The Amazing Galapagos Islands
Most would agree…this world is fragile. Cultures are challenged. Landscape is altered. Species are jeopardized. As a student of life, my constant goal is to understand, appreciate and share these aspects of our precious world with others – particularly my children.
A recent trip to the Galapagos Islands with them opened my eyes (and their eyes) to how amazing and unique travel experiences can (and should!) be. And, it exposed us all to people, species and landscape that truly exist nowhere else in the world.
First, where exactly are the Galapagos Islands? This archipelago of 100+ islands and islets straddle the equator about 600 miles west of Ecuador, South America. We flew from Minneapolis to Miami and then onto Quito, Ecuador. The following morning with a short stopover in Guayaquil, we flew out to Baltra Island in the Galapagos. Because we were on a 7-day Silversea cruise, we then transferred to the pier where zodiacs shuttled us to the Silver Galapagos.
From there, we were in the hands of Silversea, their crew, naturalists and hospitality staff. Great hands to be in! Each day held a variety of experiences and sites, but one thing was constant – I felt surrounded by uniqueness.
We enjoyed the daily routines of hiking, snorkeling and eating well. Snorkeling was a favorite for our family. The kids (11 and 8) are already seasoned snorkelers and very comfortable in the water, which makes it enjoyable for all of us. We found ourselves following white-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles, huge schools of colorful fish and even a sea lion one day!
A few of the highlights for our little family of four, included:
The famous Galapagos Tortoises. (Which, by the way the kids were quick to share means tortoises tortoises seeing that’s what Galapagos means in Spanish…thank you Spanish Immersion!) This species saddened and elated me almost simultaneously. The tortoises once totaled hundreds of thousands on the islands, but were brutally killed off over the centuries. Sad. However, dedicated professionals on several of the islands are working tirelessly to literally save the tortoises. Elation.
Birds. I don’t claim to be a birder, but after traveling to Africa and the Galapagos, I might change my tune. They’re so fascinating. In Africa, I felt like the colors and beauty of the birds were intriguing. In the Galapagos, I was enamored by the stories behind each bird – the mating rituals of the blue-footed boobies, the inflating of the throat sacs of the male frigatebirds, the nuances of each island’s finch species to demonstrate how they’ve evolved to adapt to their environments and the list goes on.
Marine and land iguanas. Again, on the surface, not my go-to animal in day-to-day life, but when in the Galapagos… I loved the fact that we were constantly learning more about these unusual species. The islands are home to the only marine iguanas (its tail has evolved to help it swim so it can feed off the algae in the ocean) and unique land iguanas that vary in color from yellow to orange to brown. Reports say there are nearly 10,000 iguanas on the islands, so needless to say we had regular, interesting sightings.
Last, but definitely not least, the adorable sea lions – undoubtedly one of the kids’ favorites for the week. We saw hundreds of them playing in the water, sun bathing on the rocks and clumsily making their way down the beach. Their mannerisms seem human-like: a baby crying out for its mom, a couple laying with their arms (flippers) on each other or a few of them jumping and playing in the waves just off shore. So fun to watch!
We were traveling with other families with young children, middle-aged women traveling solo and retired couples there who have had Galapagos on their bucket list for years. So keep it in mind. If you’re a lover of nature and absorbing all things unique, this destination is for you – no matter what your age!