31 May A Photo Essay: The Galapagos Islands
Growing up, I always imagined the Galapagos as a far flung chain of islands filled with indescribable wildlife. I pictured remote beaches, sea turtles, and lush green trees. I imagined iguanas, rocky shores and bright blue waters. All of this is certainly true, but what I didn’t expect to find was so much more.
We spent 11 days exploring the Galapagos on a filmed media trip hosted by Galakiwi. Our trip was a land based adventure tour, and we found a side to the islands that we never knew existed. We loved being able to stay in hotels rather than on a cruise ship, and while both are sure to be a wonderful experience, we really enjoyed getting a deeper look into life on the islands. Our days were spent ogling at wildlife, snorkeling, hiking, stand up paddle boarding, biking, and kayaking, while our evenings were spent soaking up the culture on the four inhabited islands of the Galapagos.
The entire trip was one amazing experience after another, and we have about a million photos to prove it. We tried narrowing them down (promise!) but it proved to be nearly impossible, so here are a bunch of our favorite photos from our time in the Galapagos Islands.
After a couple of nights in Quito, Ecuador, we boarded our flight bound for San Cristobal, the second most populated island in the Galapagos. Our first adventure of the trip was a bike ride through the highlands where we were able to see some amazing views overlooking the island’s shores.
The first stop on our bikes was at a giant treehouse that was built by our guide’s family. The treehouse is open for overnight stays and in addition to a comfortable bed, it even has running water! We explored the treehouse and had some delicious banana bread and coffee before hopping back on our bikes and making our way to the beach to catch the sunset.
Dinner that night was an absolute feast! We dined on lobster, fish, salad, rice, potatoes, and what seemed like an endless amount of other options. It was quite the welcome to the islands!
The next morning we had an early wake up call, and after a quick stroll through the streets before the town woke up, we made our way out on the water for some SUP action.
One of the coolest experiences of the trip was seeing so many sea lions in San Cristobal, and they certainly came out to play when we were paddling our boards bright and early that morning. We had so much fun watching them swim and splash in the waters around us—they are just the cutest!
Breakfast was served on the boat that morning, and after another delicious spread of food (which we found was a common theme throughout the entire trip), we jumped into the water for some snorkeling.
We snorkeled in a couple of different spots that day, and at Kicker Rock, we swam with hammerhead sharks! They were too deep for Micah and I to get a good picture, but the rock formations above the water were almost as cool as what we saw below!
All too soon it was our last night on San Cristobal. After wandering around town, walking along the beaches, admiring more sea lions, watching locals do flips into the ocean and taking a few photographs of the stars, we crawled into bed excited to see where we would be heading next.
Floreana Island was our next stop. After a quick snorkel and lunch, we jumped into an open air truck and made our way to the Pirate Caves in the highlands for a hike to see tortoises and to learn about the mysteries of the island.
Next up was a sunset SUP session that departed right from the beach in front of our hotel.
Floreana Island has the smallest human population of all the Galapagos Islands (less than 150 people), which means it was a great spot to see the night sky without much light pollution.
We had just one night on Floreana Island, so the next morning was spent taking photos of marine iguanas, relaxing in the hammock on our balcony, hiking (me), and SUP (Micah).
And just like that we were on our way to our third island, Isabela Island.
When we arrived, we did some more snorkeling and then went for a hike at Las Tintoreras, an island filled with volcanic rock and ample wildlife. In addition to sea turtles, white tipped reef sharks, marine iguanas, blue footed boobies and sea lions, we even had a chance to see penguins! I was so excited I could barely contain myself.
That evening as we were making our way up to our hotel room, we heard some commotion going on next door. We made our way to the hotel’s rooftop to see what the noise was. When we peered over the edge of the wall, we found a local soccer game being played on the fields below! It was so much fun to watch, we couldn’t resist heading over for a few photos of all the action.
The next day was spent hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano. When we arrived at the volcano we were met with cloudy skies, and we were so grateful to have a break from the sun on our six hour hike. The Sierra Negra Volcano has the second largest crater in the world and we had amazing views of it before the fog came rolling in. We listened to enthralling stories from our guide, Pablo, and soaked up the views before a cooling rain started to fall. We lucked out and dodged the rain for most of our hike up the volcano, but most of the hike back was quite wet and slippery. It was an exhausting but fantastic hike, and the rest of our day was spent relaxing at a beach bar complete with hammocks and a sunset.
Another adventurous activity was on the schedule for the next morning. After a bike ride down a long gravel road, we made our way to a wall built from sharp volcanic rocks. The “Wall of Tears” on Isabela Island in the Galápagos was built by prisoners in the 1940’s and 1950’s–there was no purpose for the wall other than to break the prisoners. The prison was located on the island because it was so remote and it would make an escape almost impossible. It is said that thousands died while building the wall because of the horrible conditions they were working in. The wall now stands as a sad reminder of those who lost their lives at the wall and it is a stark contrast to the beauty that surrounds it.
We walked along the wall and then rode our bikes back towards town to visit the Tortoise Breeding Center. We snacked on refreshing popsicles and then spent time watching tortoises of all sizes.
On the walk back to our hotel we made our way along a boardwalk where we saw pink flamingos!
The next morning we hopped in a boat again and went for a snorkel. Then we made our way to a rock formation where waves violently crashed and thrashed about. It was amazing to see both the beauty and power of the oean! After powering through more crashing waves, we stopped at Los Tuneles for a hike and even more snorkeling. I loved the landscape here—lava flows created tunnels and arches both above and below the water, which created some beautiful scenes. It was a full and fantastic day out on the water.
Our last morning on Isabela Island was spent kayaking and we saw even more penguins, sea lions and blue footed boobies!
We then had some free time before lunch so we spent some time taking photos at the beach. Our room had a balcony with great views of the white sandy beach located right across the street from our hotel.
The island of Santa Cruz was up next, and it is the island with the largest human population. After so many days on the more remote islands, it was quite a shock arriving at such a busy spot! We loved the contrast though, and our first stop was to get ice cream at the Galapagos Cafe right next to our hotel.
Then we went on a walk to the fish market where we saw sea lions and pelicans begging for scraps from the fishermen.
That evening we walked over to a street lined with food stalls and had dinner at the tables in the middle of the street.
On our last full day in the islands, we woke up early and paid a visit to the market where we wandered through rows and rows of fruits, veggies, fish and local goods.
One more SUP session was in order after our market visit, so we hopped into a boat and rode to Divine Bay. We paddled our way over to a beautiful area with a sunken ship and rocky cliffs.
That afternoon, we went back to the highlands one last time to see giant tortoises. We marveled at how large the tortoises were and walked through a cave before heading back into town for our final dinner together as a group.
Eventually, the day came where we had to leave the islands. We took a taxi, then a boat, then a bus and finally a plane just to make it back to mainland Ecuador. Our journey to get home was quite the adventure, but it was well worth it. We had an amazing time in the Galapagos and can’t wait to share lots more about the trip with you soon—stay tuned!
Have you ever been to the Galapagos Islands? What would you like to see most?
Special thanks to Galakiwi for hosting us on an amazing adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.