Getting Up Close with The Galapagos
by Alexa Reason.
Watching a documentary about the Galapagos Islands when I was a child was what first put the place firmly on my travel bucket list – so when I had the opportunity to take a few months off work, this South American archipelago was obviously my first destination of choice!
Travelling to the Galapagos Islands is quite easy; it's actually a province of Ecuador so most flights go via the city of Guayaquil to Isla Baltra, one of the Galapagos' main islands. As soon as we arrived, I was stunned not only by the place's beauty but also how close the locals are to one another – this was island life at its best, where nobody watched the clock and everyone knew everyone else.
On Baltra, there are bicycles to hire, beaches to visit and a great set of trails you could follow to explore the island at leisure. However, my favourite pastime was simply sitting in a coffee shop watching the catch of the day being brought in by small boats and then sold right by the sea; it was there where I saw my first blue-footed booby, a bird found only in the Galapagos. Visiting Baltra's Charles Darwin Centre is also a must – this great non-profit organisation aims to preserve Galapagos wildlife, and is home to some of the largest turtles I have ever seen!
Most people visiting the Galapagos do a five-day boat trip around its island, but since I was travelling with someone that didn't like sailing, we decided to split our stay between just two different places. After three nights in Baltra, we took a three-hour boat ride to Isabela, the largest island of the Galapagos. Having arrived, we soon understood why people told us to bring cash with us – there was not a single working cash machine on the whole island, with only one credit card machine in one of the hotels… but cut off from the world, we felt we had truly found paradise.
We were one of only about twenty tourists on the island, and with such a small population, it's a place where everyone knows each other. As in Baltra, the locals here were extremely friendly and would happily stop in the street to chat with you.
Isabela has an amazing untouched quality – where the wildlife was every bit as interested in you as you were in them! Birds would come and sit on your lap at the beach, whilst I was chased by sea lions and seals on quite a few occasions! I was also fascinated to watch the daily routine of iguana families making their way across one of the island's dedicated "Iguana Crossings".
It's hard to explain quite how breathtaking the Galapagos Islands really are; overall, we stayed there for a week and a half but to this day, I still wish we had stayed even longer.