Have you ever dreamed of swimming with penguins or sharks? Could you imagine playing with sea lions in the wild? What if you could come face to face with a hawk or giant tortoise? Or if you could watch marine iguanas and sea turtles eating underwater? Well, you can do all of this and so much more in the Galápagos Islands.
Cruising into paradise
Going from the chaotic riots in Quito to the Galápagos Islands was like night and day. The Galápagos Islands are one of the most special places I have ever visited, and, after a nearly three-week visit, I am convinced that there is no better way to explore the islands than by cruise.
For anyone who would appreciate having close encounters with incredible, exotic animals that have zero fear of people, and all in a sustainable way, then the Galápagos is for you. It truly is a remarkable place that is unlike any other and must be preserved.
By snagging a last-minute deal, we were able to book a 15-day cruise on a luxury yacht for a great price. Over the next 15 days, we would visit 13 of the islands in the archipelago.
We knew the next two weeks would be marvelous from the moment we stepped onto the boat. The catamaran was incredibly luxurious (for us, at least). Our suite was much larger than we expected, and the bed was super comfortable.
And a comfortable, safe bed means a lot after recently sleeping at an airport in the midst of riots! To say that we were excited would be an understatement.
Our first Galápagos excursion at Santa Cruz Island
We began the trip on the northern side of Santa Cruz Island. Our guide led us on a short hike, followed by some free time to snorkel off the shore of Bachas Beach.
As we hiked further across the shoreline, we passed two old abandoned barges from WWII. The USA used Baltra Island as a strategic point to protect the Panama Channel during the war, leaving these historical remnants from the past.
We also came across a few sea lions resting on the beach in the distance. Up until that moment, the only sea lion we had seen was this guy lounging on a bench in the town of Puerto Ayora.
As exciting as it was to see the sea lion in town, this was the first time during our cruise that we came across a sea lion in its natural environment.
Little did we know at that moment that this was barely even a taste of the contact we would have with sea lions over the next 15 days. In hindsight, it is almost comical how excited we were on that first outing to spot them in the distance for such a brief time.
At the end of our hike, we arrived at a small lagoon where we saw four flamingos. Watching these flamingos eat was fascinating.
With their long, skinny necks craned down into the water and their bills facing backward as they hung upside-down, each of them would sway its head from side to side with its beak held just below the surface of the water to collect and filter its food.
I don’t mean they did this a few times, but literally the entire time we were there. As they slowly made their way across the lagoon with focus and purpose, this seemed to be the norm for them.
The flamingos were filtering the water for algae to eat, obtaining their vibrant pink feathers from the beta carotene consumed in their diet.
They are such beautiful and elegant creatures that I could honestly have sat there staring at them for hours.
As we made our way back to the beach, we saw countless iguanas and Sally Lightfoot Crabs lining the black rocks that bordered the shoreline.
We got geared up and went snorkeling after we finished the hike. We almost immediately saw two sea turtles while snorkeling, one of which swam right up to me!
I swam near this turtle for as long as I could, watching in awe as he gnawed at the floor of the ocean.
Rotating between floating freely and eating algae, this turtle seemed as if it did not have a care in the world. I was beginning to feel the same.
Nick and some others from the group saw a white-tipped reef shark. Nick called out to me that he saw the shark as it was heading away from him.
I immediately plunged my head into the water and started swimming in the direction of the shark as fast as I could, but I wasn’t fast enough to catch a glimpse of it.
I would never have thought that there would be a moment in my life where someone would yell out “shark” and I would think it was a good idea to swim towards the shark. But sure enough, that’s what I did. When in the Galápagos, right?
This was just the beginning of one of the most amazing journeys of our lives. And it got so much better after this.
To continue following our trip around the Galápagos Islands, read about our next stop at Genovesa Island.