Well, where to begin? What an amazing place, what an amazing experience.
The main airport for the Galapagos is on the small island of Baltra which is on the north side of Isla Santa Cruz. They are separated by a relatively narrow channel. After you arrive in the airport, you will be taken by bus to the dock for a crossing to Santa Cruz. The boat we had booked for our 8 day tour was the Floreana, which is also the name of one of the islands. This boat was anchored in the channel so rather than cross to Santa Cruz we were taken onto the boat. The Floreana accommodates 16 passengers in 8 cabins and we had a full boat. Interestingly, Valerie and I were the only representatives from the US. There were two couples from Switzerland (not related); a woman, her father and her son from Denmark; a single man from Denmark (friends with the family); a couple and a single guy from the UK (unrelated); a young girl from Germany; a young girl from Austrailia; and a young guy from Brazil.
Ninety-seven percent of the land mass of all of the Galapagos islands are part of the Galapagos National Park. The people who owned land prior to the formation of the national park were allowed to stay. The national park provides for the protection of the land and the wildlife. The guides who work on the tour boats are employed by the national park to introduce visitors to the many natural wonders of the islands and the surrounding waters.
Most of the islands of the Galapagos are thought to be about 3.5 million years old. Some of the islands are much younger, however. Even major portions of Isla Santiago were formed during a major eruption and lava flow only 120 years ago.
One of the most amazing aspects of visiting the Galapagos is the extent to which you can experience the inhabitants. Any island where visitors are allowed has a single path on which visitors are allowed to walk. The path is well marked and the guides are very insistent that no one steps anywhere outside of this marked path. This helps greatly to protect the integrity of the nature setting. However, this in no way limits how much of the wildlife you are able to see. In fact, sometimes you literally have to step around some of the inhabitants. They have no fear of humans and therefore do not flee when we approach. We were able to get very close to all sorts of the many birds, iguanas, turtles, lizards and sea lions. Therefore, you are seeing the animals very close up in their natural settings.
At this point, we’re still in the Galapagos. We’ve finished the boat tour and are now on the
island of San Cristobal. We’ll be here another few days before we head back to the mainland. At that time, we’ll put up some additional articles and photos showing some of the amazing wildlife and landscapes of the islands.