Exploring Paradise

Situated in the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands boast wildlife and landscapes found nowhere else on Earth.

When my daughter Kaitlin called to ask if I wanted to travel to the Galapagos Islands, I thought what a wonderful way to celebrate my retirement. We arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, on May 8, where we had time for a quick nap as we were leaving at 3:30 a.m. to fly to the island of Baltra. Greeted by our guide, who stayed with us for the whole tour, we took a ferry to the island of Santa Cruz, where we headed to board our charter boat, the Eden Yacht. We were travelling with a group of 14 other travellers from all over the world. Right upon arrival, we immediately saw a spotted ray in the water, as well as a brown pelican and a blue-footed booby.

a marine iguana
a marine iguana

After introductions and lunch, our first tour was back on shore at the El Chato Nature Reserve, where we were walking among the Galapagos giant tortoises. These gentle giants were munching on mangos as we walked about. We also travelled underground in a lava tunnel where it was much cooler than the 25°C above ground. This tunnel was very interesting as it had a lava tube inside it. Back on the boat for dinner, the following day’s itinerary was discussed and we set sail for Floreana Island. The next morning, we were off to Post Office Bay by 8 a.m. for a hike. In the dinghy, we passed sea lions basking on the beach and blue-footed boobies diving for small fish. We hiked over lava rocks to another lava tunnel. I didn’t go in as there were narrow parts to crawl through to get to an underground pool, which Kaitlin enjoyed. While waiting, I spotted many Galapagos finches, flycatchers, mockingbirds and lava Lizards. Never a dull moment here!

a blue-footed booby
a blue-footed booby

We headed back to the beach where we snorkelled with Pacific green sea turtles and sea lions. It’s unbelievable to be floating in the water with these magnificent creatures! A young yellowcrowned night heron peeked out at us from the lava rocks as he came closer for a better look. Later in the afternoon, we also snorkelled off the dinghy around the Devil’s Crown. We were carefully trying to keep our distance, but sometimes the playful creatures came very close to us.

a Sally lightfoot crab
a Sally lightfoot crab

Later, we hiked to Cormorant Point’s Flour Beach, made of pulverized coral, where the turtles come to lay their eggs and frigatebirds keep a close eye for any that hatch. There were many Sally lightfoot crabs crawling about the beautiful beach. We could see the spotted rays and green sea turtles swimming through the waves. It was amazing, but we weren’t done yet! On the hike back, I saw a beautiful lava heron and then a lagoon of pink Galapagos flamingos feasting on shrimp. At dinner that evening, we were called to come and see some sharks—our ship was surrounded by hundreds of Galapagos sharks hunting flying fish. Some fish would sail out of the water and right onto the back of the ship to get away. It was like we were in an episode of Animal Planet, amazing! We sailed to Espanola during the night, making sleeping difficult as the boat engines were very loud. But early the next morning we were headed out to explore some more. We started with a hike to the cliffs of Suarez Point. Hiking over lava rocks, we saw marine iguanas everywhere and had to be careful not to step on any. Some were in their beautiful blue breeding colours while others were digging holes for eggs. We hiked to the top of the cliffs where we saw hundreds of beautiful waved albatross, some sitting on eggs, some flying and others wobbling awkwardly to the cliff’s edge where they jump off—wow!

Kicker Rock
Kicker Rock

Back on board for lunch, we sailed to Gardner Bay and had some beach time. There were so many sea lions there. While walking the beach I found a small whale bone bleached white by the sun. We swam to cool off and were joined by more playful sea lions—what a day!

a Pacific green sea turtle
a Pacific green sea turtle

Our last morning in the Galapagos began with an early morning snorkel around the famous landmark, Kicker Rock. What an amazing place! As the sun was rising we slipped into the water and swam through the channel. Kaitlin said I wasn’t even in the water for five minutes when a hammerhead shark swam below me and I didn’t even see it! I did see the school of silky sharks, however, as well as more spotted rays, jelly fish, sea lions and many other fish. It was the most unbelievable swim ever!

sea lions
sea lions

Back on board for breakfast, we sailed to Santa Cruz and made a quick stop at the Galapagos nature park’s interpretation centre for a history tour before heading off to the airport. What an incredible trip! Although I could cross the Galapagos Islands off my bucket list—I think I may have to go back! .