous city amongst the islands.

IMG_7469Red Footed Boobies on Genovesa

Puerto Ayora was our base throughout our stay in Galápagos and was a great place to begin our trip. We visited the Charles Darwin Research Centre and got our first glimpse of the prehistoric Giant Land Tortoises, the flagship animal of the islands. They seem to have less mobility than my grandmother, but are as strong as an ox and most of them have raised their bats and have been roaming the planet for more than 100 years.

IMG_7234Giant Land Tortoise

We went to Galápagos with the rough plan of undertaking a few different day trips and also a longer cruise to discover some of the islands that can only be reached by an overnight sail. The first few days consisted of agency hopping to secure the route and boat we wanted and after settling on our last-minute cruise, we took a trip to San Cristobal Island to see what it had to offer.

IMG_7792Blue Footed Boobies

The best part of San Cristobal were the sea lions, which were literally everywhere. Cars would wait whilst they crossed the road and we must have swam with four of them for over an hour as they performed contortionist moves I’ve only seen before during a performance of Cirque de Soleil. They were so playful, gentle and agile; it was incredible to be within touching distance of them in their natural habitat.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 11.55.00 amSwimming with Sea Lions

Our cruise was an 8-day trip and visited various islands including two of the furtherest and most untouched in Genovesa and the west side of Isabela. The cruise was almost perfect, the only (minor) blemish was that I didn’t get to see any hammerhead sharks during one of the many times we were in the water snorkeling. I was, however, towed in the slipstream of sea turtles, stalked white-tip sharks, chased feeding flightless cormorants and penguins, witnessed blue-footed boobies performing their graceful high-speed diving and saw nesting birds caring for their newborns whilst warding off predators. It was pretty electrifying to be able to witness animals going about their business with not a care in the world, which is a credit to the conservation of the Islands and the tourists who visit.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 11.38.19 amStalking a White-Tipped Shark

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The Five Senses of the Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands look like volcanoes. Volcanoes formed all the islands and although some are now covered in vegetation, most are barren and it’s quite easy to see many of the still-active volcanoes.

The Galápagos Islands smell like salt. Almost everyday I was in the water swimming with the wildlife and everything smelt like saltwater by the time I left!

The Galápagos Islands feel like alive. I said it was electrifying to see the animals in the wild and it was. After each snorkel or hike, I felt so small in the world, but felt so alive and privileged at the same time.

The Galápagos Islands taste like soy meat. My vegetarian diet is still going strong since I started five months ago, and on the cruise I ate what felt like my own body weight in soy meat.

The Galápagos Islands sound like waves. Whether it was the sound of waves crashing against my surfboard when I surfed at Tortuga Bay, or waves crashing against the hull of the ship, it was a pretty prominent sound.

I could talk about the Galápagos Islands for days, but the best way to discover it is to visit it for yourself! The money is definitely worth it.

Country number 53 – Ecuador… Check!

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