We expected the Galapagos to be a highlight of the trip, and given how much it cost, and how much we had built it up, I was very much hoping it wouldn’t be a let down.
It was at least as good as our incredibly high expectations.
We spent our first week aboard the Letty, a beautiful 20-person boat, with two incredibly well-informed and personable naturalists on board to answer Lauren’s millions of questions about the animals and the islands.
This was no relaxing pleasure cruise. We were woken every day between 6am and 7am, for a hearty breakfast before a full day of hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, zodiac rides and time spent up on deck scanning for whales, dolphins, turtles, rays and other sea creatures as we sailed from one spot to another. During all of these activities, the naturalists kept up a constant stream of information about what we were seeing.
We were given an hour or so after lunch for ‘nap time’ but given this was our only free time of the day, we inevitably got caught up doing washing, backing up photos, or simply taking a breather. The one time I started to doze off I was woken by a whale sighting!
We fell into bed before 9pm, after an always-delicious dinner, and we were both generally asleep within minutes, despite the often very rocky motion of the boat. We crossed the equator 6 times during the week.
I will go into more detail on the various animals we saw – on land and in the sea – in later posts, when I have the bandwidth to upload more photos, but while all of the animals – and even the birds – were fascinating, the most amazing thing of all was that none of them were scared of humans. Some of the sea creatures might mistake a human form for a predator and move off, but whether it was having to edge round enormous giant tortoises blocking our path, floating for ten minutes above a marine iguana contentedly munching on seaweed, having to back away from a massive sea turtle who was in no mood to deviate from his path, or watching a male blue footed booby put on a mating dance for a pretending-not-to-be-interested female – they all took absolutely no notice of us.
The exception were the sea lions who were actively keen to play with us, rolling around us and sticking their faces right in front of our masks as we swam or snorkelled.
The feeling of not being perceived as a threat was odd, and wonderful. It’s hard to describe how tiny birds, massive fish, crusty land iguanas simply not being bothered by us is exhilarating.
It feels like how it should be.
And it is that feeling that I take away from the Galapagos – it was all wonderful – the stunning islands with their various red, yellow, white and black sand and volcanic backdrops, the azure sea, the animals and birds, the chance to hike, swim, kayak, snorkel in such pristine environments – but my main feeling is one of pure happiness that there is at least somewhere in the world where humans are not causing too much damage to the environment and its inhabitants, and where animals and birds can get on with their lives without too much interference from humans.
Its not perfect, nowhere is, and there are conflicts between human habitation, tourism and nature, but kudos to the Ecuadorian government, and the people of these islands, for the incredibly stringent rules, attention to detail and lack of corruption that keep it as pristine and natural as possible. We saw two tiny pieces of litter during the week – both of which our guide removed.
What a place. Just incredible. I don’t think we have fully absorbed yet just how amazing this last week was. We keep replaying things in our heads and reminding each other of yet another amazing moment. I think we will be saying ‘remember when….’ for a long time to come. I wish I could have shared it with you all, particularly my family. The only thing that could have made this week better would have been to have the whole Ennis clan here.
If any of you ever get a chance to visit, do. It is absolutely worth the money, the distance, the effort. No photo or video or attempt to write it up can fully reflect how amazing this place is. I will do a full write up of the week for those interested, but if you can, one day, come experience it for yourselves 😊.