The Galapagos Islands

I found out some incredibly exciting news last week about the Galapagos Islands: baby tortoises have hatched there for the first time in ONE HUNDRED years! Read the article explaining the situation here.

Baby Galapagos Tortoise! So adorable! Picture from
Baby Galapagos Tortoise! So adorable! Picture from

The islands were the influence for Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, due to the massive variety of species and subspecies found on the different islands. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The “archipelago and its immense marine reserve is known as the unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution.’”

An International law was put in place in 1998: “Special Regime Law for the Conservation and Sustainable Development in the Province of the Galapagos.” This regulates “tourism through a visitor management system.” No large vessels are allowed near the islands, and only small group tours are permitted. Ecoventura is one such tour company.

Friends of mine went to Ecuador, and visited the Galapagos Islands, on their honeymoon six years ago. I asked them some questions about their experiences:

Why did you choose the Galapagos Islands as the place to visit on your honeymoon?
Kristen: I love nature and Ed loves science/scientific discoveries. I had heard that the Galapagos has some beautiful nature, varied environments, and creatures that are almost entirely unafraid of humans.
Ed: In school, we always learned about Darwin and the Galapagos finches. I thought it would be neat to see myself. The fearless animals were also a draw.

What were some of the things that you did on your trip?
Kristen: We hiked through a lot of different environments – an island covered in hard black volcanic rock, an island of volcanic ash dunes, and one full of lush rain-forest vegetation. We also snorkeled among sting rays, bright colored fish, sea lions (a real treat) and reef sharks (a bit of a surprise to us).
Ed: We strolled around a town and stopped by a fish market where there were as many pelicans and sea lions as there were customers. We visited a ranch with huge turtles, and a facility where they are breeding little baby turtles too! We attempted to see the canyon of a volcano (but it was too foggy that day), and ventured down into some lava caves.
Kristen: We also spent some time on the boat itself, getting to know the other dozen or so passengers from around the world. Their stories and impressions were almost as memorable as the sights on the islands.

What was your overall impression of the Galapagos?
Ed: The animals are so fearless that it almost seems like everything is fake. Their indifference to human presence is surreal and feels almost unnatural. The variety of environments and mircro-climates is mind-boggling, especially since they are all so small and close together.Just when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see, there’s something more.
Kristen: I agree. Visiting the islands feels a bit like walking through a zoo, with lazy animals not really paying attention to you, or maybe if you’re lucky, putting on a show for you…but all the while, you have to remind yourself: This is not a zoo, this is nature. It’s a bit surreal.
We went to the Amazon for the second half of our honeymoon and that was more what we’re used to: “Look way up there through your binoculars and be very quiet and you might see a monkey or parrot” as opposed to “Please don’t touch the sea lion who is having a nap on the dock while you board the ship.”

Would you recommend this trip?
Kristen and Ed: Yes. We would recommend the trip, but would suggest that you really research which tour group you are going with. Having a really knowledgeable guide can make the hikes more interesting and memorable. Also, the ships range from around 16 passengers to 90. We really enjoyed our small ship, because we got to know people better, but the 90 passenger ship might be more sturdy for someone with sea-sickness. (We had one night of pretty choppy waves)
Side note from Jen: The larger scale ships don’t have the same approval from the government of Ecuador, so you won’t get to see as much. The Galapagos Islands are highly protected, and big tours aren’t recommended.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
Kristen: The Galapagos is wonderful, but there are also a lot of other neat things to do while in the Ecuador area. Peru (Machu Picchu) is not far away, and the Amazon rain forest extends right down into Ecuador. If you are heading all the way to South America, you might consider extending your stay a few days to check out one of these other wonders as well.
Ed: If you plan to venture out of Ecuador, be aware that there is a $25 exit fee (Airport Departure Tax) every time you fly out of the country.

The Fandom portion:

“How do the Galapagos Islands fit in the theme of Fandom Travel?”

Well, if you don’t think that influencing Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is enough to qualify this location as Fandom, that’s ridiculous. 😛

However, the Galapagos were used as a set location for a feature length film in 2003. Can you guess the movie?

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Follow in the footsteps of Russell Crowe, Billy Boyd, James D’Arcy and Paul Bettany, although you’d have more chances to explore the islands than poor Bettany’s character.

If you are interested in a trip to the Galapagos, contact me Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel.

Suggestions for the next place you’d like to see me write about are welcome! Where would you like to go?