In the morning we flew to Baltra Island where Galapagos’ airport sits on the former U.S. air base built during WWII to defend the Panama Canal. There we met Tanya, our licensed National Park guide for the whole trip. As expected, a good portion of the Galapagos adventure consisted of a lot of sight-seeing. The bus ride south included stops for hikes at geological features such as volcanic craters and locations known for having the huge Galapagos tortoises. These were the first of many great photo opportunities we had during the trip. (photo above)
The bus eventually dropped us off at the relatively new Galapagos Safari Camp that would be our base for sleeping, breakfasts and dinners for our stay in the islands. The main building serves as the lobby and main dining room; the sleeping facilities are heavy-duty tents on high raised platforms. Each tent contains hotel-grade beds, storage cabinets and a writing table. Each also has a complete private bath with its own propane water-heater and an outside deck with table and chairs. With the National Park bordering to the north, there are unobstructed views across the island all the way to the ocean. Superb meals were served in the dining room, prepared by their trained chef who talked to us before each meal explaining what we were going to be served. I had hoped to have Ecuadorian tamales some time on the trip. That wish was fulfilled as two of our breakfasts included them.
Our first full day featured visit to an organic coffee farm followed by an hour stop for swimming at beautiful Garrapatero Beach. We went into town for a typical Ecuador lunch at a restaurant in town. The first adventure was a speedboat trip to land on a white-sand beach with mangrove trees and numerous marine iguanas. While there, we did simple snorkeling with just the mask and tube, and then went on a nature hike to see the flora and fauna.
Our second day included several adventures, starting with a boat voyage to some small islands off the coast of Santa Cruz. There we saw crabs, sea lions, land iguanas and numerous types of sea birds. We hiked along the top of the cliffs and saw many birds nesting below us. I was happy to see a blue-footed boobie bird. The pelican-sized bird is white but its legs and webbed feet are bright blue. After lunch on the boat we sailed to a rocky area below a cliff where the water was calm. There we snorkeled with the full compliment of gear including wet-suit and flippers. The ocean was full of assorted fish with sea urchins below on the rocks. A couple friendly young sea lions joined us and showed off by turning summersaults in the water.
I have come to fully realize how great professionally guided Adventure Vacations can be. We had a very full schedule, saw and did many things, but the events happened on time and there was time to unwind between the end one adventure and the start another. Time was always available for taking photos, something very important to me. Meal breaks were at the appropriate hours without a rush to get back on a horse, bus or boat. We always had at least an hour back at our lodging before dinner to clean up, then after a leisurely meal, a comfortable area to relax and chat with others. If I had the ability to schedule transportation, activities and meals in a foreign country, this would have been exactly the way I would have wanted it. At age sixty-six, I had initially been concerned about my ability to do all the adventures and keep up with others. I discovered that the adventures on this trip were all geared toward the thrill rather than difficulty, for me “the toughest part is going home.”
By Jeremy Burnham
Part 1: My Adventures in Ecuador