Heart and soul of the Galapagos

Galapagos Islands iguana EcuadorThe 19 islands that make up the Galapagos archipelago are a genuinely unique travel experience. From amazing encounters with rare wildlife, to meeting locals who cling to their ancestral traditions, Intrepid’s Cara Brown discovered that these equatorial islands have a way of changing the way you think about our world…

“Crystal clear water, the sand between my toes and a hard-earned beer in my hands… welcome to the Galapagos Islands, situated 1000km west from the coast of Ecuador. It is my 2nd day on the beautiful island of Isabela and she is seducing us in every way. Let me start off by telling you that the Galapagos is not your average island getaway. As my eyes focus on the landscape that surrounds me I take in everything; white sandy beaches, volcanic rock, sentinel-looking cacti and lush farming lands.

I am on Intrepid’s Active Galapagos 10-day tour, which stays at accommodation on the islands instead of using the popular cruise option. At the end of a long day, instead of bounding back onto your cruise boat, we walk along the beach, swim, play volleyball with the locals and of course enjoy a sunset drink and eat delicious local produce.

We are staying on the islands at locally-operated hotels, eating at local restaurants and getting to know the heart and soul of the Galapagos Islands: the people and the wildlife. Not only do you have more time do and see things, but you are also putting your money back into the region’s economy, by supporting local businesses.

During our time on Isabela we’ve completed a 6-hour hike around the crater of the Sierra Negra Volcanic crater. We trampled through mud, spotted the Galapagos Mockingbird, listened to stories and facts of the flora and fauna from our amazing local guide Zambo and crawled through lava tunnels. The view at the top was simply breathtaking and well worth the sweat, profanity and shoes that were weighed down with mud!

Another massive highlight for most of us has been the snorkelling and kayaking activities. Kayaking through the small waves with sea lions following us, blue footed boobies basking in the sun, pelicans swooping on their prey and the penguins gazing out to the horizon was all pretty surreal and felt like we were the only ones there, right with nature, simple, beautiful and peaceful. When you are at the Galapagos Islands it is like you are the tourists on the land belongs to the animals, they may stop and check you out, but are generally unfazed and just too nonchalant to pay you any attention!

Fast forward 2 hours and we are back in the water with our snorkels fastened and underwater cameras ready to snap away at the hidden beauties that await us! Frolicking with sea lions is something I never thought I would do, they were so close they deliberately brushed past us; I cruised alongside green sea turtles, spotted manta rays beneath me and even had a slight dreaded moment as an underwater iguana slithered past us casually!

Of course a trip to the Galapagos Islands is not complete without seeing the famous giant tortoises. We drove out to a small farm on the Island of Santa Cruz and took off on a short hike before we came across the first of 3 giant tortoises in the wild. Let me tell you these creatures are remarkable; I could sit and watch them in awe all day. While their faces reminded me of Steven Spielberg’s ET, there is something historic and wonderful about these gentle giants. You can get up close and personal with the Galapagos giant tortoises and have yourself a good lengthy staring competition with them while they munch on green grass goodness. An otherworldly life experience.

There are words to express your travel experiences: amazing, life changing, magnificent and exceptional spring to mind, but do they ever do it justice? To me words cannot explain what these moments were like. So what I suggest to you is, go on… buy a ticket, book your trip. You won’t regret it!”

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* photo by Carmen Amos – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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