Posted by: marymarthatours | May 9, 2011

The Galapagos Islands, a trip remembered

Unless someone really, really wants us to, Martha and I will probably not be taking a tour group to the Galapagos Islands. Nonetheless, I would recommend this destination to anyone with a love of nature, a sense of adventure, and a good bit of physical stamina.

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The Galapagos Islands

Back in 1998, when both of us were a lot younger and fitter, my husband and I went on an Eco-Adventure trip of a lifetime to the Galapagos. Part of Ecuador, but 500 miles off its west coast, the Galapagos Islands are one of the last bastions of unspoiled nature on the planet. In 1959, in an effort to preserve the unique natural environment of the islands, the government of Ecuador declared all of Galapagos that was not settled (about 97%) a national park. In 1986, 27,000 sq miles of ocean around the islands was designated a marine reserve, and in 1990, the archipelago was named a whale sanctuary.

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Pinnacle Rock, Isla Bartolome, Galapagos

Tourism in Galapagos is strictly controlled, with only a certain number of people allowed at any given site each day, and with all groups accompanied by National Park Guides. Since most of the islands are uninhabited by people, almost all tours are boat-based. Regardless of the boat’s size, from 4-passenger yachts up to much larger ships, the route and stops for each vessel are regulated so that groups do not meet.

We traveled through the islands with a group of MIT alums on the 80 passenger “M/V Polaris” as part of a Lindblad Special Expedition tour. What a fabulous experience. The most amazing part about a Galapagos adventure is how close you can get to the animals. Although totally wild, these birds and animals have no fear of humans, so close-up and personal is the name of the game.

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We call this picture, “the blue-footed booby and the purple-footed booby”. I’m the one on the right.

  • Birds

We are avid birders, so we were thrilled with the many varieties that we saw up close. We had read “The Beak of the Finch” before our trip and were interested in all the finches that helped shape Darwin’s ideas about natural selection. The endemic Flightless Cormorant, Galapagos Hawk, and Galapagos Penguin can be seen no where else.

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        Masked and Blue-footed Boobys on nests

  • Sea lions

My favorite experience with Galapagos sea lions was the day we visited Gardener Beach on Isla Espanola. After a bit of snorkeling, I was sitting at the edge of the water in my black wetsuit which has pink strips down the sides. Two sea lions swam up and came to rest on the beach about 10 feet from me. They seemed to be looking me over, and I could almost hear one say to the other, “I don’t know, Fred, she certainly doesn’t look like one of ours.”

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Swimming with the sea lions off Isla Floreana

  • Iguanas and tortoises

Marine iguanas were everywhere, though the population was down due to an El Nino year. Land iguanas were harder to find. The giant tortoises that we saw at the Tortoise reserve on Santa Cruz were incredible.

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Giant tortoises in the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz

As wonderful as encountering the animal and bird life of Galapagos was, one of my favorite memories of the Islands was sailing around the southern tip of Isla Isabela at night to see the erupting volcano, Cerro Azul. Our ship had to get special permission to change its route in order to give us the chance to see the display. We were safely out to sea, but we could still see the bright orange lava flowing down the sides of the volcano. We were witness to how very young this chain of islands really is.

If you’d like to try a travel adventure on the wild side, I would encourage you to consider the Galapagos Islands. You won’t regret it.

 

(by Mary)

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Responses

  1. The movie “Master and Commander” with Russell Crowe has some wonderful Gallapagos scenes.


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