Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)

Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)

After our adventure at the Machu Picchu we decided we needed a break from all the hiking so we booked a last minute cruise in the Galapagos Islands, where La Mama joined the backpackdiariez crew!!! 🙂 The Galapagos is an archipelago of 22 islands, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about 2000 km West of Ecuador. The islands were only discovered in 1535, and in 1835 Charles Darwin spent 5 weeks here. The unique eco-system allowed him to come up with the evolution theory. In 1959 the Ecuadorian government turned the Galapagos into a National Reserve, but tourists can still visit! It was definitely another highlight of our trip as the islands are extremely well preserved and you see SO many animals that you cannot see anywhere else in the world!

We landed at the airport on San Cristobal Island where we boarded on the Odyssey yacht, a beautiful boat which was our home for the next week; definitely an upgrade compared to our regular hostels. In the afternoon we visited the Cerro Colorado Tortoises Center on San Cristobal Island where we saw the biggest turtles we have ever seen. They are so big that sometimes you’re not sure if it’s a turtle or a rock, and they are everywhere. In the evening the boat lifted its anchor and set off for Espanola Island. The boat had to navigate all night to get there, through a pretty rough sea, but the cabins were so comfy that we barely noticed.

The next day we woke up with an amazing view on bright blue waters and Espanola Island, which is very remote but said to be the most exceptional island to spot birds. It is the only island in the world where the gigantic Albatros birds still reproduce and where you can see male Albatros courting females (by doing a special mambo-type dance), or spot a baby Albatros learning how to fly! We also saw the Galapagos Hawk, Blue Footed Boobies (with deep blue feet!), Frigate birds, and many many more. We returned to the boat for lunch and then left on a little snorkelling trip around the island where a group of sea lions joined us and constantly swam around us! We spent the rest of the afternoon on an amazing white sand beach, home to many more sea lions and turtles.

The next morning we set anchor right next to Floreana Island, after another night of navigating. We hiked along the island and visited blue lagoons with flashy pink flamencos and many other birds. In the afternoon we visited Post Office Bay, which consists of a beach with a few sea lions and an old wooded empty wine barrel which serves as mailing box! Centuries ago shipmen used this barrel to deposit their mail and tradition was that shipmen then had to go through the stack of letters already inside the barrel and take the ones which were destined to the place they were going. They then had the obligation to go and drop off the mail to the right person once arrived at their destination. Today the barrel is still being used but mainly by tourists 🙂 Of course we tried it out, never thinking it would work (cause how many Belgians a year visit the Galapagos and would take our mail???), but miraculously about 2 weeks later our mail arrived in Belgium! We finished the day with another snorkelling trip at the ‘Devils Crown’, with turtles, sea lions and even tiny sharks!

The fourth day we woke up next to Sante Fe Island, a tiny little island with beautiful white beaches,  gigantic cactuses and even more gigantic iguanas (looking more like mini dinosaurs). We walked around the island and enjoyed stunning views on the turquoise blue ocean. The afternoon we snorkelled with baby sea-lions who were so playful they even tried to eat Jean’s fins!

The fifth day we visited the Plaza islands and then North Seymour Island, both covered by cactuses and red algae and full of birds and iguanas. There is so much life on these islands that as a human you really feel out of place, as if we were invading their territory. When walking on the islands we had to be careful not to accidentally walk on a sea lion or iguana. Birds come so close you can almost touch them and when going swimming you have to watch out not to step on a sting ray or disturb giant turtles who are coupling right next to you. It was an amazing experience.

The last day of our cruise started with a very early morning wake-up call and we left on the speedboats to enjoy the sunset close to a beautiful white sand island. After more birds and sea lion watching our cruise came to an end and we left to the island of Santa Cruz to spend our last few days on the Galapagos. We went diving right off Santa Cruz islands at a spot called ‘Gordon Rocks’, famous for being one of the best diving spots in all of the Galapagos to see hammerhead sharks. Leaving La Mama behind on a white sandy beach we left with a speedboat to a spot in the middle of the ocean where three giant rocks stick out of the water. Armed with a GoPro we started our descent to 30 meters below the surface. As the water is very deep we didn’t see much in the very beginning, but after five minutes a school of hammerhead sharks appeared below us, and after five more minutes a school of eagle rays and golden rays joined the party and kept swimming right next to us… it was simply unreal!!! The second dive was just as amazing as we saw many more hammerheads but also turtles and an enormous school of barracudas.

Needless to say we LOVED the Galapagos and highly recommend this destination to everyone!

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The Plaza islands

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The top deck of our yacht “The Odyssey”

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The door of our cabin

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A giant tortoise on Santa Cruz island

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Lonesome Georges

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The dinghy that brought us back and forth between the yacht and the islands

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Espanola island

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A little beach on Espanola island

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The Albatros – the world’s largest seabird (wingspan up to 3.5m)

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The Galapagos hawk

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Another Albatros

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Our yacht “The Odyssey”

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Sea lions playing

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A gorgeous beach on Espanola island

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Warming up in the jacuzzi after the snorkeling

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Post office bay

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Found these two chilling on the back of our boat one night

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Iguana on Plaza Sur island

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Another iguana

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Camille chilling with a sea lion

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They are sooo lazy

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Striking a pose

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The good thing is that the animals are not afraid of humans at all

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La mama as a true backpackdiariez member!

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The Plaza islands

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A different type of iguana (that looks more like a mini dinosaur)

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Plaza islands

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Blue footed boobie landing

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Male frigate bird trying to seduce the ladies

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Baby frigate bird

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Blue footed boobie – Jean’s favourite 🙂

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The proof

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Galapagos crab

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Male frigate bird

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Our fellow adventurers on the Odyssey

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Starting the descent at Gordon Rocks

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Can you spot the turtle?

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First sharks

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Followed by a whole school

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Gorgeous Eagle Rays

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and finally… the hammerheads!!!

DIVING MOVIE COMING SOON!

Our favourites:

  • The Odyssey Yacht – amazing boat with great food and service. We highly recommend to book a cruise if you visit the Galapagos because the islands are quite far from each other so you can see much more if you navigate at night! Also, you can obtain CRAZY deals if you book last minute (and there are plenty of last minute options)
  • Scuba Iguana diving club – super cool and professional team of divers
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