From our initial planning we never knew for certain if we would be able to visit the Galapagos due to it being outrageously expensive. However after hearing from multiple people that it is an absolute “must-do” we sucked it up and decided we couldn’t come this far and not go!
Therefore we booked our trip last minute – about 10 days prior to leaving – from an agency in Quito. Last minute deals can be less than 50% of the original listed price, so if you are flexible with dates and itinerarys you can get an amazing deal. We opted for an 8-day cruise and lucked out on a First Class boat, called the Galaxy, which also had “one of the best itineraries” as it covered numerous Islands in the archipelago and had some of the most renowned snorkeling spots. We later found out that this particular cruise had originally been chartered by an American group who had to cancel at the last minute – therefore the majority of the passengers purchased tickets around the same time as we did, so weren’t a bunch of old Americans that we were expecting! We had a great group of like-minded tourists, also (mainly) similar in age. The boat’s capacity was 16 which was a nice number and we got to know each other quite well.
We flew to the Galapagos two days early to see some of the additional sites not covered in our cruise. We spent two nights on the main island of Santa Cruz in Puerto Ayora. It’s quite the tourist hub with a lot of souvenir shops along the main strip, restaurants and hostels. On our second night we had dinner near the wharf where there is a fish market by day and outdoor fresh fish restaurant by night where you can choose a whole cooked fish or fresh lobster. We opted for the latter as it was ridicously cheap compared to NZ prices.
This trip was packed full of highlights therefore we have decided to comment and explain our journey through our photos. Unfortunately we didn’t end up getting an underwater camera but believe us when we say that the snorkeling spots were absolutely unreal!
The Galapagos was definitely the highlight of our entire trip, we are absolutely stoked to have had the opportunity to experience this amazing place and its wildlife.
Although there is an abundance of wildlife on the islands it is clear to see the impact and damage that man has had on this fragile ecosystem. The hunting and the introduction of non-native species by humans has pushed some animals to the brink to extinction. While tourism is still increasing year-by-year only a small portion is going to the conversation of these unique and wonderful creatures. It will be interesting to learn of what will become of the life here in the Galapagos.
Marine Iguana at Tortuga Bay
Spotted our first Boobie!
Blue Footed Boobie 🙂
Tortuga Bay – we went snorkeling here and spotted our first turtle! The water was a bit murky but we still saw lots of fish.
Las Grietas, which translates literally to mean “the cracks,” is a series of volcanic crevices that were formed during the cooling of molten lava. The crystal clear water is home to large parrot fish which swam through the underground tunnels and then grew too large to leave.
Freshies at the fish market in Puerto Ayora.
Pelican and Sealion awaiting some fish scraps at the market – Puerto Ayora.
Day 1 – The Galaxy boat – this was our nicest room of our travels yet! Every day they cleaned our rooms and made a new designer piece of towel art with chocolates on our bed.
Day 1 – Topdeck on the boat
Day 1 – The Galaxy’s bar & dining area. The food on the boat was amazing! Buffet breakfasts, 3 courses for lunch and dinner + yummy snacks and fresh juices after our excursions.
Day 1 – Mosquera Islet – a white sandy beach home to many sealions and their pups, marine iguanas, crabs, and a few species of birds.
Day 1 – Sealion on Mosquera Islet
Day 1 – Bones of a Pilot Whale washed ashore
Day 1 – Two pups playing. Their mothers go out to hunt during the day while one adult female watches over all the pups in the colony.
Day 1 – Selfie with a Sealion (had to be done)
Day 1 – Playful Sealion pup on the rocks
Day 2 – The Galaxy boat infront of Bartolome Island. We had our first snorkeling experience here around the rocky shores of Sullivan Bay at Santiago Island. We saw a lot of colourful tropical fish, a penguin and sealion.
Day 2 – A different world at Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island
Day 2 – The black lava flows are virtually uneroded (formed in 1897)
Day 2 – The patterns of the lava were amazing. We walked for about 2 hours on the lava forms and it was frickin hot! Luckily we had a snorkel afterwards!
Day 2 – We spotted this Galapagos Penguin on the rocks near Bartolome Island. We only saw a handful on the whole trip as 90% live in the western islands. It is the only penguin that lives north of the equator.
Day 2 – Our walk up to the top of Bartolome Island, Pinnacle rock is on the right (this was our second snorkeling sound of the day).
Day 3 – Our boat made the rocky overnight journey to Genovesa Island also known as ‘Bird Island’.
Day 3 – Genovesa is home to an abundance of birdlife including the sassy Nazca Boobies, formally known as the Masked Boobies. Their are birds literally everywhere, this one wouldn’t let us past on his path.
Day 3 – The Nazca Boobies don’t mate for life but still have an interesting mating ritual where they dance and the male offers the female gifts like small twigs
Day 3 – The wingspan of juvenile Frigate strengthening its wings getting ready to set flight
Day 3 – A Nazca Boobie folds its wings this way to get rid of parasites by cooking them
Day 3 – Our guide was super excited to spot this Galapagos Short-eared Owl on Genovesa. They are 1 of the 3 predatorial species in the archipelago and the only one found on Genovesa. They feed on the large seabirds baby chicks
Day 3 – The Galapagos Fur Seal. This was the only time we encountered the Fur Seals on the rocks of Genovesa. Their main differences to the Common Sealions are their coats and the ears – the fur seals ears protrude. The Galapagos Fur Seals were hunted almost to extinction in the 1800s.
Day 3 – The Red Footed Boobies are the only Boobies (of the 3) to nest in trees, Nazca and Blue Foot nest on the ground. 95% of Red Footed have brown bodies while 5% (like this one shown) are white and black
Day 3 – Although the smallest and least often seen by humans in Galapagos, Red-footed Boobies are the most abundant of the three species. However, since they feed far out to sea, they nest in the outermost islands with access to open ocean and lay a single egg.
Day 3 – Close-up of the red feet
Day 3 – Close-up of the blue feet
Day 3 – Juvenile Frigate bird on Genovesa
Day 3 – Cheeky, young Sealion on the shores of Darwin Bay, Genovesa
Day 3 – The Swallow-tailed Gull, unlike other gulls mainly hunt during the night. We saw these diving outside our window one night
Day 4 – Sealion in the port of San Cristobal Island. This day we said goodbye to half the group who only booked a 4 day cruise and welcomed more passengers for the remaining 5 days. There were only 6 of us who booked the full 8 day cruise – again definitely recommended.
Day 4 – Heron at San Cristobal
Pelican on a fishing boat – this may actually have been from another day..
Lava cactus – these were found on several of the islands
Day 4 – Blue Footed Boobie with a chick on Lobos Island
Day 4 – The male Frigate bird has a bright red gular pouch that usually sits tight to the bird but can be inflated when breeding to attract the female
Day 4 – We were very lucky to see this as it was not the breeding season so we were pretty happy to spot a few on Lobos Island
Day 4 – Marine Iguanas are pretty much everywhere in the Galapagos!
Day 4 – Close-up of a Marine Iguana
Day 4 – In the afternoon we went to the infamous Kicker Rock. The natural erosion of this ancient cone has created a channel between the rocks that provides the ideal habitat to view a variety of sharks. We saw heaps of White-tip reef sharks and Galapagos sharks as well as many turtles – we even saw a couple mating. It was AMAZING and a highlight of our snorkeling thus far
Day 5 – The Galapagos Hawk welcomed us to Espanola Island
Day 5 – Lava Lizard, there are many sub-species with different colourations
Day 5 – The main drawback to Espanola is the Waved Albatross – this is the only place they breed in the Galapagos
Day 5 – Waved Albatross
Day 5 – Waved Albatross in flight
Day 5 – Nazca Boobies lay two eggs with only a single chick surviving. The death of the second chick is usually due to siblicide (death caused by a sibling or close relative) by the older chick (born a few days earlier). Siblicide is apparently obligatory in the Nazca Booby species.
Day 5 – Clifftops of Espanola
Day 5 – Marine Iguanas cling to the cliffsides of Espanola
Day 5 – In the morning we went snorkeling in the bay and swam with turtles and playful young sealions. Andrew swam down into a cave and a sealion snuck up on him and gave him a hell of a fright. Later we relaxed on this white sandy beach
Day 6 – Post Office Bay, Floreana Island. A barrel in this bay was originally used by whaling fleets to send mail home, nowadays tourists leave behind postcards to loved ones which get picked up by other travellers who post them or even hand-deliver back in their home countries
Day 6 – Floreana Island
Day 6 – Turtle in a bay on Floreana Island, a known nesting site
Day 6 – Colourful flamingos in the lagoon of Floreana
Day 6 – Devil’s Crown the most diverse, and our favourite, snorkeling experience. Here we saw turtles, huge schools of fish, many tropical fish, sealions, spotted eagle ray, stingrays and a massive school of White-tip Reef Sharks (about 30). They were about 2m long and we spent a long time watching them swarm beneath us going in and out of a cave
Day 6 – These two Sealions popped onto the back of the boat and weren’t going to budge even when the boat started. One male even stayed for some of the overnight trip to Santa Fe
Day 7 – Santa Fe, home of one of the two species of land iguanas
Day 7 – Andrew loves his extra close-up photos
Day 7 – A Sealion and land Iguana on the rocks of Santa Fe
Day 7 – South Plazas
Day 7 – The Galapagos Islands have amazing contrasting landscapes, all formed from volcanic activity
Day 7 – Curious expression from another Land Iguana
Day 7 – Sealion and Iguana on South Plaza
Day 7 – We saw 2 of the 3 species, the yellow ones were quite striking
Day 7 – Tropic Bird on South Plaza. These are beautiful to see in flight due to their long tail feathers however they are so quick they are hard to capture. Rarely you see them sitting like this
Day 7 – On the cliffs on South Plaza
Andrew finally got his wish and was allowed to jump off the top of the boat
Day 7 – Leaving Sante Fe. Another great snorkeling session with a lot of playful sealions diving around us and blowing bubbles. I even touched one, they get so close!
Day 8 – Our final day 😦 Early in the morning we went to the Charles Darwin Breeding Centre on the island of Santa Cruz to see the giant tortoises
Day 8 – There are numerous tortoises here in small enclosures. It felt a bit like being at a zoo so we decided that we also wanted to go and see in the wild
Day 8 – Andrew in a shell at El Chato Reserve. It was pretty heavy hence the red face!
Day 8 – Helen being a splayed tortoise
Day 8 – Tortoises at the reserve roam free in their natural habitat
Day 8 – Unlike the Darwin breading station, these tortise are very shy
Day 8 – So glad we made the additional trip to see these amazing creatures in the wild
Our itinerary Days 1-4
Our itinerary Days 4-8