The Galapagos Islands: Darwins open-air zoo

Bolivia has Salar de Uyuni, Peru has Machu Picchu, but Ecuador has the Galapagos!
If it was a competition, it would be a clear win when it comes down to remoteness, ‘inhabitantness’, ‘animalness’ and all other ‘-nesses’.
No, seriously, the islands have a unique biodiversity which is pretty well conserved to this date thanks to big efforts of the government.

 

Fast facts Galapagos Islands:
  • 18 main islands (>1km2) of which 4 are inhabited
  • +/- 30.000 inhabitants
  • 200.000 tourists annually (=20 airplanes with 200 visitors each week!)
  • 97% of the lands are national parks
  • 2nd biggest marine reserve in the world (after Australia’s Barrier Reef)
What did we do?
We have spent 10 days island hopping between the 3 main islands: Isla Santa Cruz, Isla Isabela and Isla San Cristobal.

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We opted to travel on land instead of taking a cruise for the following reasons:
  1. Budget. The price of the cruises vary between 200 USD/day to ‘what a fool wants to pay’ USD/day.
  2. On a cruise you spend several hours on land while the rest on the boat (or snorkeling) verses when traveling ‘on land’ you spend several hours on a boat taking day tours or ferries between the islands but the rest of the time you are on the island.
  3. More freedom on where to spend time when you want to.

The advantage of a cruise is that you reach the more distant islands and many visits on the islands are at sunrise or sunset when the animals are more active. But, overal, with visiting the main islands and doing some day tours we have seen the animals we wanted to see at about less than half the price of a cruise. But don’t get it wrong, it still is our most expensive destination on this trip…

High on our ‘to-see list’ were the Giant Tortoises, Sea turtles, Blue footed boobies and the frigates blowing up their pouch. One animal also very high on the list but which we missed were the Hammerhead sharks. Better luck next time!

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What did we see?

There are so many animals, and because many are not afraid of humans, you literaly have to watch your steps!

We saw the following animals:
  • Galapagos giant tortoises

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Did you know?
Many of the giant tortoises born these years will outlive us all. They can easily grow over 150 years so that’s why they don’t attach too much to us. We’ll die too soon for them.

  • Sea turtles

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Did you know?
If you visited the Galapagos and didn’t see sea turtles, you didn’t dip your toe into the water. They are everywhere and it was super to swim with and around them.

  • Marine Iguana

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Did you know?
Those were my (Benjamin) favorites! These little dragons are just so cool. One time we saw a couple of them swimming an arm-length away.

  • Lava lizard (the one taking a ride)

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  • Galapagos land iguana

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  • Sealions

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Did you know?
Those were Celine’s favorites! She swam with a baby sealion on one of the first days and was very disappointed when we noticed afterwards that the camera was not running. She had to wait until the last days to swim with them again on San Cristobal. It was very nice, although she became a bit scared because of a very protective sealion mother the day before who was chasing us out of the water if her pup swam to close to us. We thought it was just scaring us off like a barking dog, but Celine asked a guide later on and he confirmed that there are biting accidents reported. Note: the scaring off worked well.

  • Blue footed boobies

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Did you know?
I love boobies! When mating the male is showing off his blue feet, giving presents and dancing & whistling to his lady. Very impressive show to see!

  • Nasca boobies

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  • Magnificent and great Frigatebirds

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Did you know?
The Frigatebirds look like batman while flying, have a wingspan up to 2.3m and are infamous thieves. They can’t dive for fishes like the Pelicans and Boobies do, so they just steal food of babies from the other animals. To attract the ladies, the male blows up his red pouch to the size of a small football! If that doesn’t attract women, I don’t know what else would.

  • Brown Pelicans

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Did you know?
The Pelicans have an impressive way of fishing: they drop themselves from 20m into the sea to swallow a full bucket of water in their beak – and hopefully also some fish in it. Then they spit out the water to swallow only the fish. At one point Celine was surrounded by ‘pool-bombing’ Pelicans in their morning fishing session. Cool!

    • Red-billed tropicbird

 

  • Galapagos penguin

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Did you know?
The Galapagos penguin is the only penguin north of the ecuator and 2nd smallest penguin in the world (That’s probably why you find it so hard to spot in our picture!).

  • Whitetip reef shark

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    • Galapagos shark (no good picture)

 

    • Spotted Eagle rays (no good picture)

 

  • Golden Cownose rays

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  • Common Stingray

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  • Sea horses

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  • Manta rays (from the boat)

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  • Bottlenose dolphins (It was only me that saw them, far away from the boat. But hey, Celine saw a whale jumping behind my back when we did a whale watching tour at Puerto Lopez. Life is not fair!)

And also some Galapagos Doves and Finches, the Great Egret, Flamingos, Great Blue Heron, Lava Heron, Striated Heron, Swallow-tailed Gulls, … and many more!

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What is our conclusion?
It was truly amazing! The Galapagos is definitely an extra competitor for our ‘top 3 visited places’. That’s for sure.

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Check also our video to share our experience even better!

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