There were two reasons I wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands. Firstly, the wildlife, of course, because of regular readers of this blog will know I’m kinda obsessed with seeing wildlife IN THE WILD. But secondly because apart from a day trip to Tijuana, which is basically like an Arndale Centre on the Mexican border, I had never been to South America before. So I couldn’t wait to travel to Ecuador.
My Galapagos Islands adventure began in Quito, which is so high above sea level (2,850m) they actually TELL you to eat the locally produced chocolate to stave off altitude sickness. I didn’t actually suffer from altitude sickness at all but I still ate the chocolate, obvs.
I had a good wander round the Old Town during the day (at night you’re warned not to go out on your own but by day it seemed perfectly safe to me), and I loved it. Many of the buildings are starting to crumble, but with their pastel colours (mostly pink) they’re rather beautiful.
And the inside of the cathedral – the Basilica del Voto Nancional is well worth a look.
(This lady is wearing a traditional Ecuadorian Panama hat).
The trip to the Galapagos Islands to join my Silversea cruise began the next day, with an internal flight to Baltra and the the first of many zodiac boat rides to our beautiful ship, Silver Explorer, which was small but perfectly formed.
One of my favourite things about food on board was the yucca bread rolls, which I ordered every morning for breakfast with avocado and eggs. Yucca bread has nothing to do with the houseplant, which is confusing, and these little balls of cheesy heaven ensured I was ready for the day’s activities, which were actually pretty strenuous.
Basically cruising in the Galapagos Islands is all about donning a life jacket, taking a zodiac boat to the shore and then exploring, which often involves hiking (one of my favourite activities), and nearly always involves getting wet (fortunately the water was warm). I absolutely loved the rhythm of adventure cruising. With only 100 guests on board, you all have something in common – the desire to see as much as possible – and although I was travelling by myself I made friends quickly.
On our very first morning, just as we set foot on the white sandy beach at Darwin Bay, we were greeted by this ADORABLE baby sea lion, playing with a bright orange crab.
More sea lions…
And apart from the sea lions, there were birds everywhere. Boobies, frigate birds as big as pterodactyls, Darwin’s finches (of course). And yes the guano is everywhere too, but you don’t even notice it, because you’re just looking at the birds.
The best thing is that the Galapagos islands are completely unspoiled and the wildlife is totally unphased by humans, so you can still get a sense of how Darwin must have felt when he arrived at the islands over 200 years ago, and you can just watch and marvel at their natural behaviour and interaction. You’re warned not to get too close, but sometimes it’s practically impossible to avoid the basking sea lions, because they’re everywhere.
And you see EVERYTHING, it’s like being in a never ending wildlife documentary: playfighting/mating, birth, little black iguana corpses (that was sad actually. They die from starvation – food can often be in short supply).
I particularly loved the land iguanas.
All the islands are spectacular, and offer something different – not just different species (though we saw everything from sharks to albatross, even owls (we needed binoculars to see them, but they were there). The landscape is incredibly divers e- from dramatic cliffs and red sand beaches to cacti-covered lava rock.
Some of the beaches were absolutely idyllic, and you could see turtles swimming and even snorkel and dive with the sea lions. Sometimes you had so many magical experiences in one day it was hard to get your head round everything that had happened.
We also went to visit the famed Galapagos tortoise (everything in the Galapagos Islands is called Galapagos something or other). They are magnificent giant tortoise, some over 100 years old, with wise expressions. What really intrigued me was discovering that reptiles have absolutely no family bond – they hang around together for survival but they don’t have any connection to each other. Cold-blooded indeed, but still fascinating.
I also loved watching the sea lions, swimming, playing, snuggling, lying on park benches as though they’d had too much to drink the night before.
They are fascinating, gorgeous, endearing creatures and it breaks my heart to think of them being kept in captivity and trained to do demeaning tricks, when really they belong in the wild like this.
The Galapagos Islands are considered a bucket list adventure, and they are, and I’m incredibly privileged to have had the chance to visit them. Thank you to Silversea for giving me this opportunity.