My husband (Rick) and I, along with his best friend and wife, just got back from a vacation to the Galapagos Islands. Rick and I visited there 8 years ago, but only went to one island then. This time we went to all 4 of the inhabited islands: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana. There are 13 major islands and 7 smaller islands altogether, but only these 4 are inhabited.
So why go to the Galapagos Islands when they rank among the 10 most remote islands on earth? And why twice?
The Galapagos Islands are truly unique. “The islands never shared a history with a large continental land mass. Over millions and millions of years, nearly all islands in the world were once connected to a huge, central land mass (called Pangea). As Pangea fractured and became continents, smaller fragments of the earth’s crust became islands. Not so for the Galapagos Islands. These are true volcanic islands, very young in geologic time, and far too removed from the mainland for most flora/fauna (and apex predators) to make the journey. The remoteness and geographic isolation allowed the flora and fauna of the Galapagos to develop in a unique way, enabling the existence of giant tortoises, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, and a wide array of other unique and endemic species of plants and animals.
The islands are blessed to be at the intersection of 3 major oceanic currents and affected by 4 more. The major currents include the Humboldt Current (cold and nutrient-rich), the Panama Current (warm water enabling coral growth), and the Cromwell Current (a cold, upwelling current, particularly in the central islands). For marine life, the combination of currents, nutrients, and shallow oceanic water are a giant magnet for marine life.” – www.ecoventura.com
The bottom line is this: Find a group of islands that are geographically remote AND have never been connected to the continents AND place them at the intersection of 7 currents AND provide nutrient-rich water environments AND you will have one of the most unique places in the world.
That is why we went the first time, and why we had to go back again.
It is against the law to touch the animals in the Galapagos, so the animals have no fear of humans. You can walk right by sea lions or land iguanas or any other animal and they will not flee from you. There is no need. They are not afraid.
Take, for example, this sea lion. He was super happy lounging on this beach bench and was simply curious as to why I was hanging around. He didn’t feel the need to move…. and he didn’t.
Giant tortoises can only be found on 2 groups of tropical islands, the Galapagos Islands being one of them. These tortoises can weigh as much as 920 pounds and can grow to be 4′ 3″ long. Seeing them in their natural environment is an experience not to be missed. Rick was standing the required 6 feet away from the tortoise, so you can see how big this guy is.
Sally Lightfoot Crabs, with their brilliant colors, are beautiful, especially against the dark volcanic rock.
We were on a walkway over a pond where some flamingos were searching for their dinner, and I didn’t have my zoom lens with me – and this shot is a bit blurry – But it was still fun to see these beautiful animals.
The land iguanas are all over the beach. They look scary, but they are not at all. They go into the ocean to find their food, and in doing so lose body heat; so when they are finished eating, they crawl back up on the beach and lay around soaking up the sun, to boost their energy.
And the beaches…. beautiful.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how friendly and helpful the Ecuadorian people are. If you ever have the desire or opportunity to travel to the Galapagos, I recommend it as the trip of a lifetime. Don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish, the language of the land. We didn’t either. Not one of us. We got really good at pantomime and facial expressions though, so just start playing Charades in preparation for your trip, and you’ll do just fine!