June 20, 2006

Galapagos Adventure Highlights

Filed under: Ecuador 2006 — Lilli @ 6:56 pm

There are no words or photos that can possibly due justice to the Galapagos experience. Of course, I´m still going to try to tell you about this magical week that was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I nearly cried this morning when it was time to depart.

I don´t have the time or energy right now to tell you everything, but I hope to backfill more stories when I get home. For now I´ll just give you the highlights.

Every day in The Galapagos you do or see at least one amazing thing that you would only do once every few months or maybe only once a year at home. Even those on my boat who´d been traveling for months found this to be the most amazing part of their journey. One reason is because there are many species and things about the Galapagos that exist absolutely nowhere else in the world, and they are all incredible.

Here´s my list of most amazing moments in no particular order:

Marine iguanas

Swimming with a Marine Iguana
The Galapagos has the only swimming iguana in the world. While snorkeling the other day, one jumped off the rock where he was sunning himself, and zipped by, spikes and all, propelled by just his tail.

Young sea lion

Snorkeling with a Sea Lion
Sea lions here are tame, curious and playful. A young sea lion performed a water ballet all around me to get a good look. I was just as curious about him, but far more akward. So I floated while he swam within five inches, close enough for me to see his teeth! But he was just playing.

Courtship of the waved albatross

Mating Dance of the Waved Albatross
Up, down, back and forth, the albatrosses face one another and click their beaks together in a funny but touching display of affection.

Shark Encounter
I´m always falling behind the group during snorkeling because I want to see everything, and I like to be away from the crowd. So I was a bit isolated when a four-foot long white-tipped shark went gliding by below me, close enough to very clearly see the white tips even in somewhat murky water. When I called out to the others to find out if they´d seen it, they were coming towards me, following the shark to have another look. Now with companions, I felt braver, and went along for another look. There were four in all.

Pinnacle Rock, from a volcano atop Bartolome Island

Sunset From the Volcano Atop Bartolomé Island
Although this is volcano is less than 1,000 feet, the view is spectacular. Lava craters as big as a house, stark volcanic landscape that looks like it could be the moon, the isthmus of the island with Pinnacle Rock, the most photographed part of the islands.

Water Bottle Rescue
One day someone dropped their water bottle getting back into the panga (dinghy) that took us on our excursions. Our driver stretched out over the water in a Herculean effort to retrieve it. Everyone watched as if it were the ninth inning with the bases loaded, waiting in anticipation, hoping he´d beat the currents. The entire boat erupted in cheers when he grabbed the wandering rubbish and brought it safely back where it belonged. In this pristine environment, you see the water bottle floating in the water for what it truly is - an assault on the planet. If only we took so much care to the rest of our world.

Blue-footed booby
Red-footed booby

Blue and Red-Footed Boobies
One of the most extraordinary-looking creatures on the planet, boobies are named thus because they look silly, or so my guide tells me. He says this is a form of sexual selection (there´s lots of Darwinian talk in the Galapagos), so theoretically the first boobies to have colored feet must have scored a lot more than the plain boobies, and now they are their own species, unique to the Galapagos.

Glittering Swarms of Yellow-Tail Surgeon Fish
I have dived on the Great Barrier Reef, in the Maldives and many other world-class destinations, but nothing surpasses the richness of marine life in The Galapagos. Hundreds of these light blue fish with bright yellow tails move as one undulating body, swarming to all feed on a spot of coral, then gliding off into the distance.

Tortoise in the wild, Santa Cruz Island

Giant Tortoises in the Wild
On Santa Cruz Island, there are places where the giant tortoises for which the islands are named ramble along in their natural habitit. To look off into the brush and see a tortoise just as I might see a coyote, racoon or rabbit at home, just seems weird in a wonderful way.

Fending off Seasickness by Light of the Full Moon
One of the first nights I made the mistake of showering after we started sailing. Fresh air is the antidote to all motion sickness, so I went up top and propped myself up on the most comfy cushions. All alone, I focused on the glorious rising of a full moon against the dark, empty sea and sky.

Cliffs on Las Plazas

Cliffs Off One of the Las Plazas Islands
High above the sea, waves crashing against the sharp black rocks, with absolutely no human habitation in sight.

Quiet of the Ocean Under Sail Power
The day we traveled from one side of Española Island to the other, we put up the sails and shut off the engine. Just the wind, islands and vast expanse of sea that belongs only to the fish and birds and creatures who claim these islands as their only home.

Beach scene, Espanola Island
Floreana Island

Pristine Beaches of Many Colors
From soft white that would make the Carribean jealous to green tinted with olivine to chocoate brown to chai tea, The Galapagos has it all. Floreana Island is brown and olivine from volcanic material on one side and white from coral and shells on the other.

Lava tunnel, Santa Cruz Island

Lava Tunnel on Santa Cruz Island
I felt like Indiana Jones crawling over fallen rocks in the dimly lit tunnel. It was about 20 or more feet high in most places, until the end, when I had to crawl on my belly to get out.

Volcanic formations, Santiago Island

Lava Flows and Ash Layers of Santiago Island
Now set as stone, the volcanic terror created a geological masterpiece. It´s also a playground for sea lions pups who swim in an aquamarine natural pool with a rock bridge, and where the tide fills water holes that rise and fall as much as four feet with each wave of the ocean.

The Bishop, Santiago Island

The Bishop Natural Statue on Santiago Island
An extraordinary geological structure in a corkscrew shape, this natural statue in Buccaneer´s Cove also resembles a chess piece. The locals say it is named for a famous bishop, but I was so busy staring at it and taking pictures of it, I didn´t get the whole story on who he was.

Mother and child
Dad, mom and baby frigate birds

There is something different in the Galapagos at every time of the year, but I was fortunate to be there for many babies or babies-in-the-making. Nursing sea lions, fluffy frigate bird babies tended by mom and dad, Nazca boobies gathering twigs to build nests together, frigate birds offering twigs as a matrimonial promise, love calls and responses, the mating dance of a flock of flamingoes stepping back and forth in unison.

Feeding boobies, Santa Cruz Island

Booby Feeding Frenzy
Up at dawn in search of marine turtles in the mangroves on Santa Cruz Island, we watched in awe as thousands of blue-footed boobies descended on the lagoon and collectively crashed into the water. Then they all took to the sky again, circled the lagoon and together hit the water like bombs dropping from the sky. A final extraordinary experience on the last excursion of the trip. Just when I thought it couldn´t get any more amazing.



  1. WOW, truly amazing. I can’t wait for the kids to see the pictures, they will love all the animals. And, I’m looking forward to seeing your photos, too. Have a great time in the resort town.

    Comment by george — June 20, 2006 @ 7:18 pm

  2. These are the most amazing photographs. Thanks so much for sharing your adventure.


    Comment by susan carrier — June 20, 2006 @ 9:01 pm

  3. LILLI!

    AMAZING photographs - so beautiful, so well composed, and of spectacular creatures and landscapes! I am glad you loved swimming with sharks and sea lions - that’s a little too close to nature for me.

    Darn it! This week’s LA Times travel section featured an article on taking a family trip to the Galapagos.

    Thanks for the update - I’ve been thinking of you. Oh and I want to apologize for spelling “mosque” incorrectly in a previous comment - I woke the next morning and realized my error! Yes, teachers dream of spelling!

    Comment by Katie — June 20, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

  4. Lilli,
    I am in awe of your adventure and adventurous spirit. My work is interesting and I work in a beautiful place but compared to your traveling I feel like a stick in the mud. You will have much to write about given the experiences you’ve shared with us. Safe trip home. Frank

    Comment by Frank — June 20, 2006 @ 10:20 pm

  5. Hi Lilli,

    Catheryn from Terrie’s class gave me your blog address — thank you for all the beautiful travel photos and insightful commentary. I’ve never even wanted to go the Galapagos before but you’ve definitely changed my mind about that!

    Comment by Madley — June 21, 2006 @ 4:11 am

  6. thanks for sharing your experiences. I am sure you are getting plenty of material for another book. Have a safe journey home. Love you. DAD

    Comment by father — June 21, 2006 @ 7:38 am

  7. Hey Lilli,

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading about your travel adventures. When I see your e-mail in my in-box, I run to the kitchen to get my morning cup of coffee, put everthing else aside and settle down in my chair for a mini mental retreat.

    It’s been a few years since I’ve taken an extended vacation, let alone gone anywhere worth writing about. You’re inspiring me. I may just start planning a trip of my own.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip! :)

    Comment by Marie — June 21, 2006 @ 8:33 am

  8. Thank you for taking the time to share your incredible journey. I look forward to hearing more.

    Comment by Christine Sullivan — June 21, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

  9. If Dr. Seuss had been to the Galapagos:

    One foot, two foot
    red foot, blue foot!

    (at least that’s what Doc M said when we looked at your Boobie pix. Fabulous images and narrative)

    Comment by Susan Kitchens — June 22, 2006 @ 9:20 am

  10. […] My friend Lilli has been traveling in Ecuador this month—and blogging it. She just posted about a trip to the Galapagos. […]

    Pingback by 2020 Hindsight » Galapagos travel adventures — June 22, 2006 @ 9:25 am

  11. Okay, you’re having way too much fun. I’ve always wanted to go to the Galapagos, and my sister is going at Christmas, but for now I’ll have to rely on your excellent photos and words. Bon voyage.

    Comment by Donnie — June 22, 2006 @ 11:34 am

  12. FANTASTIC! But Eric wants to see more pictures of turtles (or tortoises).

    Comment by sevine — June 22, 2006 @ 11:43 am

  13. Wow. Say it backwards…wow. Thanks for the spectacular description of this most special place.

    Comment by Kelly Russell — June 23, 2006 @ 9:41 am

  14. I enjoyed your pics and your comments very much! It makes me that much more excited for my own journey to the Galapagos coming ever so quickly in just 2 weeks. Do you have any suggestions for my journey, things not to take or thing to make sure I have etc.?
    Thank you

    A good pair of shoes is at the top of the list. There were occasions on which rocks were slippery, or the path was rocky and I was so happy to have good shoes. I wore New Balance walker/hikers, but they have good soles and are very comfortable. The hiking in the islands is not strenuous in terms of distance or elevation (except once). In fact, it is barely hiking, more of a nature walk, really, but good shoes can make a good trip. There were a few wet landings in which Teva or similar sturdy sandals can also come in handy.

    Lots of film or memory for your camera. I showed up with only a 256 memory card and I was deleting constantly.

    I would check to see if your boat will have wet suits. I really don’t think it is feasible to snorkel for any period of time in that water without a wet suit. It’s a hassle to bring one along, but you’ll be glad you did if your boat does not have them.

    Seasickness medicine – be prepared just in case, although I think some of the boats carry their own.

    Lots of strong sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat (although I’m sure you’ve already thought of this).

    Comment by Corrina — July 15, 2006 @ 10:19 am

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