This summer we were so fortunate to realize a trip that has been on my bucket list for decades! I’m very excited to tell you about our amazing adventure in the Galápagos Islands. We traveled with National Geographic Linblad Expeditions, and the entire trip was full of new experiences for us. From snorkeling and kayaking with sea lions and strolling amongst blue footed boobies, from sidestepping around sea iguanas and hiking the highlands in search of the Galapagos tortoises – it was truly an exceptional “summer camp” experience. Oh, and the food, accommodations, and crew were top notch all the way.
I have so many photos to share! I am breaking the trip down by the days traveled. In all we visited five of the Galápagos Islands and saw so much.
Our Amazing Adventure in the Galápagos Islands – Day #1
Our journey started in Guayaquil, Ecuador. We flew in the night prior to our expedition. Checked into the hotel and passed our Covid tests – which meant we could join our fellow travelers on the boat. After a banquet breakfast – our first meeting of who we would be traveling with for the next eight days, we were bussed to the airport. It was a short flight to Baltra, we then boarded the zodiac to take us to our ship, and enjoyed lunch with a welcome orientation. We were off to a quick start! After lunch, we were on the zodiacs to head out to explore Las Bachas on Santa Cruz Island (where we saw sally lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas, and flamingos).
Back on the ship we enjoyed a Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party, and a scrumptious fresh fish dinner. It was a full half day of exploration and getting to meet our fellow travelers.
Our Amazing Adventure in the Galápagos Islands – Day #2
Our second day in the Galapagos included hiking and snorkeling. After an early morning breakfast (6:30 a.m.) we got onto a zodiac and headed to North Seymour Island for a hike to see the blue-footed boobies, magnificent and great frigates (rather prehistoric looking birds with scissor tails), and marine iguanas. Many of the these seabirds were nesting and feeding their young. Such a cool sight! Look for the babies in the pics.
Then back on the boat for lunch and a photography lesson with Walter (a National Geographic photo instructor) this was fallowed by two more zodiac trips to shore to visit Rabida beach. The first was deep water snorkeling along the cliffs and the second was to hike and find a group of nesting flamingos. 🦩The beautiful deep red sand of Rabida was made from lava with a high iron content. The sea lions were most friendly and a young one went up to the children in our group as they were digging in the sand, as if to say, “Can I play, too?” 🦭
Each evening included a cocktail hour with the Carlos our expedition leader giving a recap of the day and all that we saw and experienced. We took a quick visit to the bridge to say, “Hi!” to the captain, and for Gavin to play pirate. 🏴☠️
Our 7:30 dinner hour was then followed by a post dinner video presentation on the origins of the Galapagos. As I said, every day was filled with learning and new experiences.
Our Amazing Adventure in the Galápagos Islands – Day #3
Our adventures continued with a trip to both Fernandina and Isabela islands and a trip across the equator. Our morning hike was to Punta Espinoza on Fernandina. This was a walk over “ropy” slabs of black lava. While once barren, the long ago lava flows are now teeming with life. Cactus has sprouted up though cracks, and it’s color of black is the perfect camouflage for the thousands of marine iguanas basking in the sun. Mama sea lions and their young also hang on shore in the bay here.
Our second zodiac trip of the day (before lunch) was to take us deep sea snorkeling along the coast of Fernandina. This area was full of large sea turtles swimming and grazing on the colorful algae. Swimming with the sea turtles, watching flightless cormorants zipping through the water, and marine iguanes climbing out of the water were highlights here.
Lunch was followed by another photography lesson and then a zodiac ride along the coast of Punta Vincenta Roca of Isabela Island. So much to see! The giant sunfish was cool, but my favorite sight was the Galápagos penguins! We also had a view of Wolf Volcano – the highest point of the archipelago and the site of a recent discovery of a new species of pink land iguanas.
Once back aboard Endevour II, we were treated to wine tasting of Ecuadorian wines, music, dancing, and a viewing of the sunset as we crossed the equator. Our observation deck party was then followed by our evening recap, learning about the local artists and their creations, cocktail hour, a delicious dinner, and a video viewing of, David Attenborough’s Galapagos – Adaptations.
As I said, this was an expedition. Summer “camp” for kids and adults alike.
Our Amazing Adventure in the Galápagos Islands – Day #4
On day four we visited Urbina Bay and Tagus Cove both on the island of Isabela, the largest island of the Galapagos. Isabela is formed by six volcanos and looks somewhat like a seahorse.
We saw slow-moving majestic tortoises and very bright colored land iguanas on our morning hike at Urbina Bay. While very used to humans walking past, the occasional tortoise would let out a loud “hummmpfff” and retreat its head back into its shell.
Once back on the Endeavor II, we learned more about the human history of the Galápagos Islands and then we were treated to Ecuadorian lunch. Interesting trivia fact: Panama hats are made in Ecuador. 🇪🇨 They got the name Panama hats because Teddy Roosevelt wore one when he was visiting the Panama Canal.
After lunch we kayaked along the cliffs. This was then followed by a deep-sea snorkel. The waters here were full of many bright sea stars! And of course those ever friendly sea lions.
Once showered and cleaned up, we once again boarded the zodiacs. This trip was to hike to the top rim of Darwin Lake. This area, Tagus Cove, was visited by Charles Darwin in 1835. The cove has been decorated with historic graffiti by earlier wayfarers that marked their visits there. The earliest mark still readable was 1836.
After this very full day, we all met in the lounge for our cocktail hour, a recap of the day, and a briefing of the following day’s activities. Lastly, we enjoyed another amazing dinner served in the dinning room.
With four zodiac trips off the ship and a history lesson, day four was full!
Our Amazing Adventure in the Galápagos Islands – Day #5
Our fifth day started extra early with a before breakfast hike. Yes! You read correctly. Our first zodiac ride (at 6:20 am) was a wet landing at Espumilla Beach on the western coast of Santiago Island. This early morning hike was to visit a turtle nesting area and to photograph the many birds found here with our photo instructor, Walter Perez. We were also treated to a walking natural history lesson.
Back on the boat we enjoyed a warm breakfast and then back on the zodiac to take out the kayaks and paddle boards. I lucked out and got a single kayak; Gavin braved the wind and rough waters on a paddle board. It was a windy day exploring Buccaneer Cove.
After exploring the cove on the water, we got into our wetsuits and explored the deep waters with our snorkel gear.
After lunch we learned even more with a presentation on Charles Darwin in the lounge. Santiago Island is the island the Darwin spent most of his time exploring. Darwin spent a total of five weeks in the Galapagos, which included 19 days on land. Nine of his days were spent on Santiago.
Our afternoon hike had us trekking at Puetro Egas to explore the coast and tide pools. Here we saw more iguanas, sea lions, crabs, and lots of birds.
As always we ended our day of exploration with our cocktail hour and a recap of the day. Our BBQ dinner was then served on the observation deck.
Our Amazing Adventure in the Galápagos Islands – Day #6
Our sixth day looked very different than the prior days. This was the day we visited Santa Cruz Island. Santa Cruz is the second largest island but the most populated by humans. On this day we explored the town of Peurto Ayora which is home to 18,000 people.
We spend time visiting the Darwin Research Station learning what scientist are accomplishing in the area of conservation. We saw the iconic Lonesome George (The last of the Pinzon Island tortoises and preserved through taxidermy.) We walked through the Fausto Llerena giant tortoise breeding center where we saw hundreds of tortoises ranging from baby hatchlings to much older and larger tortoises. Each tortoise was marked with the year of its birth on its shell. The goal is to repopulate certain regions of the Galapagos until they are able to self sustain the tortoise population.
Walking through the town we saw a lot of activity at the Fisherman’s Dock. Loved watching the hungry seagulls and sea lions getting a few bites here and there. We did a bit of shopping, tasted chocolate, and enjoyed the sights of this vibrant fishing town.
After visiting the city center, we boarded our bus to head up to the highlands. We first visited a sugar cane mill where we learned about the first settlers of the island, tasted more chocolate, and even some sugar cane moonshine.
We were then back on the bus and headed up to the highlands where we enjoyed lunch at a ranch named Manzillo. This ranch is located on the migratory route of the great giant tortoise of Santa Cruz. So after lunch we all slipped on tall rubber boots (to protect us from fire ants) and mucked our way through the fields. This is where we saw the largest tortoises of our trip. They were everywhere you looked! Seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat was a real treat!
Day six wrapped up like all others: cocktail hour with a daily recap in the lounge and then dinner in the dinning hall.
Our Amazing Adventure in the Galápagos Islands – Day #7
Boobies! Boobies! And more boobies! Day seven included sightings of three types of boobies; blue-footed, red-footed, and Nazca on San Cristobal Island. Following breakfast we boarded the zodiacs for Punta Pitt, a volcanic terrain at the northeastern end of this large island. Once we disembarked, we hiked up a narrow, steep trail to the top. We were met all along the trail with boobies. Both mother and father birds were spotted sitting on nests, feeding their young, and keeping an eye on their curious offspring as the little ones liked to approach us.
Back on board the ship we needed to be briefed about how our travels would wrap up the following day. Linblad has the logistics down! Day eight would not only wrap up our final day, but the crew would be turning the boat completely over and ready to welcome new travelers just a few hours after we left.
During lunch we set sail to a second site on San Cristobal called Cerritos Bruno. Again we had a scrumptious meal, after lunch we loaded up onto the zodiacs and headed back to the island for a wet landing. A great highlight here was the beautiful white soft sandy beaches, sea lions, sea birds, and marine iguanas. We also had great views of Kicker Rock, a isolated outcropping of rock.
In the evening we ended the day traveling to Wreck Bay where we had a closer look of Kicker Rock, enjoyed Pisco sour cocktails, and yummy appetizers on the observation deck. All week long, travelers were able to submit ten of their favorite photos. These photos were then combined into a slide show. We enjoyed this slide show of fun and spectacular pictures in the lounge. We also heard from Captain Pablo Garces during our farewell gathering.
We spent our final dinner on the boat reminiscing with new friends as we swapped favorite photos and shared emails.
Our Amazing Adventure in the Galápagos Islands – Day #8
Our final day was a leisurely day spent at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Otoy, both on the island of San Cristobal. Our luggage was packed early and placed outside our cabin doors before breakfast.
After breakfast, we headed out for our final zodiac ride. Once on the populated island, buses took us to the highlands to explore an expansive organic farm. We enjoyed a long walk while learning of the beautiful plants – fruit, vegetables, coffee, and floral plants where all growing on this farm. We sat and enjoyed a snack of fresh fruit, juices, and coffee in the farm restaurant. We were also given a box lunch to take with us to the airport.
That afternoon, we all boarded planes. Most of us traveled back to Guayaquil where we shared a final night and dinner at Hotel Oro Verde. A few travelers traveled onto Quito before they moved onto the Peru extension.
This entire trip was truly remarkable. I cannot adequately express my appreciation for all that Linblad and their crew did to ensure our safe, comfortable, and awe-inspiring expedition. As a teacher that has taken students on dozens of weeklong science camps (Yosemite, Catalina Island, Santa Cruz Mountains, Marine County), I know a lot about nature exploration and outside learning. This was the very best science camp experience ever! 😀 And I cannot wait to travel again with Linblad Expeditions National Geographic.
Throughout this post I have mentioned Walter, one of our naturalist and also the National Geographic photography teacher. I very proudly display his published book, Galápagos: Life in Motion, filled with exceptional photos and Galápagos knowledge on my living room cocktail table. When I want to revisit the beautiful islands, I pick up his book, and I am instantly transported to a time of beauty, exploration, fresh air, and new friends.
If you want the same escape – check out Walter’s book. You will not be disappointed. We love it!
In full disclosure to all of my travel-loving friends – this post contains one affiliate link. Which means should you choose to click on a link and purchase any of these items from Amazon, I will receive a very small percentage of the sale.