Guest Author - Candyce H. Stapen
Galapagos Islands Cruise
by Candyce H. Stapen
On a cruise of the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles offshore of Ecuador, we enjoyed magical encounters with sea lions and blue-footed boobies as well as admired frigate birds and flocks of flamingoes. A visit to the wildlife sanctuary is a must-do dream vacation.
An archipelago of 13 major islands and scores of minor ones, the Galapagos Islands figured prominently in Charles Darwin’s formulation of his Origin of the Species. Darwin came to realize, in part because of his time on the islands, that is is the most adaptable of the species survive.
The Galapagos Islands sustains some unique species and the critters here, having evolved without predators, have no fear of people. We visited during Ecuador’s rainy season (our winter). That’s when the islands have sparser colonies of animals, but seas warm enough for snorkeling without a wet suit. That was important to us. Swimmers, we could not be surrounded by water and not get in it. Typically, we toured an island in the morning and spent afternoons snorkeling and playing on the beaches.
The first morning at sea we awoke to a frigate bird perched captain-like atop the mast, a pelican on the bow and a school of luminescent pink grouper floating starboard. Our tour included four islands. At Hood island, sea lion pups frolicked in the tide pools and full-grown ones lounged head to belly on the sand.
We came to like Hood Island best for its abundant creatures. Scores of red and green dotted “Christmas “ lizards, fat as house cats, hugged the gray rocks, soaking up the sun. Red crabs scuttled agilely from crevice to crevice. Gulls swooped overhead and the salt bush was full of finches. The boobery was cliffside. The birds, with their neon-blue feet, like the heights and the sea spray. We followed our naturalist guide and even once had to step over a sea lion pup who’d wiggled her way into our path. On Floreana Island, from a distance, we spotted a flock pink flamingos.
Our favorite memory: swimming with the sea lions. One afternoon soon after we jumped in the water, a pair of playful sea lions came down from the rocks along the beach and joined us in the sea. The slick creatures dove under us, disappeared, then resurfaced yards away. Another afternoon we sat at the shore with our legs in the water. A curious pup with friendly brown eyes jiggled over to us and slipped into the shallows. When we kicked the water, he splashed. We played together for about twenty minutes before he dove under and away, leaving us delighted and amazed.
Ecoventura offers small 20-passenger yacht cruises to the Galapagos Islands.