Do you remember Charles Darwin? The man behind the theory of evolution? Sure I do I remember him when I was studying Genetics and Biology at the university. It was one of my favorite subjects! Charles Darwin sailed to the Galapagos Islands in 1831 and his visit to these islands had a resounding impact on the formation of his Theory of Natural Selection. Can you imagine how rich the wildlife on Galapagos Islands was back then? And, I assure you it still is.
The Galapagos are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean that span across on both sides of the equator line and are an offshore territory of Ecuador. In 1978, the Galapagos Islands were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing mostly to its pristine ecosystem and unique biodiversity.
Visiting Galapagos has always been on my bucket list for a long time and finally, I was able to cross this dream off last April. The Galapagos is one of the most perfect places to see nature in action and undoubtedly the most unique destination I have ever been to. Most of the wild animals here show no fear of humans whatsoever and they are very easy to encounter at close distances.
Galapagos has two airports- Baltra Airport (GPS) which is in San Cristobal Island and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (SCY) in Santa Cruz Island. When we arrived in Santa Cruz airport, we had to pay $100 park entrance fee. It is important that you keep the small ticket of this payment for your return flight. If you do not have it at check in, you are charged a small fee.
From the airport terminal, a bus brought us to the ferry. The ferry trip only took us a few minutes and costs $1.00 per person. Already here you can see the first clear turquoise colored water which is a really nice welcome. After arriving on Santa Cruz Island, there are two options how to get to Puerto Ayora, the main town of Santa Cruz. The public bus, which will be already waiting for the tourists, only costs $2.00. The ticket can be bought in the bus and the drive takes around 50 to 60 minutes. Another option would be a taxi which cost 18 dollars, not a bad deal for a 40 minutes ride to the town.
We stayed in Lava House, a very small hotel near downtown. We are then greeted by the sweetest lady Isabel (who reminded me of my mom) who impressed us by being incredibly welcoming. She only speaks Spanish so our communication is …let’s say.. somewhat broken. I only speak a little Spanish but I’m glad that my travel buddy, Symon understood enough to talk to her regarding our booking.
After lunch, we decided to go at Rancho Primicias, home for the giant Galapagos tortoise. Man! I have never seen a turtle that big in my life! They were like the teenage mutant ninja turtles! When they move, they barely seem to be able to support their own weight. My first thought was to jump on one of them and take them for a ride. Unfortunately you have to maintain a distance of 2 meters which makes that impossible. I noticed that if you’re too close to them, they make a hissing sounds and honestly it was quite scary.
We went for a walk through an old lava tube which is very close to Rancho Primicias. These long lava tunnels are formed when a volcano erupts and the lava stream flows into the ocean.To imagine that lava ran through here is almost unbelievable. It was challenging to get inside since we had to climb over many uneven rocks. We also got to a point where we had to crawl through a narrow gap. We did come out on the other end a bit muddy, but still presentable.The actual number of tunnels in Galapagos is unknown, but it is suspected that there could be hundreds of them.
Later that afternoon, we walked around town and the first place that caught my attention was the fish market. It was interesting to see a sea lion and a bunch of pelicans patiently lined up for the fish scraps from the fish vendors.
There is a street where you can find small food stalls and locals called it “Calle de Los Kioskos”. This area reminded me of Jalan Alor in Malaysia, just a smaller version of it. You can choose from fresh fish to lobster displayed on a tray and the food is prepared right there. While none of the waiters understand English, it’s easy enough for non- Spanish speakers like us to point at the menu on how you want your seafood to be cooked.
The following day, we got up early to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. Somehow, I felt a little bit sad because everything seems kind of abandoned. There was not much to see, frankly. There were some baby turtles and a few big tortoises but it was more like a zoo than a research center for me. It’s disheartening to see that an iconic place like this is virtually withering on the vine with no visible staff.
I had my first taste of swimming with sea lions in Pinzon Island and it was magical! It was funny because Isabel booked this island tour without any preparation on our part. So when we got there, we were clueless! We didn’t had any snorkeling gear even Symon had to borrow my extra board shorts. Thankfully, the guide gave us an extra one to enjoy the deep beauty of the sea. We snorkeled in pretty warm water and sea lions played right alongside us just to turn away at the last second before almost smacking us into my faces. In a land where animals rule, I’d say I was one lucky guest.
Before heading back town, we dropped by in a deserted island near Pinzon. The island is so tiny, you can walk around its soft white sand shores in just few minutes. It must be a lucky day for all of us because we spotted a school of fish and a big eagle ray. They really looked like creatures from a fable and somewhat like birds, therefore the name eagle rays. It was just perfect, until it rained.
To be continued…