This summer was a summer of magical occurrences. First off, my son graduated high school. To commemorate this I took him to the Galapagos Islands for a seven day boat tour. Let me tell you, this is the way to go. We used the Galapagos Islands Tour Company. They set us up on a boat that sleeps sixteen. Of course, I asked in advance if they could tell me a little bit about the people on the boat beforehand. My eighteen year old would likely not enjoy a boat full of senior citizens. We truly lucked out with only eleven people on board. Four from the UK, two from Brazil, one from Germany and a couple from Kentucky. All were under the age of 35 (except me!).
A few facts about the islands:
- Abundant unfearful wildlife in which visitors can get up close and personal with some of the world’s rarest animals.
- Home of the Giant Pinta Tortoise.
- Convergence of three major oceanic currents brings an incredible mix of marine life.
- Endemic marine iguana – the only lizard known to swim in the ocean.
- Darwin’s research in the Galapagos led to the groundbreaking theory of The Origin of Species.
- 1978 UNESCO designated it as the first World Heritage site.
- Due to the early presence of both Spanish and English inhabitants, the islands now have both Spanish and English names.
There are a total of twelve islands. The key sites, in addition to the animals, include:
- Los Gemelos (the twins) are two pit craters formed when empty magma chambers collapsed in on themselves
- Alcedo Volcano on Isabela Island has the largest tortoise population and is the only volcano visitors can climb.
- Devil’s Crown is a dramatic snorkeling site to the north of Cormorant Point where there is an almost completely submerged volcano.
- Lava tunnels on Santa Cruz provide an understanding of how the islands are formed.
- Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela has the largest basaltic caldera in the world measuring 5.6 x 6.2 miles.
- Wall of Tears on Isabela was constructed by the prisoners of the Penal colony in the mid 40’s and characterizes the cruelty the prisoners had to endure.
- Post Office Bay on Floreana has a fascinating tradition where a barrel placed there by whalers in the late 18th century was used as an unofficial postbox.
The estimated age of the islands is between 3 and 10 million years old. Believe me that it still looks that old. Only two of the islands have inhabitants the rest are all preserved nature sanctuaries. There have been around 13 volcanic eruptions in the last 100 years. I had the opportunity of witnessing one of them!
The animals include the Galapagos penguin that underwater swims “rapido”. The Galapagos tortoise can weigh up to 595 lb with a carapace length of 4 ft and outlive most humans. Must be their slow pace in life! The Galapagos fur sea lions are the smallest among the world’s seven species of fur sea lions. The Galapagos marine Iguana is a freaky site indeed. It is the only marine lizard to exist in the world. The Galapagos islands are home to the world’s largest cormorant and the only one unable to fly. The Galapagos swallow-tailed gulls are the only gulls in the world to feed at night. The islands boast of the world’s largest and only red-footed booby colony. There are 23 species of reptile and all but two are endemic to the archipelago. There are over 400 species of fish with 41 species unique to the islands.
So much to see and do. Everyday was filled with hiking and snorkeling. We toured the Western islands which are less traveled and allowed us more isolation from ships. The best part of the week was without connectivity. No distractions from email, texting and the internet. It was just us and nature. I highly recommend this trip to anyone who is in awe of nature.