Before experiencing the Galapagos Islands for myself, I was a bit of a skeptic. Wildlife and nature shows rave about the place and play spectacular footage of the archipelago all the time, but photographers have so many tricks, and I’ve been to plenty of places that didn’t live up to the hype. However, my week-long cruise in the Galapagos turned me into a true believer – not only did it live up to the hype, it became one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to and goes down as an unforgettable adventure.
I love seeing wildlife, and this truly is one of the best places to see animals in a natural habitat that is both preserved and protected. Incredibly, the gorgeous photos and wildlife documentaries portraying the abundant fauna of the Galapagos are not exaggerating.
On the islands, the animals have no fear of humans and they have their run of the place. Curious sea lions come up to you, tortoises go about their business as if you aren’t there, and islands full of birds pay you no mind all while you watch in wonder.
And it wasn’t just the creatures on land and in the air. Each day, the boat would anchor in a new, utterly remote spot where we would don our snorkeling gear and explore the underwater world. I swam with turtles, rays, sea lions, and reef sharks. If that wasn’t enough, I even swam above an enormous hammerhead shark!
Each island of the Galapagos has developed its own unique ecosystem. Before departing, I hadn’t done much research on each island’s personality – “Tropical, animals, islands” was pretty much the sum of my knowledge at the outset. I had no idea of the variety of landscapes I would encounter.
There are lush, green islands covered in forests, rocky islands, and desert landscapes.
You can walk along the twists and folds of rock left after volcanic eruptions, or through the bright reds and oranges of sesuvium. The geography of the islands make you feel like you’re an explorer, discovering new lands every day.
By the end of the trip, I felt like a wildlife expert. The onboard naturalists that I met along the way were amazing – passionate, knowledgeable, personable, and true ambassadors of a place that they love. Their expertise gave a deeper understanding to the history and nature of the islands, and made the experience even more enriching.
In between the excitement of island visits, there’s time while the boat is underway to just sit and watch the water. My time on the boat was a great opportunity to totally disconnect from the hustle and bustle of modern life. I wasn’t worried about checking in on emails or social media, and even if I had wanted to, connectivity was difficult to come by.
While I love to travel, I’m also very cognizant of the social and environmental impact my visit can have. An unexpected part of my visit was insight into how the Galapagos has developed a sustainable system to offset the impact of visitors. As a national park, there are numerous regulations limiting the number of total visitors, strict guidelines for the ship routes and island visits, and restrictions on what can and can’t be brought to the island. Fascinating conservation work and research is being done to maintain endemic wildlife populations.
Additionally, with tourism playing such a large role in the islands’ economy, there has been a great focus on re-training local fishermen so that they have a role in the sustainable tourism industry. By incorporating them into this industry, the Galapagos has been able to avoid devastating the natural environment and fostering a local community that benefits from the maintenance of the pristine landscapes and native species.
Every place that I’ve visited holds a place in my heart for some reason or another – the people I met, the beautiful views, the fascinating history. But the Galapagos Islands stands out as one of my top travel experiences because it is a place unlike any other.
Do you want to travel to the Galapagos Islands? We’re regional experts here at Knowmad Adventures and pride ourselves in building custom trips that are a perfect fit for our travelers. If you’re interested in crafting an adventure to the Galapagos Islands, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Trip Specialists at 612-394-2894 or [email protected] to begin planning your trip today!
Con cariño, Krista
Krista is part of the Operations team at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She has lived in six countries on four continents and visited more than fifty countries, but is now settled back in her home state of Minnesota where she loves sharing her passion and knowledge with fellow travelers.